Inside Report (6)

Were Americans helped, or harmed, by delaying natural gas decontrol for a year?

The oil industry argues the White House missed an opportunity to boost the economy. Prior to the Reagan decision to postpone price decontrol, a Standard Oil Company of Indiana report estimated that phased decontrol could boost gross national product by $8 billion in 1982 and that the increase in GNP ''would grow to $65 billion in 1985.''

Rep. John Dingell (D) of Michigan sharply disagrees. He estimates decontrol would mean a nearly 300 percent jump in natural gas prices.

Critics and supporters agree on one point: Reagan shelved his decontrol promises for political reasons. The combination of economic hard times and November elections, both sides conclude, means decontrol must wait.m

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