For a surprising number of American industries with serious energy concerns, the Carter proposals outlined Wednesday night may have little impact or even a favorable one.
Officials of a number of leading companies involved in the manufacture of energy-consuming products as well as some who are major energy users themselves said the proposals will not be as difficult to comply with as originally feared. Some provisions - particularly the conversion from oil and gas-fueled boilers to coal - have been met by some companies and already are planned by others.
Home appliance manufacturers, who will have to meet "stringent efficiency standards" for their products by 1980, said they not have any difficulty doing so, provided the standards are reasonable.
"Technologically speaking, we have the capability to meet any reasonable standard," a spokesman for Whirlpool said.
That industry is already under a voluntary program initiated two years ago to produce models by 1980 that are 20 per cent more energy efficient. "The industry is already meeting those goals, and we don't anticipate any problem in compliance unless the President is asking for something we don't know about," said a spokesman for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
One appliance maker is delighted with the Carter plan. "It's nice from a marketing point of view to have a salesman in the White House," a spokesman for Amana Refrigeration Inc., said. Amana has won national attention for its leadership in the development of energy-saving appliances. According to president George C. Foerstner, eight of the company's refrigerator models use 57 per cent less energy than conventional models because of their greater insulation.
The company, which is a division of Raytheon Co., spent more than $15 million to construct a 157,000 square-foot plant for the manufacture of the energy-saving refrigerators.
The textile industry, which depends on natural gas to run its finishing plants, already is immersed in the process of conversion to coal.
A spokesman for Burlington Industries, Inc., said the company began converting to coal - which it had switched away from in order to comply with air pollution control standards - prior to last winter's natural gas crisis.
"We estimate by 1980 that 50 per cent of our steam requirements will be produced by coal-fired boilers. In 1977, we will spend $7.5 million for energy-related projects," a Burlington spokesman said.
While the conversion process is extremely costly, Springs Mills, Inc., already has adapted 71 per cent of its fuel usage to coal. "The next 29 per cent will be hard since the natural gas usage in the textile industry is more critical than it is quantititative," a company spokesman said. "Natural gas is crucial in the finishing process where you need an open flame or extremely high heat."
At its annual shareholders' meeting in South Carolina Wednesday, Springs Mills unveiled a $100 million, five-year development program to improve the efficiency of its equipment and cut energy costs, which the company said have doubled in the past five years.
The aluminum industry anticipates dramatically higher sales to the auto industry, which is expected to look to the lightweight metal to cut the weight - and the gas consumption - of its models. At its annual meeting in Richmond Wednesday, the Reynolds Metals Co. displayed for shareholders the first mass-produced aluminum body car, Ford Motor Co's Lincoln Versailles.
Sales of aluminum for insulation and other building materials also are expected to soar, which should more than offset higher production costs for the energy-intensive industry.
Manufacturers of "gas guzzling" recreational vehicles (RVs) are also convinced that they face a healthy future in the long term.
Their optimism is based on the spiralling costs of lodging, food and vacations which makes the purchase of a motor home or camper an attractive alternative even with higher gas prices.
Frank Rotta, a spokesman for Winnebago Industries, Inc., of Forest City, Iowa, said his firm's surveys show that the price of gasoline would have to rise substantially above $1 a gallon before it would lead to reduced use of the 10 million recreational vehicles already on the road. Sales last year were up 30 per cent over 1975.
RVs and light-duty trucks under 10,000 pounds will have to meet fuel efficiency standards which are to be drawn up by the Transportation Department. Some sources suggest that the truck goal will be about 17.5 miles to the gallon by 1985 compared with the passenger car goal of 27.5 miles a gallon.
While the largest RVs get about 9 miles to the gallon, Steven Hines of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association feels that "the industry can get the trucks to meet whatever fuel standards are set."
He agreed with Rotta of Winnebago that the spiralling costs of lodging, food and alternative travel forms make the purchase of a motor home or camper an attractive alternative even with higher gas prices. Hines said RVs consume less than one-half of 1 per cent of the gas consumed in the U.S.
A Federal Energy Administration spokesman said that diesel-powered vehicles, including farm and industrial equipment, also will have to comply with fuel efficiency standards.
George Miller, vice president for engineering for Deere & Co, a major heavy equipment manufacturer, said few industrial or farm vehicles weigh less than 10,000 pounds and therefore would be exempt from the efficiency regulations. Some extremely lightweight tractors or fork lifts might be subject to the rules, however. Miller said diesel vehicles, which are substantially more efficient than gasoline powered vehicles, average about 0.500 pounds of fuel per horsepower hour.
"If the standards are close to that, it will be difficult to comply," Millar said.
The FEA spokesman said the greater efficiency of diesel-fueled vehicles probably would mean that they would qualify for rebates, rather than be subject to a tax, under the tentative proposals.
The transportation industry overall expects a boost in bus, train and airline passengers as individuals reluctantly are forced away from their love affair with more expensive auto travel.
"We liked what the President was saying," said James L. Kerrigan, president and chief executive officer of Greyhound Lines, Inc. "The bus is the most energy efficient mode of transportation today," he said, citing studies by the National Science Foundation and The Boeing Co.
Buses get more passenger miles per gallon than any other method of transportation. Intercity bus travel now serves 355 million people annually.
Kerrigan, who has been embroiled in a feud with Amtrak president Paul H. Reistrup, suggested another energy conservation plan - "to eliminate Amtrak." Buses are not only more economical, they pay their own way by paying taxes and get nop federal subsidy, he said.