Two congressional subcommittee chairmen yesterday urged the Carter administration to abolish a federal rule adopted in March that will give the oil industry more than $12 billion by the end of 1980.
Rep. Bob Eckhardt (D-Tex.) and Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), in separate statements, criticized the regulation -- known as the "Tilt Rule" --as inflationary and unnecessarily generous to the oil companies.
The purpose of the regulation is to increase oil company profits as an incentive for the companies to build more refineries.
"The Tilt Rule is and has been nothing more than a massive and wholly unjustified giveaway to the oil industry," Metzenbaum, chairman of the Senate antitrust subcommittee, wrote President Carter.
In a letter to energy secretary-designate Charles Duncan, Metzenbaum charged that the DOE and its chief lawyer attempted "to mislead the public" in a report to the president, clearing the oil industry of hoarding gasoline during the recent shortage.
He said the report, released Monday, was unreliable because "it was based on questionable data supplied by the industry itself."
Eckhardt, chairman of the House Commence subcommittee on oversight and investigations, said in an interview, "The Tilt Rule should never have been put in place and I strongly protested it at the time."
He said it gives the false impression that the government is regulating gasoline prices, while it actually is allowing prices to increase sharply.
Eckhardt said that if Carter fails to take strong action to correct the Tilt regulation, "I intend to do it" in Congress.
He also said it is essential that the government reinstate price controls on diesel fuel and home heating oil in order to protect consumers this winter.
Metzembaum wrote Carter: "Once again, it has become clear that the Department of Energy is a source of deep problems for your anti-inflation policy and for your administration's credibility with the American people."
Metzembaum called on the Energy Department to conduct a "full and thorough investigation" of the Tilt decision and the gasoline hoarding study, and to "discipline or dismiss any DOE officials who can be shown to have behaved improperly."
The White House and DOE had no response to the letters.