Leaders of the seven major industrial nations tonight joined in denunciation of OPEC's latest boost in oil prices and pledged themselves to specific national ceilings to hold down future imports.
Marking a significant departure in their relations with the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the United States and its six key allies adopted a collective response by setting a ceiling on oil imports slightly higher than the present level and vowing to maintain it through 1985.
President Carter committed the United States to a cap of 8.5 million barrels a day through 1985. The general assumption before the latest oil crisis touched off by the Iranian revolution was that American oil imports could swell to 12 to 16 million barrels per day by 1985.
The 8.5 million is about the same level as 1977, before Alaskan oil became available, and is roughly as much as would have been allowed under the U.S. pledge to cut 5 percent as part of the International Energy Agency agreement.
The Paris-based organization of 18 major oil consumers monitors all oil imports.
At a press conference winding up the economic summit here, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher voiced the seven leaders' general feeling when she said that the message to the oil cartel "is that we are determined to cut demand, and not to have be so reliant on that source of energy."
Carter termed the summit a success because the allies had adopted "specific, tangible quotas or goals on imports for 1978, 1980 and extending through 1985."
Observers here said, however, that nothing that was decided here will have any short-term impact on gasoline supplies in the United States or on the political problems gasoline lines are creating for the president.
According to this view, the long-term impact is uncertain and supplies may become even tighter if demand is not reduced. As a result, Carter's objectives could run counter to his sagging political fortunes, at least in the short term.
At the moment, however, the 8.5 million barrels a day limit is about 500,000 barrels a day more than the United States has been able to import since the end of winter. As a result of the Iranian revolution, imports declined from 8.8 million barrels daily in January to 7.7 million in April and have been running in the range 7.9 to 8.1 million ever since.
Moreover, figures show that the European limit is about 6 percent higher then the actual European imports for 1978.
A major disappointment of the summit was that the concentration on energy - it became known as 'the first energy summit' - pushed all other major economic topics into the background.
Carter called special attention to the harsh, anti-OPEC language in the communique, nothing that the phrase "deplore" was used, and that price action was termed "unwarranted", threatening economic difficulties - especially for the less developed nations.
This rhetoric, it was learned, resulted from the strong reaction of the leaders when the OPEC communique was read this morning.
"The second paragraph, blaming the industrial world for not paying attention to the Third World" really angered them, one observer said.
On the other hand, the statement also referred to the "relative moderation" of some of the participants, presumably a bow in the direction of Saudi Arabia for holding its price of $18 a barrel.
The leaders said that they would attempt to minize the "damage to our economies" caused by the OPEC action, but conceded that "our options are limited." French President Valery Giscard D'Estaing pointedly said that OPEC also had strong responsibility.
"We do not hold the key alone," Giscard said, warning that "We are going to have to change our habits, invent a lot."
American officials appeared to be general pleased with the result, and praised Carter for "preserverance and tenacity in getting specific national targets."
On the other, the compromise agreed upon contained some elements of a proposal by the European Economic Community for a five-year freeze of Common Market imports on a regional basis.
The summit declaration, however, also incorporates as EEC commitment to freeze consumption at 3.5 billion barrels, or the same level as 1978, and to import no more than that level annually through 1985.
In addition, France, Britain, Italy, and West Germany - the four members of the EEC here - agreed to put a ceiling on their individual imports at the 1978 level through 1985. This was a concession to the U.S. insistenece on specific, rather than general targets.
Further, North Sea oil shipped to continental countries will count in those nations' import quotas, obviating what American officials had earlier called "the privileged sanctuary" aspect of the EEC proposal.
The significant element of the U.S. summit commitment, according to high officials, is that it will put a ceiling on energy consumption rather than gasoline consumption, in the United States over the next five years.
Japan, because of its overwhelming dependence on oil, and because it has not time to revise its seven-year economic plan, will be allowed to maintain its present import level of 5.5 million barrels a day through 1980, and then reach a target of 6.3 to 6.9 million barrels a day in 1985.
With a slight upward adjustment for Canada, the net result - after taking into account American and European commitments - is for a world-wide growth in imports by 1985 of only 1.8 million barrels a day from current levels.
The summit declaration also pledged in general terms, to increase production of other forms of energy, including nuclear - with due attention to "guaranteeing our people's safety."
On the question of spot market prices, the leaders agreed "to bring in the open the working of oil markets by setting up a register of international oil transactions." No ceiling on the prices the consuming nations might pay was included, but moderation was urged.
On new technologists, the leaders said they would create a new international energy technology group, linked to existing international groups.
The oil crisis was precipitated, first, by the loss of up to one-half of Iran's normal 5 million to 6 million barrels a day, while the Saudis, who could make up most or all of it if they chose, havebeen reluctant to do so.
Thus, there has been a shortfall of about 2 million barrels a day, and it is the shortage - as much as the price gouging that has followed - that caused economic tremors around the world.
The leaders here were confronted with this grim situation: for the immediate future, oil would not only go up about 25 percent in price, but they could no longer be sure there would be enough oil to sustain economic growth.
OPEC's price increases, Carter said today in a denunciatory statement,would boost the U.S. inflational rate, currently about 13.5 percent, by at least one percentage point, while cutting the rate of economic growth. That would just about clinch the probability of an economic recession sometime in the next 12 months.
In view of the American group, the clear issue at the summit, from the start, had been whether "we would respond to OPEC with serious measures or not."
The European proposal to "freeze" imports for some years ducked the real question the way the United States looked at it, "because a commitment that all make together is one that no one makes for himself, a U.S. spokesman said.
As put together in Strasbourg, France, the European proposal could not be monitered, U.S. officials said. There is an especially strong feeling that the West German government, under the Strasbourg "freeze," would not have to cut back consumption at all. A monitoring clause in the summit agreement takes care of that.
U.S. officials had said before coming to Tokyo that the test of the summit's success would be if "specific conclusions come out of it that move our economies in the direction of a more intense conservation effort and more intense efforts to increase supply.
Against that test, the summit declaration is entitled to a successful rating. But the leaders go home facing the certainty, as West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt said, "that out economies and our societies as a whole will have to undergo far-reaching changes"