That celebrated letter from Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Tex.) and the rest of the House Democratic leadership last month asking administration budget-cutters to keep hands off the synthetic fuels subsidies apparently had a real effect.
President Reagan has pulled back from Budget Director David Stockman's plan to rescond $5.3 billion from the Department of Energy program that Wright guided through Congress last year. It would guarantee loans and prices for developing alternatives to foreign oil, such as extracting oil from shale and converting coal to oil.
Wright and Secretary of Energy James B. Edwards appeared together yesterday before the House economic stabilization subcommittee where the synfuels bill originated. Wright gave his well-reheasrsed sermon on the need to develop new energy sources and Edwards read a statement recognizing that need and finding fault with only smaller parts of the program. He wants to rescind $300 million appropriated as incentives to produce fuel from alcohol, farm byproducts and urban waste.
"They've come a long way," said Wright, contrasting Edwards' statement with Stockman's desire to halt government subsidies short of commercial production. "Thank you for 95 percent of your statement," subcommittee chairman James Blanchard (D-Mich.) told Edwards.
At one point, Edwards sounded like a defender against an assualt from Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), who said he feared government intervention would only end up sending the program in the wrong direction. Edwards said the Reagan administration "found the program on board when we came on board" and feels there should be "a little help" from government.