Mobil Corp., breaking ranks with other major oil companies, proposed today that oil price controls be continued but that the industry be allowed to sell newly discovered oil at world prices.
Mobile President William Tavoulareas told the company's annual meeting that the issue of decontrol and short-term windfall profits taxes "has become so politicized" that, "in order to concentrate on incentive to find new reserves . . .we would suggest that the industry forego any price increases beyond inflation on oil already under production."
"At the same time, we must insist on full market price on oil not yet discovered," he continued.
Mobil Corp. is the parent firm of Mobil Oil, the nation's second-largest petroleum company. Its position on pricing, revealed today, contrasts sharply with that of other oil companies - whose primary objective has been to get out from under controls and get rid of some major competitive distortions caused by it.
President Carter has proposed phasing out controls on U.S. crude oil prices by late 1981 and taxing away much of the added oil industry revenues. Most of the intense political debate so far has focused on those proposals, but Carter also wants to recapture through another tax a substantial part of additional revenues if the selling price is above $16 a barrel plus an inflation factor.
According to some energy and tax experts, that part of Carter's tax proposals will begin to hit many companies harder than the taxes related to decontrol within five years or less.
"Since all new oil will, in effect, reduce the amount of oil imports, we think the American people will be willing to pay U.S. producers the price the foreign producer would have received for imported oil," Tavoulareas told the meeting. "The primary objective must be to increase the supply of new oil, rather than a shortterm profit uplift associated with the pricing of existing reserves."
Under Carter's proposals, industry revenues would go up about $15 billion to $16 billion over the next three years, with the companies keeping about $6 billion after all royalty and tax payments.
"While $6 billion would add to industry cash flow, the amount is not critical," when compared to total industry investments of $75 billion or more during the same period, the Mobil president said. "What the industry really needs is assurance that it will be fairly compensated for the reserves it may find in the future."
Tavoulareas was unable to say at a news conference, however, how much too low the $16-plus-inflation price might be to give an adequate incentive.
Mobil Chairman Rawleigh Warner Jr. said that he wants to "try to extract the industry from this debate. If we are going to be knocked about for the $6 billion gain from decontrol, we'd rather not have it."
Some other industry executives. such as Gulf Oil Corp. Chariman Jerry McAfee, have taken an essentially neutral position on the portion of the tax - generally called the OPEC tax - that Mobil wants dropped.
The so-called OPEC tax, tied in name to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, becomes more important that the other parts of the tax for several reasons.
First, it would apply to the 1.2 million barrels of oil produced from so-called stripper wells - those that produce fewer than 10 barrels a day - which already is uncontrolled. About 14 percent of all U.S. production is from stripper wells.
Second, the other parts of the tax are to be phased out. The levy on the difference between $6-a-barrel lowertier oil - essentially oil found before 1973 - and $13 upper tier oil found since then would end in 1983. The tax on upper-tier oil would begin to be phased out in 1985 and be gone by 1990.
Third, the higher the OPEC cartel pushes world prices, the bigger the tax bite on the oil companies from this part of the tax.
Experts say on precise calculation is all but impossible because OPEC price increases cannot be predicted. But if prices rise fast enough, this tax becomes the most important one some time in the next decade.
The sort of "inflammatory rhetoric" that Tavoulareas decried in his speech was being delivered both at the meeting and at a rally of labor, minority and religious activists of decontrol opponents outside the hotel where the Mobil meeting was being held.
Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-Mo.) criticized Mobil at the rally for "profiteering" and said its profit levels are "obscene." He said Mobil is "another prime example of why decontrol of domestic crude oil will be the biggest consumer energy ripoff of the decade."
The Missouri senator, who is backing legislation to block decontrol, suggested that Mobil was changing its position because "they can sense the public pulse. They can sense the congressional pulse."
James Flug, director of the Washington-based Energy Action group, used equally pointed language in the Mobil meeting. Among other things, Flug called on Mobil officials to "end the lying about supplies and costs and profits."
One stockholder, a retired Mobil employe, got a sustained round of applause when he replied heatedly, "I resent like hell ebing called a liar."
Mobil also announced today that its capital spending program will reach about $2.5 billion this year compared with $2 billion compared in 1978.
Stockholders approved an increase in authorized common shares to 300 million from 150 million. This will permit a two-for-one stock split to holders of record May 21. There are some 106 million share outstanding. CAPTION: Picture, WILLIAM P. TAVOULAREAS . . . breaks with his industry