House-Senate energy conferees failed again yesterday to break their deadlock over whether to tax or ban gas-guzzling cars.
The House had approved President Carter's proposed tax on big, inefficient cars to push the auto industry toward production of more efficient cars to save gasoline. The Senate rejected the tax and voted instead to ban the sale of cars getting fewer than 16 miles to the gallon starting with 1980 models.
Conferees on tax parts of Carter's energy package approved a modified guzzler tax last fall, but conditioned it on rejection by non-tax conferees of the Senate ban on guzzlers.
The Senate is expected to give up on the ban eventually and settle for a doubling of penalties that the law imposes on automakers whose fleet average mileage fails to meet specified standards. But Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.), who thinks the Senate ban is a vital part of a meaningful energy bill, refused to give way at a meeting of the conferees yesterday and asked for time to seek another compromise.
The Department of Energy doesn't think either the tax or the ban would save much energy, "If it rains on the Fourth of July that would save more gas than either," said Sen. John A. Durkin (D-N.H.), citing DOE figures. But Jackson said the automobile is a major reason for the nation's large and growing consumption of petroleum and that Congress should take tough action against guzzlers.
House conferees unanimously oppose the Senate provision on grounds that Congress shouldn't cause financial problems for weaker auto companies for a program that may save no energy.