Want to help poor people through the energy crisis?

How about a "poor person pump" at every gas station to dispense discounted gasoline to "bona fide" poor persons, who can be identified by "special ID cards, with windshield stickers or license plates."

Far-fetched? Not according to one midlevel official in the Energy Department who has made just such a proposal to his co-workers and superiors.

"It has been suggested that the benefits of motor gasoline decontrol at retail . . . might be more politically palatable if the benefits of price controls on gaoline continued to be provided to poor persons," wrote Ed Mampe of DOE's Energy Regulatory Administration in an internal memo he distributed to several other department officials last week. A copy was obtained by The Washington Post.

Mampe went on to discuss the difficulties in defining who is poor, and how to make sure that poor people would be the actual beneficiaries of whatever action might be taken.

"Poor persons could be issued special ID cards, windshield stickers, or license plates or drivers licenses," Mampe suggested.

As for distributing the specially discounted gasoline, Mampe offered two choices: special cash rebates to the poor, or "sellers of gasoline could be required to maintain separate 'poor person pumps.'"

Another of Mampe's proposals would have the government continue to keep down the prices of leaded gasoline only, because

"We can proceed from the premise that bona fide poor persons, if they own cars at all, do not own expensive (words illegible) Rather they own old cars and rely on leaded gasoline," he wrote.

Mampe did concede that "some unintended benefits (of keeping leaded gasoline prices down) might flow to owners of exotic foreign minicars such as the Honda CVCC," which can operate on leaded gasoline.

In a telephone interview, Mampe admitted that the ideas were far-fetched.

"We've been asked what we, as a regulatory agency, can do to help low-income people this winter," he said. He wouldn't say who requested that information.

And, in traditional bureaucratic fashion, no one else will admit having asked for the information.

In any case, several high officials at DOE laughed off the proposals and said they weren't being considered seriously.

Mampe, however, is undaunted. He is working on a new memo . . . how to help poor persons weather the rising costs of heating oil.