No one would want the federal pipeline inspector to come across as chintzy, so he'll soon be able to offer drinks and canapes when special guests drop by.

If President Carter gets his way, the office of the federal inspector for the Alaskan Natural Gas Transporation System will have a $3,000 entertainment account.

That's not much in the budget of a $26 million-a-year agency, created to oversee construction of the U.S.-Canadian pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Chicago and San Francisco.

The big story that spills from the thousands of pages of Carter's proposed budget for fiscal 1981 has to do with big programs and billion-dollar outlays.

But it's a little misleading. The big story is made up of sentences and paragraphs -- pennies and quarters, if you will, like the pipeline inspector's canapes -- that add up to the megabucks.

Uncle Sam, for instance, will be spending a lot more on energy next year. One reason is the $30 million budgeted for a massive television and print advertising campaign to tell the public there's an energy crisis. To get it rolling, the Department of Energy wants a supplemental appropriation of $7 million this year.

And defense spending is going up. One small reason -- small in the megabucks sense -- is that the Pentagon wants to spend $28 million on its public relations programs.

There's still a bigger reason. Pentagon basic research contracted to university laboratories will increase 21 percent from the current $431 million to $523 million next year.

Much of that increase will go to universities that earlier purged themselves of Pentagon research money in protest of the Vietnam war. "We want to re-cement those relationships," said White House science adviser Frank Press.