Friends of the oil industry on the House Ways and Means Committee began moving yesterday against another major chunk of President Carter's energy plan - his proposal to raise the price of U.S. crude oil through a tax at the wellhead.
The oil producers have no great objection to the tax. But they want to keep about half of the proceeds instead of passing them all along to the government.
They would do this through what is called a plowback provision. Ways and Means have divided narrowly on plowbacks in the past, and Rep. Joe D. Waggoner Jr. (D-La.), a leader of the pro-oil members, predicted the vote would be very close again.
One of Carter's proposals to reduce the use of oil is to impose a three-step tax on the price of domestic crude to raise it to last April's world price of about $13.50 per 42-gallon barrel. The price now ranges from $5.25 to $11.28, depending upon whether it comes from old or new wells. The committee began debating this part of Carter's energy package yesterday.
Since the purpose of the tax is to conserve oil rather than to raise revenue, Carter's plan is to rebate the entire amount of more than $2 billion a year when fully effective to taxpayers through rebates and to heating oil customers through lower bills.
Waggoner and several committee Republicans announced yesterday that they will try to change the use of the proceeds to permit perhaps half to be given to producers if they promise to plow it back into the search for and production of oil. Republicans tried in vain to pass this in the fight over oil pricing in the last Congress.
Either proposal would achieve Carter's goal of raising the price of oil to cut its use, but he is opposed to giving half of the proceeds back to producers to finance their capital costs.
Last week is committee rejected Carter's plan to cut use of oil with a standby tax on gasoline and it watered down his plan to tax the purchase of gas-guzzling cars. It also rejected his proposed rebate on high-mileage cars.
Earlier yesterday the committee refused for now to earmark revenue from the gas-guzzler tax for mass transit, energy research and block grants to states for highway use. Several members who indicated they may support it later said it would be premature to earmark the money until the full shape of the tax parts of Carter's energy program is known.
When Rep. Andrew Jacobs Jr. (D-Ind.) proposed that the money be used to pay off part of the national debt, the committee adopted this, 16 to 8, as a temporary solution despite advice from Treasury officials that the amendment would not achieve that purpose. Chairman Al Ullman (D-Ore.) said of the vote: "The possibility for mischief is unlimited."
The commitee rejected Carter's proposal to increase the tax on gasoline for private airplanes by 4 cents a gallon after the staff said gas savings would be "negligible," Rep. Jim Guy Tucker Jr. (D-Ark.) said the purpose of the proposed tax increase was not to save energy but to make general aviation pay its fair share.
The committee tenatively approved a 2-cent-a-gallon increased in the tax on gas for noncommercial motorboats. It also approved Carter's plan to repeal the 10 per cent excise tax on the purchase of buses, and added provisions to repeal the excise tax on parts for buses and the tax on gas and tires for mass-transit vehicles serving one urban area.