President Carter yesterday accepted part of the blame for the demolition of his energy bill in the Senate and promised a new offensive to try to arouse public opinion to save it.
"There is no need for me to beat the energy horse," the President was quoted as saying at his weekly breakfast with Democratic congressional leaders. "The situations is obvious to everyone.""
He referred to the fact that the Senate Finance Committee has killed his three proposed taxes - no crude oil, gas-guzzler cars and industrial use of oil and natural gas - which were the main parts of his energy conservation plan. The full Senate, meanwhile, has gutted his electric utility rate structure revision proposal, weakened his coal conversion plan and voted to lift price controls from natural gas, which he would continue to control, but at a higher price.
According to members of Congress present, Carter said:
"Part of the problem may be my own. WHen the situation was before the House I met two or three times a week with members of the House, but I did not do so much of that with the Senate.
"The situation has deteriorated, Carter conceded, but added that "the White House has ist plan of strategy. I am going to spend a great deal of time in the next few weeks trying to arouse public support for our position."
The President reiterated his belief that the energy problem is "the single most important item befoer us, second only to our nation's security. I'll treat it as such for the rest of the session."
Carter didn't specify how he plans to marshal public opinion to pressure the Senate into reviving his program. But his key aides spend much of the day in meeting apparently mapping a public blitz by the President such as attended his launching of the program in April.
He is to hold a press conference today and is expected to open with a strong statement in behalf of his program. Weeken after next, Carter plans a political trip from Detroit to California with stops in Iowa and Colorado, all of which could be used to make a pitch for his energy program. The White House is also considering asking Cabinet members to carry the message around the country.
The problem is that the United States is increasingly dependent on foreign oil - almost half the U.S. consumption - which could be cut off at any time with all the adverse implications this carries for the nation's economy and security. Carter has asked Congress for legislatin he believes will save 4.5 million barrels a day unless breakthroughs are made in developing altenative energy sources.
Since the House approved most of the President's bill and the Senate is going in the opposite direction, the only possibility for salvaging soil legislation lies in a House-Senate conference, where differences are resolved. House and Senate leaders agreed yesterday on conference procedures that could cut a couple of weeks off the time needed for final action on the bill.
The House passed the energy package as a single bill, but the Senate is handling it as five bills. House leaders have refused to go to conference piecemeal with the Senate, for fear this would jeopardize chances of saving a balanced plan.
It was agreed yesterday that conferees could begin meeting now on the four bills the Senate has passed, but none of the conference reports will be signed and acted upon until all of them and fifth Senate bill, dealing with taxes, have been cleared through conference. If some unexpected action were taken on one bill, this procedure would permit reopening a conference to make balancing changes in another.
Senate Energy Committee Chairman Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.) said the order in which bills will be taken up will be coal conversion, general conservation, utility rate revision and natural gas.
Since the Senate narrowly voted to deregulate new natural gas, Jackson said his entire committee, which split 9 to 9 on the issue, will serve as Senate conference.
The Senate will appoint conferees for each of the five bills.House plans call for appointment of 22 members as House conferees with Reps. Thomas I. Ashley (D-Ohio), Al Ullman (D-ore.) and Harley O. Staggers (D-W.Va.) serving as cochairman.Ullman is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which wrote the tax part of the House bill. Staggers is chairman of COmmerce, which handled non-tax parts. Ashley was chairman of the ad hoc committee that put the bill together after five legislative committees had drafted parts of it.