The "windfall" profits tax on oil companies should be phased out and offshore drilling leases given "on demand" as part of a new national effort to speed energy development, according to President-elect Ronald Reagan's energy policy transition task force.
"Instead of unleashing the resources of a wealthy nation, we have . . . tucked energy away like a rare bottle of wine," said the still-unpublished report, submitted Nov. 5 to Reagan by task force chairman Michel T. Halbouty.
The 42-page document contains some surprise among recommendations that otherwise largely follow Reagan's campaign promises:
More port facilities suitable for deep-draft supertankers should be constructed along all three coasts, and "barriers of environmental regulation and obstructionism" to them should be removed.
Fast-track legislation should be enacted to boost major energy projects, "specifically coal-fired and nuclear power plants."
There should be a policy of "leasing on demand" for outer continental shelf mineral rights since there is "no legitimate national purpose served by delaying exploration and development." Large-tract leasing to consortiums of companies should also be considered.
The "windfall" profits tax should be "restructured and phased out on an accelerated basis" so as to "reward success in finding new reserves and in maintaining and increasing oil production."
Water development projects should proceed along with oil, coal and oil shale development in the arid West.
Special task forces should be named to study the Synthetic Fuels Corp. and the "large and unmanageable" Department of Energy for possible "restructing." That is less drastic than Reagan's campaign call for elimination of both organizations.
In addition, the report urges full decontrol of oil prices by September 1981 and phased decontrol of all natural gas, and approach that expands current policy to include "vintage" pre-1977 gas wells. It calls for refill of the strategic petroleum reserve and cost-benefit analysis of all environmental regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency maintains "unrealistic coal-burning emission standards" and "unnecessarily restrictive" air quality regualtions that hinder coal mining, it said.
The task force said federally owned land should have multiple uses rather than being restricted to recreation or other single uses. "Nowhere is the threat of excessive environmentalism to the nation's energy development felt more keenly than in the area of access to and development of these lands, both onshore and offshore," it said.
The 17-member task force includes representatives of coal, oil, utility and research companies as well as academics and consultants, among them Shell Oil president John Bookout, Standard Oil board chairman H. J. Haynes, Peabody Coal Co. president Robert H. Quenon and Yale management professor Philip K. Verleger Jr. Halbouty is an independent Texas geologist and petroleum engineer. The group is scheduled to report again next week.
Although the task force did not seek the demise of Department of Energy, a source in the transition team said Regan wants to break up DOE but has not yet decided how to do it.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will probably be stripped from DOE and either merged into the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or made a separate Federal Energy Commission, the source said. The task force report said FERC should at least be stripped of authority over oil pipelines. The New FEC would oversee those as well as regulate interstate electric rates.
The incoming administration is also considering conversion of DOE to a mere research agency funding energy development, including nuclear weapons programs.
The task force said the key to a new national attitutde toward energy is "utilizing personnel with experience in the oil and gas and other energy industries in the government energy agencies." Efforts to divest oil companies of subsidiaries would "distract the nation from the serious task of energy production" when every effort is needed.