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