The Carter administration yesterday presented a standby gasoline rationing plan under which households and business would receive ration coupons according to how many vehicles they owned.
Coupon allotments also would depend upon a state's history of gasoline use, a factor that -- in event of a 20 percent gasoline shortage -- could mean that motorists in one state could receive as little as 31 gallons a month for each vehicle and motorists in another state as much as 53 gallons.
The proposal, except for the allowance for historic state-by-state consumption, is similar to one offered by the administration earlier this year and rejected by Congress. Administration officals hope that including this factor will presuade Congress not to veto the plan this time.
The scheme would work this way:
The department of Energy would mail ration checks to motor vehicle registrants. These checks could be "cashed" for ration coupons, deposited in a "ration rights" account, endorsed like any other check and transferred or sold, or exchanged directly for gasoline.
The administration hopes commercial banks would be willing to handle most of these check-to-coupons transactions, a chore the American Bankers Association has said banks would undertake only reluctantly. As has happened with food stamps, however, other exchange points might be established.
Motorists would have to present the required amount of coupons whenever they brought gasoline.
Any ration "rights" -- whether in the form of a check, coupons or a deposit in a ration rights account -- could be sold for whatever the market would bear. DOE would not regulate the ration rights market, unless it became necessary to prevent abuses. In order to get that market going, DOE would have the authority to sell some ration rights to the public, and states could sell rights from their set-aside.
Nationally, the average passenger car uses about 60 gallons a month, according to Douglas Robinson, acting head of the Economic Regulatory Administration in the Department of Energy. With a 20 percent shortage, the proposed plan would leave the average motorist with 42 gallons a month after some supplies were set aside for national and state reserves and specified priority users, Robinson said.
The plan will be open for public comment for 30 days, with a final version to be sent to Congress in January, Robinson said. If Congress does not reject it by a joint resolution within 30 days, it becomes official. It can be put into effect whenever the president certifies there is a 20 percent shortage that is expected to last at least 30 days.
If President Carter decided to put rationing into effect, either house of Congress could block the plan by acting within 15 days of the president's announcement.
Robinson estimated that ration rights might sell for about $1.50 a gallon in this "white market," if there were a 20 percent shortage.In other words, a gallon of gas in excess of a motorist's regular ration amount would cost about $2.50 -- assuming gasoline was selling for $1 a gallon at the pump.
Operating the rationing scheme would cost the federal government about $2 billion a year, Robinson said. The plan would give the government the right to levey a fee to cover that cost. A fee of more than two cents a gallon would be required to yield the $2 billion.
Initially, business firms would get ration rights based on the number of vehicles they own. In a departure from the last plan, DOE now intends to move quickly to giving companies ration rights based on their historical use.
When a car was sold, the ration rights would be transferred along with the car. Buyers of new cars also would get an allotment. If an old car that had not been registered recently was reregistered, the owner would have to prove that the car could be driven regularly before being given ration rights. This is intended to prevent people from registering junk cars just to get more coupons.
DOE also would issue supplemental allotments for some priority activities, including law enforcement, fire fighting, the U.S. Postal Service, emergency medical services, certain Department of Defense activities, public transit, sanitation services, snow removal, telecommunications and energy production.
Farmers would get whatever amount of gasoline they needed to meet the food and fiber production goals approved by the president, Construction equipment operators and fisherman also would receive special allotments.
Each state would get an additional 5 percent to set aside from the ration rights available to its residents. It could use those rights as it saw fit, primarily for the relief of hardship. A separate 1 percent national reserve also would be established.