A story in yesterday's Washington Post erroneously refered to President Carter's proposed increase in the wellhead tax on oil and natural gas production. The wellhead tax would apply only to oil production and not to natural gas production.
President Carter appealed to the Senate yesterday to halt its wholesale dismemberment of his energy program and indicated that he is willing to accept a compromise on the use of revenues from a proposed increase in the wellhead tax on oil and natural gas production.
The President opened a nationally televised news conference with the energy appeal, which was most striking for its mildness and lack of criticism even for those who in the past he has characterized as "the special interests."
Of the administration's nine major energy proposals, two - an increase in the federal gasoline tax and tax rebates on fuel-efficient cars - were killed in the House. Of the remaining seven, two have been killed by Senate committees and four are considered to be in varying stages of trouble. Only the administration's proposal for tax credits for installation of insulation and solar heating equipment has had relatively smooth sailing.
In response to a question, Carter indicated he is willing to back off from his original position that the revenues generated by a higher wellhead tax be returned to consumers through a complicated system of rebates. He said he would consider use of some of the funds for such energy-related programs as mass transit as "options" for the use of some of the money.
"There are some alternatives that I could accept without too much reluctance," the President said.
The oil and gas industry wants the proceeds from the wellhead tax used as an incentive for increased exploration and production. In a recent preliminary vote in the Senate Finance Committee, the industry prevailed and Carter's rebate plan was rejected.
This an the other defeats in the Senate clearly prompted Carter's statement yesterday. But in an apparent shift in tactics, the statement was conciliatory in tone, contrasting sharply with Carter's denunciation earlier this week of "special-interest lobbyists" who are seeking to deregulate the price of natural gas.
Yesterday, the President described some of those lobbyists as "well-meaning people." He also praised the Senate leadership, saying he knows that its task in dealing with the energy program "is a difficult job . . . and at times an unpleasant one."
Carter recalled that when the energy program was introduced, it encountered initial resistance in the House but eventually was passed without damaging changes.
"I think the Senate is now in that posture," he said. "I think the Senate realizes that this is the major domestic legislative product that we expect this year. And for us to devote a full year of work and come out with an inconsequential or inadequate energy program is something that I don't believe the Senate will face. They have their own reputations to protect.
"I am not criticising them," the President added, "but I think that as they [senators] hear the voice of the American people, as they realize the condequence of the absence of a courageous action, then I think they will move to adopt the major parts of the program."
Carter also made clear that he is banking on the House to continue to support his positions when differences in the House and Senate versions of the energy legislation are taken up in conference committees. He predicted that the House "is going to be very adamant in maintaining [its] position."
In his opening statement, the President again voiced his objections to deregulation of antural gas and mentioned four other proposals as particularly important to the energy program. He said these are the wellhead tax, a proposed tax on low-mile-age "gas guzzler" automobiles, measures to shift industry to the use of coal rather than other fuels and changes in utility rate structures to encourage conservation.
The gas guzzler and utility rate structure proposals have been killed by Senate committees. The other two proposals are considered in truble in the Senate.
On another topic, Carter said Attorney General Griffin B. Bell has not discussed with him the possible indictment of former Central Intelligence Agency Director Richard Helms on perjury charges growing out of his testimony before a Senate committee. He said Bell may make a recommen dation to him "fairly soon."
The news conference came a week after the President announced the resignation of Bert Lance as budget director. Unlike last week. Carter seemed in an upbeat mood.He smiled a lot and made a couple of jokes.
Shortly after the news conference, the White House issued a statement correcting two things the President had said in reference to the Helms case. When Carter said he did not know the seriousness of the offenses with which "he [Helms] will be charged," he meant to say "may be charged," the statement said.
When the President used the words "commit perjury," he meant to say "commit alleged perjury," according to the statement.