New US plan challenges oil slash

The country's third National Energy Plan, scheduled for release Wednesday, challenges the widely held idea that a drastic cut in oil imports is in America's best interests, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The newspaper also said the new plan retreats somewhat from the administration's past predictions that decontrolling energy prices to permit them to rise to world levels will cause domestic oil production to rise.

The plan -- the administration's first comprehensive statement on energy policy -- projects domestic oil production's failing somewhat between 1980 and 1990, the newspaper said.

As expected, the plan outlines a policy of dealing with future oil shortages by putting "primary reliance on market forces to determine the prices and allocation of energy supplies." But if fails to state a policy on politically sensitive natural gas prices.

The plan supports policies of aggressive public leasing of oil, gas, and minieral resources, expansion of nuclear power and coal, and federal assistance only for long-range, high-risk energy projects.

On the subject of oil imports, the Reagan plan states, "A low level of US oil imports at any cost isn't a proper criterion for the nation's energy security and economic health," the Journal reported.

The plan agrees that cheap substitutes for foreign oil must be sought. But it said the government's "vision would be equally narrow if market forces were distorted through indiscriminate subsidies for alternatives that cost mo re than imported oil now" and will not be economical soon.

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