Energy Secretary James R. Schlesinger proposed a new standby gasoline rationing plan yesterday that would allocate scarce supplies on the basis of registered vehicles, rather than by licensed drivers as a Ford administration plan had envisioned.
Vehicle owners would receive quarterly ration checks to be exchanged at banks and other financial institutions for the actual coupons required to purchased gasoline at service stations.
Each car would be allocated the same number of coupons regardless of how many use the vehicle or how many miles it is normally driven. A "white market" would be allowed in which motorists could sell extra coupons to other drivers, charging whatever price they could get.
A standby rationing plan is required under a law passed by Congress in 1975 to deal with energy emergencies. Schlesinger said the plan "is a form of insurance" to be invoked only in times of serious supply disruptions such as the 1973-1974 Arab oil embargo.
Public hearing on the proposal will be held in nine cities across the country during July and August. After considering public comments, the Department of Energy will send its proposal to Congress.
Schlesinger said the proposed plan was "equitable, simple and enforceable" but acknowledged that "rationing would be a complex, painful action for the nation to take."
He said the proposed plan is an improvement over the one President Ford submitted to Congress shortly before leaving office. When Carter became president that proposal was withdrawn.
The rationing plan could be implemented withing 45 days after an emergency, Schlesinger said. It would cost approximately $100 million to prepare - $70 million to print ration coupons and $30 million in administrative costs - and about $175 million quarterly to operate.
The plan proposes to use numbered ration coupons to reduce the likelihood of counterfeiting so an existing stockpile of 4.8 billion unnumbered coupons, printed under the Ford plan, would not be used if the plan is adopted.
While the number of coupons available to each car owner would vary, depending on the severity of the shortage, the department estimated that a 25 percent cut in gasoline supplies would result in a ration of a about two gallons a day for each car.
Trucks and buses would receive a larger ration than passenger cars under the proposed plan but businesses would be given the same ration for each vehicle that individuals receive. Firms that needed additional supplies would have to purchase ration coupons on the white market.
Exceptions would be made only for essential services such as fire protection, police and mass public transportation.
The Department of Energy cited several reasons for using registered vehichles as the basis for allotments rather than driver's licenses:
It reduces the likelyhood of fraud. By using state registration lists the plan would avoid the problem of duplicate or counterfeit driver's licenses.
The plan could be implemented quickly in a crisis. The Ford plan was estimated to require 90 days for implementation.
It is fairer. The department believes that owning a car is a better index of of mileage driven than possession of a license, since many people with licenses drive very little.