Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D.-Wash.) said yesterday that there will be a "political firestorm" on Capitol Hill if President Carter asks Congress to place a new tax on the sales price of new automobiles that do not use gasoline efficiently.
"I see the auto worker and the industry coming in lockstep into Washington" to oppose the tax, Jackson said. Jackson, who heads the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, added, however, that Congress is "really going to move energy program . . . We will go after the gas guzzler."
The Carter administration is considering a plan that would add as much as $500 to the sticker price of new cars that fail to meet mileage efficiency standards.
The Carter plan also would offer comparable rebates to those standards designed to achieve a fleetwide auto efficiency of 27.5 miles per gallon by 1985. It would start with standards of 18 mgp for 1978 cars, 19 mpg for 1979, and 20 mpg for 1980.
In amorning meeting with reporters, Jackson said the administration is still actively considering a gasoline tax proposal to be included in the President's April 20 energy policy message.
Expressing concern that gasoline prices have surged by 50 per cent in the last three years with little effect on consumption, Jackson said, "A gas tax won't get you anywhere."
Another prickly question facing Congress, Jackson said, is taking legislative action on Carter's pledge to use coal in place of oil and natural gas to fuel industrial and utility boilers. "This is going to be a donnybrook in many ways," he said.
The major obstacle to a massive coal conversion program will be meeting air quality standards, especially with regard to sulfur emmissions, Jackson said.
The Senator said he is convinced the President will not call for deregilation of natural gas and, instead, will propose a ceiling or "cap" price on natural gas sold interstate. He added, however that the $2.25 per thousand cubic feet said to be under consideration is "absolutely too high."
Interstate natural gas prices are currently set as $1.44 per thousand cubic feet.
Regarding nuclear power, Jackson called for a standard nuclear reactor design and a comprehensive program to handle nuclear wastes. He also predicted that the Cinch River breeder reactor project in Tennessee will be canceled.