The United States and other industrialized nations agreed yesterday to limit their oil imports from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to 26 million barrels a day by 1985 - 20 per cent less than currently projected.
Members of the 19-nation International Energy Agency issued a communique in Paris setting the 1985 target, which is about 4 million barrels a day more than the industrialized nations import now.
This is the first time the 19-nation group has agreed to such an ambitious goal, but State Department and IEA officials admitted privately that the goal will not be met without drastic changes in existing energy programs - especially in the United States.
State Department officials in Washington said the import target is not binding, but is considered a statement of principles of energy policy.
For years, European nations and Japan have accused the United States of doing little or nothing to curb its growth imports while they have taken measures to do so.
The plan adopted, however, calls for the United States to reduce its 1985 imports from OPEC nations by about 5 million barrels daily from current projections while the other industrialized countries would hold imports about even or increase very slightly.
The reduction in U.S. oil imports called for under the IEA agreement is in line with the goals set in President Carters energy plan which the Senate has gutted in the last week. Carter and the IEA are both calling for a reduction in U.S. oil imports from more than 8.2 million barrels a day now to fewer than 6 million barrels daily by the mid-1980s.
Energy Secretary James R. Schlesinger, in remarks aimed more at the Senate than his fellow energy ministers in Paris, warned that unless the industrialized countries reduce imports, "We will unleash, I fear, a degree of political and social unrest of a sort that we in the United States have not witnesses since the 1930s."
Carter's energy plan drew sharp criticism during the two days of closed-door meetings. Most of the criticism concerned uncertainty over the President's ability to get an energy plan through the Congress that will lead to a reduction in imports. The United States now imports half its total petroleum needs.
According to one participants in the meetings, Common Market official Guido Brunner told Schlesinger that unless the United States cuts imports by the 1980s the smaller European countries will not be able to compete with the larger countries for a narrowing supply of oil.
Following the meetings, Canadian Energy Minister Alstair Gillispie, who chairs the IEA, said that if the U.S. Congress kills the Carter energy plan, "it would have the gravest of consequences. It would undermine the political will in other countries to deal with the energy crisis."
The IEA countries also announced agreement on 12 guidelines in energy policy, to enable the industrialized nations to meet the 1985 import reduction goal. Included are commitments to energy conservation measures, pricing policies, increased coal utilization and an effort to bridge competing energy and environmental demands.
A key provision, calling for accelerated development of nuclear power, was questioned by Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway and New Zealand. Representatives from the five countries said they may not be able to support the nuclear provision because of opposition within their own countries to expanding nuclear development.
A communique took note of the current world oil glut, but predicted that "unless present energy policies are strengthened there is a serious risk that as early as the 1980s the world will not have sufficient oil and other forms of energy available, and that such a situation would have severe economic, social and political consequences."
Schlesinger underscored the IEA's pessimistic view, saying, "There may be no more than 26 million barrels available to the IEA nations in 1985."