The Senate passed, 52 to 35, last night an energy tax bill still lopsidedly tilted toward tax credits rather than taxes, but carried closer to President Carter's wishes by a week of amending.
The opposition votes came from liberals who considered the bill a handout to big industry and from conservatives who fear that it will be a vehicle to rescue Carter's crude oil tax in conference with the House.
There may be some delay, because the House conferees on the tax provisions of the Carter energy plan will be the same ones now locked in dispute with the Senate on non-tax parts of the package.
As drafted by the Senate Finance Committee, the bill contained non of the three taxes - on crude oil, on industrial use of oil and natural gas, and on gas-guzzling cars - recommended by Carter - and approved by the house to reduce dependence on foreign oil. Instead, the committee encourage conservation and production of oil and conversion to coal by tax relief rather than higher taxes. Its bill consisted largely of $41 billion in tax credits by 1985, plus language that would give Senate conferees flexibility to make a deal marrying the credits with the House taxes.
On the floor during a week of debate, the Senate added a modified version of Carter's industrial use tax. And it hinted it could accept some version of his crude oil tax by refusing to go on record opposed to it. These are the the two big oil-savers in Carter's program, accounting for about half the 4.5 million barrels a day he hopes to save by 1985.
The committee rejected the House gas-guzzler tax and the Senate did not vote on it, but voted to ban the sale of gas guzzles. Conferees will have to choose between the House tax and the Senate ban, or take both or neither.
In othe rmajor changes in its committee's bill, the Senate:
Reduced from 50 per cent to 25 per cent the government's share, through a tax credit, of the cost of helping industry and non-profit institutions convert from boilers fueled by oil or gas to those using road or other fuels. This tax credit had been expected to cost $26 billion by 1985; the amendment may have reduced by half the prospective loss of revenue.
Approved an annual tax credit of $75 to every person age 65 and over to help offset rising energy costs. The credit could be subtracted from the individual's tax bill, and if it exceeded the tax due the difference would be paid in cash.
Approved a similar refundable tax credit to users of home heating oil - up to 25 per cent of their costs but not more than $150 a year per household - and a similar credit for homes heated or cooled by electricity generated by imported oil.
Struck out a $1 billion subsidy to Greybound and other long-distance bus companies intended to make their service more appealing by cutting fares, buying new buses and providing more attractive terminals.
Agreed to give $400 million a year for four years to the states for read repairs, to make up for gasoline tax revenue lost if drivers use less, as the President hopes. The bill also contains, as does the House version, an extension through 1985 of the four-cent-a-gallon federal gasoline tax, which is used to build the interstate highway system. The Senate refused to follow the lead of the House in repealing the individual income tax deduction for state gasoline taxes.
Despite all the changes, the figures in the Senate bill remain about the same, with a net revenue loss of about $41 billion through 1985.
The Senate approved tax credits of up to $400 for homeowners and renters for insulating their residences, and credits up to $2,200 for installing solar heat. The House approved similar figures, which assures they will be part of whatever bill is enacted.
For the energy industry there are credits of $3 per barrel to encourage production of oil from shale and 50 cents per thousand cubic feet for hard-to-reach natural gas.
Yesterday the Senate appeared on the verge of approving a multibillion-dollar partial decontrol of crude oil prices. But Finance committee Chairman Russell B. Long (D-La.), who personally supported the effort, called it off for fear it would provoke a liberal fillibuster that could kill the entire bill.
Decontrol advocate Dewey Bartlett (R-Okla.) planned to offer two amendements that would have expanded the definition of marginal wells exempt from price controls and would have exempted oil which can be pumped only after water is injected into the reservoir.
Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.) protested that the two amendments would decontrol about 2 million barrels a day, more than 20 per cent of the total, and would cost American consumers an extra 50 billion by 1985.
An attempt to kill the marginal well amendment by tabling it was defeated, 46 to 43. But Bartlett then withdrew it and did not call up the other after Long told him it would only jeopardize the bill. Long promised to try to achieve the same result in conference through tax treatement rather than decontrol.