When President Carter's big, complicated energy package is submitted to Congress, its fate will rest in the hands of Capitol Hill leaders on key committees.
Both houses of Congress have prepared for its coming by striving to bring order out of the chaos that used to exist when some 16 different committees handled energy matters. The Senate has reorganized its system and created a new Energy Commitee. The House, under Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr., has created a special ad hoc "super" energy committee, designed to shepherd the whole package through after various other committees have handled their parts.
Major roles will be played by the tax-writing committees, Senate Finance and House Ways and Means, which will handle the many tax-related portions from the controversial gasoline tax to tax credits for insulation.
The House Commerce Committee will have portions affecting fuel pricing.
Ultimately, success or failure will depend on key figures that sit on those committees. The key figures include:
Rep. Thomas Ludlow Ashley (D-Ohio), 54, will head the new ad hoc House energy committee. A great grandson of a Civil War congressman and a moderate liberal, Ashley was picked because of his close friendship with O'Neil and his neutral stance on energy and lack of identification with any of the energy special interests.
Ashley's expertise has been in the area of housing, but he has a reputation as a shrewd legislator and harmonizer of conflicting interests, a talent he'll have to rely heavily on as he tries to make the disparate interests, personalities and committees mesh to produce a coherent final product.
Ashley was one ofonly 72 members who supported a 20-cent gasoline tax increase two years ago, and has voted against deregulation of oil. His pro-labor stand and the United Auto Workers influence in his Toledo district may make it difficult for him to support the "gas guzzler" tax on fuel-in-efficient autos.
The plan is that his 37-member committee, with representatives from all the energy and tax committees, will hold hearings, parcel out the titles to the other committees, then set a time limit for reporting back to the ad hoc committee, anywhere from about 60 to 90 days.
Ashley's committee can then amend the various parts, or recommend amendments when the proposal is brought to the floor, hopefully by late September.
Rep. Al Ullman, 63, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has marched up the hill before on the gasoline tax and gas-guzzler tax.Two years ago, as the newly elected successor to Wilbu r D. Mills (D-Ark.), Ullman brought out a bill with those taxes in it. He got clobbered on the House floor. Now the stoic, methodical Ullman is prepared to battle once again for the most controversial part of Carter's plan, the increase in gasoline taxes, but sources said he wants some assurance he'll have help from the administration in getting the votes in line. Rep. Abner Mikva (D-Ill.), a knowledgeable Ways and Means committee member, predicts the committee will brave the political fire and pass the tax with that backing, but adds, "Nobody wants to be a lonely profile-in-courage again."
After a shaky start as Mills' successor, Ullman has now gained more confidence in handling the committee, which is bigger and more diverse than in Mills' day. "He'll do his part for Carter," a member predicted.
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich,), 50, is an intense, volatile man of contradictions. A dedicated wildlife conservationist, he also collects guns and is passionate foe of gun control. An environmentalist , he nevertheless fights unceasingly for his constituency, the Detroit auto industry against stricter controls on auto emission pollution.
Dingell will serve on the ad hoc energy committee and chairs the House Commerce subcommittee on energy, responsible for the Carter proposal to increase oil prices and the regulated price of natural gas, but bring intrastate gas under the controls.
Dingell's subcommittee is loaded with hard-charging second termers and two years ago, both the subcommittee and the full committee went through a battle roval on the issue of price controls on gas and oil, a battle that is likely to be repeated as the closely divided committee takes up Carter's proposals.
Currently, Dingell is furious at the Carter Administration for its hardline stance on auto emissions, calling it contradictory to tax gas-guzzzling cars, then call for auto pollution devices, which he claims would mean a fuel penalty.
Dingell will say only that he has "reservations" about the proposal to increase the $1.45 current cap on interstate natural gas to $1.75, but bring intrastate uncontrolled gas under the price cap. His continued ire could cost Carter in terms of Commerce Committee action.
Rep. Robert Charles Krueger (D-Tex.), 41, is one of the bright, 74 class members Dingell has to contend with on his committee. A former Duke University English professor, Krueger quotes Tennyson as easily as he quotes oil and gas statistics. Two years ago, he overwhelmed the subcommittee with his formidable grasp of the case for the oil producers and came close to winning on deregulation.
Krueger was kept from the seat on the ad hoc committee he desperately wanted, but he can inflict great damage to Carter's plans in the Commerce Committee alone.
ReP. Morris K. Udall (D-Ariz.), 54, chairman of the House Interior Committee, will be an influential member of the new and hoc energy committee. Udall generally supports the administration's package, and he could play a significant role in getting it passed. But Udall is also the "anti-oil company" voice on the committee and believes people will accept Carter's "sacrifices" only if they feel the oil companies are being brought under control too. Udall may seek legislation that prevents oil companies from controlling other energy sources.
Sen. Henry M. (Scoop) Jackson (D-Wash.), 64, chairman of the new Senate Energy Committee, has been "Mr. Energy" for a number of years. His committee will handle the fuel price policies.
Carter would allow new oil prices to drift up to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries world market price but a Jackson aide said he would be concerned about using OPEC as a barometer for setting oil prices, but might be persuaded in the interest of increasing production of American companies.
Jackson is saying some compromise will have to be made on the Carter package, and sources said he believes some parts of it are not "realistic." Jackson knows energy and what will pass and won't pass Congress and in the end the administration may have to listen to him on what the "compromises" should be.
Sen. Russell Long (D-La.), 59, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has said he favors a program that makes it more expensive for people to waste energy and provides advantages to people who economize.
In short, he will favor the gasoline tax and gas-guzzler tax and taxes that force conversion to coal.
For instance, speaking of the gas-guzzler tax, Long said, "I haven't seen the specifics, but if the President and his advisers can find the courage to recommend it, I can find the courage to vote for it and I will."
Sen. Floyd K. Haskell (D-Colo.), 61, a former chairman of the special subcommittee on integrated oil operations and now chairman of the Senate subcommittee on energy production and supply.
Haskell's new subcommittee has oversight over coal policy, which includes transportation and use of coal. Other areas of jurisdiction include energy mineral leasing on public lands, uranium reserve figures and strategic petroleum reserves. But Haskell is expected to be particularly interested in coal.
Haskell agrees that something has to be done about dwindling liquid and gas fuel supplies: he agrees that coal may be a key solution to that problem, bue he has no firm idea on how or to what extent coal should be used, according to sources.
The early line is that Haskell probably would be wary of proposals to increase gasoline taxes. The reason: "He's from a rural state where a gasoline tax wouldn't be popular." an aide said.
Sen. J. Bennett Johnston Jr., (D-La.), 44, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Energy Conservation and Regulation.
In this capacity, look for Johnston to oppose any energy conservation provision detrimental to intrastate natural gas interests.
There is an abundant supply of intrastate natural gas in Louisiana. Many companies depend on it. They pay a higher price for the intrastate supply, but don't mind doing so as long as the supply is there.
Carter would like to limit the amount of natural gas used for industrial purposes. That bothers Johnston. Any plan to allocate Louisiana's intrastate supplies to other regions also would bother him, aides say.
Also, aides say it "will be very hard" for Johnston to go along with a gasoline tax. He also 'also to be convinced" about the need for taxing gas-guzzling cars. Johnston wants to be sure that the result of a gas-guzzler tax won't be that motorists would wind up holding on to their cars longer and putting people out of work in the auto industry, aides say.