I deeply appreciate the efforts of the House leadership in moving the National Energy Plan forward for consideration by the full House in record time. I particularly want to commend Speaker O'Neill, Chairman Ashley of the Ad Hoc Energy Committee, Chairman Ullman of the Ways and Means Committee, Chairman Staggers of the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee, and Chairman Dingell of the Energy and Power Subcommittee, as well as many other committee chairmen and members. Each of these members themselves have shown, by putting their shoulders to the grindstone, that the Congress shares with me a commitment to taking decisive action on our energy problem.
As the House begins voting on the various energy proposals, there are five points which I consider to be critical.
First, I would urge the House to retain the natural gas pricing program which I proposed and which has been adopted by the Commerce Committee and by the Ad Hoc Committee. This program provides ample incentives for the production of natural gas from new reservoirs, it eliminates the artificial distinction between the interstate and intrastate gas markets, and assures that consumer costs for gas are kept within manageable bounds. If, as some Members of Congress have advocated, natural gas were deregulated, the consumers' bill would increase by billions of dollars and producers would reap extraordinary excess profits. Deregulation would only increase supplies by about 2 per cent above my program, and the price we would have to pay for that increase is exorbitant. A vote in favor of deregulation would undermine one of the basic tenets of my energy plan--fairness.
Second, I would urge the Members of the House to resist an amendment which would eliminate rebates to home heating oil users and to those taxpayers who most need assistance to meet higher fuel costs. I believe that the formula adopted by the Ad Hoc Committee for rebates of the crude oil equalization tax should not be changed.
Third, I do not believe that an amendment which would "plow back" some of the revenues collected under the crude oil equalization tax is necessary or fair. Drilling activity in the oil industry is at a 17-year high, and industry cash flows are so large that some major oil companies have made major acquisitions of non-energy companies. My plan provides for substantial incentive prices for new oil and gas exploration and production. In fact, the plan provides oil producers as high a rate of return as is available anywhere in the world. The Ways and Means Committee fully discussed and debated this issue and three times rejected a plowback proposal. I would urge that the House membership defeat this inequitable and unnecessary proposal.
Fourth, I understand that a 5-cents-per-gallon increase in the gasoline tax will be proposed by Congressman Howard. This tax would be earmarked for highway construction and maintenance and for mass transit. While I initially recommended a standby gasoline tax which would provide a specific disincentive on the wasteful use of gasoline, or a gasoline tax with greater flexibility for use of the revenues, I recommend positive action on this proposed tax which is supported by the House leadership.
Finally, I strongly support the Ad Hoc Committee's amendment to strengthen the tax on oil and gas use by large industrial consumers by striking the unnecessary exemption for certain new facilities.
I am convinced that the hard work that the Congress has undertaken over the last 3 months will result in a strong and effective bill. I commend the Congress for its work and am looking forward to seeing final passage of the National Energy Act this year.