President Carter has ordered his staff to determine whether the Department of Energy actually conducted the investigation he ordered before it issued a report clearing the oil industry of hoarding gasoline.
The White House announced yesterday that it was taking a new look at the report following Washington Post articles disclosing that DOE relied entirely on oil industry figures instead of conducting its own investigation.
At the same time, the American Petroleum Institute said yesterday that some of the oil industry data used in DOE's exoneration appear to be "inaccurate."
Press secretary Jody Powell, questioned by reporters, said the White House was "assessing the findings of that report and the methodology" used in compiling it. The White House issued the report without comment 10 days ago.
Powell said the president regarded it as an interim report.
"If we determine that there are - or were - deficiencies in the report, we will make sure they are corrected in the final report," Powell said.
A DOE spokesman said the department had "no problem" with a White House review of its report. Another DOE official said the department "expressly reserves judgment as to the lawfulness of particular companies' actions, pending further audits."
The Post reported that DOE's main conclusion - that there was no hoarding of gasoline by refiners - intentionally sidestepped other charges that the oil companies deliberately juggled production, imports and reserves;
The Post also reported that two senior officials who worked on the report labeled it variously as misleading and a "propaganda exercise."
Moreover, 22 of the 27 Energy Department data reports listed in the appendix of the 53-page report actually were not used in compiling the report, DOE officials said in interviews.
Of the five remaining reports, the one DOE said it relied on most was challenged yesterday by the American Petroleum Institute. The figures in question pertain to the total amount of foreign crude oil imported by American companies.
The Energy Department used those suspect figures to determine whether the oil companies imported all of the oil they could under contracts with their foreign suppliers.
"IF those figures were used in any portion of the report, obviously that portion of the report is in doubt," said Earl Ross, a spokesman for the oil institute.
Ross said that beginning in May 1978 his organization began to notice that DOE was compiling data substantially different from figures the oil institute believed to be accurate.
He said DOE figures showed that oil companies were reporting about 200,000 fewer barrels of oil per day than were actually being imported.
In an interview late yesterday, Al Linden of DOE's energy information administration said that the oil institute may be correct, and that DOE has been studying the possibility that it has been relying on faulty data.
The review will be carried out under the direction of presidential adviser Stuart Eizenstat.
Powell said yesterday the White House may have acted too hastily in releasing the report. But he stopped short of saying that the White House disputed the findings. He said there was "no way" that the federal government could monitor the whole range of oil industry operations, from productin to distribution.
The report to the president was dated July 24. It was officially released Aug. 5.
On a related energy matter, Powell said Carter will campaign for public support of his energy proposals during the Mississippi River cruise vacation he will begin this Friday in St. Paul, Minn.
"The Purpose of the trip is to campaign, and it . . . is indeed directed toward achieving political impact," Powell said.
"That campaign is to obtain congressional approval of a national energy plan, and the political impact we seek is a concerned and informed public to help bring about that end," he added.
The riverboat Delta Queen will make its regular stops in Prarie du Chien, Wis.; Davenport and Burlington, Iowa, an early caucus state that played a key role in his 1976 campaign, and Hannibal and St Louis, Mo.
"There is little possibility that we can pass an effective energy program without this sort of effort," Powell said.