Chairman Al Ullman (D-Ore.) predicted his House Ways and Means Committee will approve a gas-guzzler tax in some form but kill a rebate for high-mileage cars wheh the committee casts its first major votes today on President Carter's energy proposals.
Part of Carter's plan to save energy is a tax on the sale of big, low-mileage cars that could amount to as much as $2,488 by 1985. To induce buyers to switch to higher-mileage models, he also proposed rebates of up to $500 on smaller cars.
The size of the tax or rebates would depend on how much each car falls below or exceeds mileage standards set by Congress two years ago that will become mandatory with 1978 models. For next fall's cars, the average required for a motor company's entire production will be 18 miles per gallon and will climb to 27 1/2 miles by 1985.
Ullman told reporters after a committee session yesterday he believed there was a committee majority for a gas-guzzler tax "reasonably imposed." That would probably mean delaying the tax for one or two years because two of the Big Three U.S. auto makers - Ford and Chrysler - have said they would be hit hard if the tax took effect immediately.
The Carter bill would tax each car that failed to meet standards, a far tougher goal for the auto industry to achieve than the fleet-average formula which permits a company's big gas-guzzler to get a free ride on its little cars.
An analysis of Carter's Program by the Congressional Budget Office said the gas-guzzler tax should provide the biggest short-term fuel savings of Carter's three proposals affecting gasoline. The others are a standby tax on gasoline and a wellhead tax on oil to drive up its price.
The rebate has been in trouble in Congress from the start because it applied to all cars purchased Congress would taxing a domestic industry to subsidize foreign imports which generally get higher gasoline mileage than American cars. But if the United States discriminated against foreign cars it would be violating trade agreements. Also, the argument has been made that if there is a sizeable tax on big U.S. cars, there would be no need for any further inducement to switch buyers to small cars.
Yesterday morning the committee tentatively a tentatively aor adding solar heat devices to their principal residence. The committtee added wind energy to the suggestion of Rep. Martha Keys (D-Kan.). If this stays in the bill, that means you can put up a windmill in your backyard to generate electricity and get back 20 per cent of your first $10,000 in costs.
The Carter bill would have given a $2,000 rebate, computed under a different formula, for solar installations only. The committee approved the revised version 22 to 7. Earlier the committee had tentatively approved a tax credit for home insulation by a one-vote margin. Several members swithced to vote for the solar tax break on grounds it is needed to developed a new energy source.
Meanwhile, a House Commerce sub-committee considering non-tax parts of the Carter's program approved a section authorizing $750 million over three years to pay up to 90 per cent of the cost of installing insulation and other energy-saving devices in non-profit schools, hospitals and nursing homes.