An attempt to rush an energy bill through the Senate yesterday to show the economic summit Congress means business was blocked by Sen. Harrison H. Schmitt (R-N.M.), who said he wanted time to understand it.
The bill would give the government some power to order utilities and industry to convert their boilers from oil and natural gas to goal or other fuels. It is one of the least controversial parts of President Carter's energy package, which has been stalled in Congress for 15 months.
House-Senate Conferees agreed on the coal conversion bill last fall, but approval by both bodies was held up until the conferees reached agreement on a more controversial bill removing price controls from new natural gas in 1985. The House is not expected to vote on any of the conference agreements until next month at the earliest.
Supporters of the coal conversion bill said it would save 1 million barrels of oil a day by 1985. But Sen. Dewey Bartlett (R-Okla.), an opponent, said the savings would be far less and that the bill is unnecessary because high oil and gas prices are pushing industry to convert to coal as quickly as it can.
Senate leaders wanted a Senate vote to help Carter persuade America's concerned trading partners that the United States is moving toward an energy policy that will strengthen the dollar abroad and improve trade relations.
The energy tax conferees, who have been deadlocked since last fall on the most important parts of Carter's oil-saving program, convened for a brief session of hopeful talk but no action Thursday for the same purpose of giving Carter some help at the summit.
Schmitt threatened to talk a long time until the Senate leadership agreed to delay a vote until Monday so he could have some questions answered.