The nation's natural gas producers would net about $1 billion a year in added revenues by 1980 under President Carter's energy legislation, an administration official said yesterday.
Leslie J. Goldman, who is drafting Carter's natural gas legislation, said that an administration proposal to place price callings on gas contracts that are to be renegotiated as they expire would be a major factor in these increased revenues.
The administration plan would allow gas from these expiring contracts to be sold for up to $1.75 per thousand cubic feet in the now unregulated intrastate markets, and $1.45 per thousand cubic feet in the regulated interstate market.
The net effect of these ceilings would be to raise the average price of natural gas in the interstate market and, in the near term, to slightly raise average intrastate prices. The higher prices that results would be passed on to industrial users, Goldman said, but would not affect residential and commercial users. This result would be achieved through a price allocation system.
The administration bill, which Carter's energy advisers hoped to sent to Congress early this weeK, will not be ready until Friday; adminstration officials said.
Currently, about 8 per cent of the nation's natural gas supply contracts expire each year, and would be included the new pricing mechanism.
David Foster, head of the Natural Gas Supply Committee, an industry trade group which advocates deregulation of new natural gas prices, conceded that the so-called "rollover" provision for natural gas from expiring contracts could, along with other factors, result in "some near term improvements in revenues."
He and other industry officials, however, believe that the carter plan fails to offer necessary incentives for new production.
"The [new] $1.75 ceiling price," Goldman says, "is an incentive price which doesn't go beyond what we think the industry could invest on new supply."
A major debate is now under way in the petroleum industry on whether it should, as one leader said yesterday, "carve out a separate natural gas bill calling for some kind of deregulation of new gas prices, or work to improve this legislation."
The future of Carter's natural gas measures, another industry leader said, "is up for grabs."
Goldman said, "The whole question of natural gas pricing is one of the most controversial to be settled this year, it has to be a top priority."
The control and administration of natural gas pricing is one of the major issues delaying early Senate action on Carter's energy reorganization bill, now before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. TR FOR ADD FIVE
Carter would give the principal authority for all gas price control to the head of his proposed new Energy Department - James R. Schlesinger Jr.
But Sen. Abraham A. Ribioff (D. Cox) says he objects to one-man rule . .over natural gas pricing. As chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, he offered on Monday his own plan. He would create a semi-autonomous, three-member board to control gas prices.
Goldman said Ribicoff's amendment to the Carter plan coold "mean that oil and gas pricing policy could go off in opposite directions." A major change to the administration's plan to integrate oil and natural gas pricing, Goldman continued, "doesn't lend itself to developing a clear energy pricing policy."
The Ribicoff committee yesterday agreed to delay final action on the reorganization plan until next Tuesday.