Faced with an increasingly critical energy crisis, Persident Carter left for Tokyo yesterday for a summit meeting with the leaders of major industrialized nations to seek a common program that aides say "will result in a change of our life styles and cost a lost of money."
The summit Thursday will come two days after members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meet in Geneva to weigh further increases in oil prices. Experts believe the current $17.22 a barrel charge is likely to be increased to $20 or even $21.
A joint response by the United States, Japan, West Germany, France, Britain, Canada and Italy is given added urgency by the prospect of a worldwide recession.
Before his departure yesterday, Carter said that the world energy problem must be brought under control without "panic or desparation."
"All of us must make some painful adjustments in our daily lives," he continued. "Concerted action by all the industrialized democracies - led by the United States is - absolutely crucial to solve the energy problems facing the American people today."
In a statement on the south lawn of the White House, Carter warned against "illusions" about the summit. Whatever the Tokyo results, Carter cautioned, "gas lines and fuel shortages will not disappear overnight."
He called for joint action among the seven summit partners to avoid "desperate" competition for foreign oil, and proposed a reduction in imports in 1980 going beyond present commitments.
But Carter was less specific than European leaders who called for a five-year freeze on the volume of oil imports, in a surprise presummit statement in Strasbourg, France late Friday. In a communique, the Europeans said they would ask the United States and Japan to join in the freeze in Tokyo.
The meeting in the Japanese capital, which U.S. officials said would take place "in the context of a very basic transformation of the economic and political order" in the world, will be preceded by two days of talks between Carter and Japanese Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira. They are scheduled to discuss bilateral economic and security issues.
By the time the seven leaders start talks on Thursday, they presumably will have had a chance to assess OPEC's decision on oil prices.
U.S., Japanese and European officials are hoping the summit will produce a set of actions to cut energy use and to plan for at least a beginning on the massive production of alternative energy sources.
Such an outcome, they feel, is necessary to establish the Western consuming world's credibility with OPEC, which insists that the oil squeeze can be attributed to unchecked consumption. No one is seeking a "consumers' cartel," or outright confrontation with OPEC.
Failure to reach an agreement on both consumption and new production would probably pin a "failure" label on the summit.
This will be the fifth summit since the seven countries began such meetings in Rambouillet, France, in 1975.
Japanese officials consider the summit to be the most important international conference ever to be held in that country. American officials regard the entire presidential trip, including a trip next weekend to Korea, as a way of emphasizing the new and more significant role of Asia in world affairs.
"We want to underline that the United States remains an active Pacific power," an American official said on the eve of Carter's departure. He stressed, as well, important and growing relations of the United States with the leading nations of Asia, including China, India and Japan.
The summit will have to address a number of issues, including food production, energy production, and techology transfer that are of basic importance to poor countries.
Ohira will be one of three new heads of state attending this summit. The others are British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Prime Minister Joe Clark of Canada, whose conservative views triumphed in their home countries over liberal opposition.
The other leaders present will be President Valery Giscard d'Estaing of France, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany and Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti of Italy. Common Market President Roy Jenkins will sit in on some sessions.
Presence of Thatcher and Clark, coupled with the massive problem of inflation in most of the industrialized world, is expected to focus attention on expansion and encouragement of the private sector, as a main new approach to economic stability.
There is recognition among the participating countries that short-term steps will help, but that the energy problem will not be corrected overnight. In a speech June 14 to financial ministers in Paris, Treasury Secretary Michael Blumenthal warned that conservation "will only buy a little time" and that "forceful" joint actions are needed without delay - and with less attention to normal budget priorities - to expand production of energy.
The U.S. plans an initiative to step up beyond 5 percent the consumption reduction for 1979 that member nations of the International Energy Agency have agreed to. Japan appears unwilling to go this far, and other countries have reservations as well.
In dealing with the problems of developing countries - the so-called North-South issues, the United States intends to suggest that elimination of hunger over the next decade be established as a primary goal. It will suggest that the major nations take quick and direct action to establish a world food reserve.
Two other "standard" summit topics, trade and monetary problems, are intended to be touched on only briefly. CAPTION: Picture, Carter boards helicopter on White House grounds departing for the Tokyo summit. AP