Don't look for President Carter's proposed new Energy Security Corporation to spend its entire $88 billion all at once, according to administration officials involved in planning the venture.
Although Carter technically has earmarked $88 billion for synthetic fuels development, the White House has budgeted only a scant $700 million for the program from now through fiscal 1984.
And depending upon how rapidly oil prices rise, the administration may not need the full $88 billion at all. The tab may run far less, even over the program's full 12 years, according to White House planners.
The disparity stems from several factors.
The five-year delay in substantial spending reflects a belief that it will take about that long for most firms to begin turning out the projects ESC approves initially.
Administration budget projections show outlays small through fiscal 1984, then beginning to mushroom, swelling to the full $88 billion -- or near that -- by the program's end in fiscal 1992.
But the spending could total less if oil prices continue to outpace inflation, as most analysts now expect. (The administration's projections assume crude oil prices will rise only in line with inflation, not more rapidly.)
If the oil cartel boosts prices sharply, there would be less need for the government to have to guarantee to help spur production, and the ESC would not have to spend as much.
In any case, the numbers represent a boon to the administration. With spending requirements so low initially, the White House would be able to use monies from its proposed "windfall profits" tax to help balance the budget.
The extra revenues could make a real difference.
For example, Carter projects ESC outlays of $100 million in fiscal 1980, nothing in fiscal 1981 and 1982, $100 million in fiscal 1983 and $500 million in fiscal 1984.
And he is committed to spending another $1.6 billion to $2.4 billion a year out of "windfall profits" tax receipts to help the poor cope with heating-oil prices.
But the proposed "windfall profits" tax would bring in far more during its first few years -- $3.2 billion in fiscal 1980, $10.7 billion in 1981, $17.7 billion in 1982, $13.7 billion in 1983 and $13.1 billion in 1984.
That means the president, to help balance the budget, would have an extra $1.2 billion in fiscal 1980, $7.6 billion in 1981, $14.3 billion in 1982, $9.8 billion in 1983 and $8.5 billion in 1984.
If oil prices rose sharply, those figures would total even more.