Spokesmen for the oil industry, reacting to President Carter's sharp attack on it, said yesterday that the administration's energy plan is its own worst enemy.
"The President has made an emotional appeal to defend a tax program that is not defensible," said John E. Swearingen, chairman of the Standard Oil Co. of Indiana, the nation's sixth-largest oil company.
"His energy program involved the largest peacetime tax increase ever imposed on our citizens, and none of it would be used to increase the production of domestic energy," Swearingen continued.
"We agree that energy should be used wisely, but we also believe that when the U.S. consumer pays a higher price for energy he should get what he pays for - more energy from secure domestic sources. The President's program will not do that."
One of the sharpest responses to Carter's attack came from Howard W. Blauvelt, chairman of Continental Oil Co.
"The effect of his comments was to shed more heat than light on issues of crucial national importance," Blauvelt said. "Moreover, he has impugned the intergrity and motives of those segments of the public and Congress that find themselves in disagreement with a portion of his program."
Industry officials agreed following the President's news conference that, in the words of a spokesman for Texaco, Inc., "We're under attack."
"It's a damn severe attack," said a spokesman for Shell Oil Co.
However, the reaction from the American Petroleum Institute, the main oil industry trade association, was surprisingly mild. Frank Ikard, president of API, issued a statement that simply ignored Carter's harsh rhetoric and said the industry has long favored a national energy policy.
On Capitol Hill, allies of the industry quickly rushed to its defense Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) said, "When the President goes out on the stump, he should tell the American people that his energy program is really a massive tax program."
Sen. John G. Tower (R-Tex.) said he doubts Congress will finish work on energy legislation before it adjourns this year.
"The plan fact is that the energy plas was a shambles when it was sent to Congress, and the Senate will not be stampeded into putting its stamp of approval on an inept energy policy just for the sake of saying that we have one," Tower said.
Although he drew kind words from the President during the news conference, Sen. Russell B. Long (D-La.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said later, "We'd all be advised to reduce the level of our rhetoric."