The House Ways and Means Committee completed action yesterday on a tax measure that may provide only 60 per cent of the energy savings President Carter wanted.
But Assistant Treasury Secretary Laurence Woodworth, who sat through the four weeks of voting, said, "The administration is quite pleased . . . Overall I think it's a good job." Committee Chairman Al Ullman (D-Ore.) said he was "proud of the bill." And Rep. Barber B. Conable (N.Y.), the ranking Republican, said he thought the President "fared pretty well."
Staff estimates, which were called "very tentative," put energy savings by 1985 as a result of the bill at 2.8 million barrels of oil a day. Carter estimated his proposals would save 4.7 million barrels. (A barrel is 42 gallons.)
Most of the difference lies in the program to convert oil and gas boilers to coal.Carter estimated his tax and rebate plan . . . a tax on oil and gas use, a credit against conversion costs . . . would save 3.3 million barrels a day by 1985, while the committee version is expected to save only 1.5 million because it exempts many industrial plants whose products would be damaged by coal or where environmental considerations made coal-burning undesirable.
Ullman said the administration was unrealistic in trying to levy a tax and force conversion without regard to the damage it might do an industry or community.
The chairman said he thought the committee bill contains "about the right amount of toughness for America today. We can't solve all the energy problems in one fell swoop."
The committee's action "is the first signal that Congress is dead serious about saving energy," said Ullman. "We have sent a clear message to OPEC [the Oil producing and Exporting Countries] and the industrial world that the United States is unwilling to suffer uncertain supplies that threaten economic growth and national security. The country is slowly walking up to the cause for a clear energy policy."
The Ways and Means Committee now has voted twice on every part of the legislation but will not take a final vote on the entire bill until July 13. By that date it has been directed by Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill to send its part of the President's plan to an ad hoc committee which will assemble pieces from all legislative committees and send one bill to the House floor. Most of the rest of the plan is before the Commerce Committee, which adjourned yesterday for a 10-day recess without taking final action on natural gas pricing or other non-tax parts of the package.
Ways and Means killed Carter's proposed standby gasoline tax, which could have climbed to 50 cents a gallon in 10 years if the nation failed to meet specified goals. It also rejected a proposed price-reducing tax rebate on purchase of small high-mileage cars.
The committee approved a diluted tax on big gas-guzzling cars that would take effect in 1979 with standards more relaxed than the President wanted. By 1985 the tax on purchase of a car getting less than 12.5 miles per gallon would be $3,856.
The committee repealed taxes on purchase of buses and parts to encourage use of public transportation, increased the fuel tax on pleasure motorboats but refused to raise the fuel tax on privately owned aircraft.
Homeowners could get a tax credit of up to $400 for insulating and up to $2,150 for installing solar or wind energy equipment, such as a windmill in the back yard. Industry and commerce could also get tax credits for insulation.
In another effort to conserve oil, the committee approved a three-stage tax that would push the price of crude oil up to world levels. The tax would be rebated to taxpayers next year in lowered withholding at the rate of about $22 per year for single persons and $44 per family. Special rebates would be given to users of home heating oil and schools, churches and hospitals. Propane made from oil would be exempt.