President Carter sounded out a group of congressional leaders yesterday on energy policy and told the group he expects to announce his decisions early next week.
Emerging from the meeting, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Russell B. Long (D.La.) predicted that Carter will order the gradual decontrol of domestic oil prices and ask Congress to enact a tax aimed at holding down oil company profits.
The president, however, did not announce any decisions during the meeting.He spent most of the time listening to the congresssional leaders expound their own opinions, according to Senate Energy Committee Chairman Henry M. Jackson (D. Wash.).
Carter originally had planned to announce his energy decisions in a nationally televised speech yesterday. But the decisions were delayed when he orded more staff work done on them. Meanwhile, his public relations advisers are urging him to replace the televised speech format with some less dramatic forum.
White House press secretary Jody Powell said the date and format for the energy message have not been selected.
On June 1, Carter will have authority to lift the price controls aon domestic oil, in whole or part. In 1981, the controls will be lifted automatically unless reimposed by Congress.
The president is widely expected to order the gradual decontrol of oil prices, while attempting to cushion the impact of higher prices by seeking some form of excess profits tax on the oil industry. The tax could be coupled with a mechanish to rebate some of the revenue to consumers.
Yesterday's meeting at the White House apparently focused on pricing and tax questions, upsetting at least one House member who attended. An aide to Rep. James J. Howard (D.N.J.), CHAIRMAN OF THE SURFACE TRANSPORTATION SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE, SAID HOWARD WAS "DISCOURAGED" AND "DISAPPOINTED" THAT THE SUBJECT OF TRANSPORTATION - AND ITS PLACE IN A NATIONAL ENERGY POLICY-WAS NOT EVEN MENTIONED.
ADMINISTRATION SOURCES SAID TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY BROCK ADAMS HAS ALSO BEEN CONCERNED THAT TRANSPORTATION WAS NOT RECEIVING SUFFICIENT ATTENTION IN THE WHILE HOUSE DELIBERATIONS ON THE ENERGY ISSUES.
LONG, WHOSE FINANCE COMMITTEE WILL HANDLE ANY TAX LEGISLATION THAT CARTER PROPOSES, SAID HE WOULD PREFER A MORE GRADUAL DECONTROL THAN HE EXPECTS THE PRESIDENT TO ORDER AND NO ADDITIONAL TAXES ON THE OIL INDUSTRY. HE SAID HE COULD NOT PREDICT THE OVERALL CONGRESSIONAL ATTITUDE TOWARD AN EXCESS PROFITS TAX ON THE INDUSTRY.
CARTER'S DECISIONS ON ENERGY WILL BE AMONG THE MOST IMPORTANT OF HIS TERM. ANY FORM OF DECONTROL WILL INCREASE ENERGY PRICES, ADDING TO INFLATION, WHICH IS HIS CHIEF POLITICAL PROBLEM.
"I THINK THE CONSENSUS IN THE ROOM WAS THAT THERE IS A NATIONAL CRISIS AND WE HAVE A STALEMATE," SAID REP. MORRIS K. UDALL (D-ARIZ.) AFTER THE MEETING. "HE'S GOT TO PROPOSE A PROGRAM AND THE ONLY PROGRAM THAT'S POLITICALLY FEASIBLE IS A PROGRAM THAT WILL FLY, A PROGRAM THAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WILL BELIEVE AND SUPPORT."