Despite threats to the contrary by Col. Muammar Qaddafi, Libya, the most hawkish member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting countries, is weighing plans to increase oil production sharply during the 1980s.
If Tripoli does boost output, it would reverse conservationist policies that have marked Qaddafi's rule since he took power 10 years ago.
Staff Maj. Abdul Salaam Jalloud, Qaddafi's de facto prime minister and the Libyan government's leading oil authority, said in an interview here that Libya's increased production would be predicated on the success of extensive exploration efforts the government is mounting.
Libya now produces only 2 million barrels of oil a day, compared with almost 3.9 million barrels a day after the coup that brought Qaddafi to power in 1969. A boost in Libyan oil production could benefit the United States because most of the foreign oil companies operating here are American majors and independents, and because Qaddafi has continued to ship 40 percent of his exports to the United States.
Jalloud said, "We still have great potential to discover more oil. I believe by 1985, if we have success with our program, we could (double current production). I can't tell you the figures, but the reserve figures will be changed dramatically."
For years now, Tripoli has listed its official proven and probable oil reserves at 25 billion barrels. The United States, by comparison, has 39 billion barrels and produces about 8 million barrels a day.
Last spring Libyan Petroleum Minister Ezzedin Mabruk called on American oil companies operating here to submit proposals for new oil exploration, production and sharing agreements. So far no final contracts have been signed, but Exxon, Continental Oil, Mobil and others are entering into negotiations, according to knowledgeable sources here.
Jalloud rejected suggestions that Libya will be unable, or unwilling, to produce more. "We think our geological resources could be almost as good as Saudi Arabia's - it's what we suspect, but the potential has not been tapped," he said.
This year between 50 and 100 exploratory and production wells will be drilled in Libya, according to oil sources, as compared to about 45,000 in the United States.
Asked about Qaddafi's recent threats to cut off oil to the United States, Jalloud said there is no deadline for action, and added: "It is up to you."
Western diplomats and oil industry sources here have written off the threat as highly unlikely, noting that Qaddafi has referred the issue to the People's Congress, "effectively killing it for now," according to one source.
Analysts believe the threats probably were timed to enhance Qaddafi's image just before his three-week diplomatic swing through Arab capitals last month. CAPTION: Map, 1978 Libyan Exports of Crude Oil and Refined Products, By Richard Furno - The Washington Post