President Carter will invoke whatever emergency measures he considers necessary - including rationing of gasoline and withholding federal highway funds from states that do not enforce the national speed limit - if Congress falls short of enacting his energy package and the people don't practice voluntary conservation as a matter of patriotism.
In addition, the President told Newhouse Hews Servce in an exclusive interview, he will "go back to Congress to fill in the gaps" in his energy program next year because he still is determined to make the nation self-sufficient on energy by 1985.
Carter said that, for his own part, he practices conservation in the White House to the point that he must wear a heavy sweater and the First Family and guests huddle under blankets while viewing movies in the unheated theater.
Later, in a meeting with editors of out-of-town news organizations, the President said he "would do almost anything within reason if I thought it was necessary to bring permanent peace to the Middle East."
"If it takes the full time that I am in office to bring about a complete, comprehensive, permanent peace in the Middle East. I will devote my full resources to it." Carter told the editors. "Obviously, if I felt some time in the future - and I don't anticipate this - but if I felt sometime in the future that my personal presence was the difference between success and failure, obviously I would go because I consider this to be important not only for the Middle East but for the world." He said repeatedly that, as of now, I don't anticipate any need" for presidential travel to the Middle East.
In the energy discussion, Carter declined to use the terms "rationing" or "allocation" of gasoline and heating and industrial fuels.
He said he would assess the energy package passed by Congress.
"Then we'll see what remains to be done, either through administrative action or through public calls on a patriotic basis or through constrictions through grants to state governments and so forth on highway safety, or right turn on red, or compliance with the speed law," the President said. "We'll do everything we can within the bounds of the law.
"We have also broad administrative authority within the Department of Energy on the approval of industrial plants and the allotment of different fuels under emergency circumstances. But it is obviously important to assess what Congress has done."
The unmet concern, he warned, is to demonstrate to the American people the shortage that effects their lives. And Carter noted that so long as there is adequate management of the remaining limited sources of oil and gas without gas station lines and without being cold in the winter, "the American public is not going to do it (conserve) voluntarily."
But, added the President ominously: rection (conservation), we'll take whatever administrative action the law will permit and we'll also go back to the Congress next year for another package to fill in the gaps that are left after this year's Congress ends."
Among the administrative avenues open to Carter in the imposition of gasoline rationing. Coupons were printed during the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo and could be used at any time. The administration has studied the possibility of using plastic ration cards, similar to credit cards, for such a purpose.