I am pleased and gratified that the congressional energy conferees, after 6 months of arduous work, have reached final agreement on natural gas legislation.
A solution to the natural gas issue has eluded Presidents and Congresses for more than a quarter of a century. I congratulate the conferees for their fine work.
This historic agreement represents a long-overdue step toward the creation of a truly national market for natural gas, as well as a crucial breakthrough toward enactment of the long-delayed national energy legislation.
Our objective, when we sent the national energy act to Congress on April 20, 1977, was to protect the Nation's consumers and the economy from the sudden imposition of the substantially higher natural gas prices that would result from immediate deregulation. We also sought to provide producers with higher incentives to stimulate natural gas production. Those objectives have been met by the legislation the conferees have agreed upon today.
The compromise, according to best available estimates, will cost American consumers no more than they would pay if today's inadequate regulatory system were to be maintained. Moreover, if the compromise is accepted by the full Congress, new supplies of natural gas, formerly available only in the intrastate market, will flow to gas-starved interstate systems at reasonable prices. These new supplies will replace billions of dollars worth of more expensive fuels, including imported oil.
This agreement represents a major step forward toward finalization of the national energy legislation. I urge the Congress to start moving toward final passage of the first four bills and once again to begin in earnest on the crude oil equalization tax and the remaining provisions of the tax bill. I am encouraged over the prospects for the COET, because I think there is a growing realization of the need for us to stop subsidizing oil imports and of the fact that COET is the best option for achieving that goal.