The argument that President Carter gives for energy conservation is that if we keep using up the petroleum reserves we have now there won't be any left for our children.

It's probably strong logic with many people, but Clemstone, my gas-guzzling friend, isn't buying it.

"Let the kids find their own oil," he said after the President's address on television.

"How can you say that?"

"We found it, didn't we? We dug in the ground and we brought the stuff up with our own hands. Why should we give the kids our oil on a silver platter?"

"We have to think of future generations who may suffer because of our waste and abuse."

"Why?" Clemstone asked me.

"Because," I said weakly.

"Look, do you think they'll appreciate the oil and gas if we just leave it to them? I know kids. The only things that have any meaning for them are those they worked for themselves. What we should say to them is, 'We're using up whatever petroleum we've found in the ground. You want some for yourselves, go out and find it.' That's the kind of challenge that will grab them."

"But you can't use up all our reserves in one generation."

"Sure we can. It's our oil and gas. We should be able to do anything we want with it. Why should we freeze so some rotten kids can have gas to tool around in their cars 20 years from today?"

"There's something wrong with your argument," I told Clemstone, "but I can't put my finger on it."

"There is nothing wrong with it. Each generation should fend for itself. Do you think we'd be where we are today if we depended on handouts of oil from our parents? No sir, we worked to get that petroleum. We drilled holes in Texas and Oklahoma. We sweated for it in the Gulf of Mexico and froze our tails off on the northern slopes of Alaska. We kissed the feet of desert sheiks to get our oil. And, by heaven, when we got it we appreciated it.

"Now Carter wants us to say, 'Here, kiddies. We won't use up the oil so you can have it.' Well, I say, 'Bulldozer!' You can give them your oil reserves if you want, but I'm not giving them mine."

"You make a strong argument against conservation," I told my friend, "but you forgot one thing. You cant take it with you.

"I'm not taking it with me," he yelled. "I'm going to use it right here, today, tomorrow, next week, next year. When I go there won't be a quart of the stuff left."

"What will your kids think of you? What will they say about a father who doesn't leave his kids a quart of oil after he's gone to that big Exxon in the sky?"

"They'll bless me. They will eventually say, 'Thanks, dad, for not making it easy on us. Thanks for having the faith in us so we could find our own Alaska slope. You found your oil and we found ours, and our kids can find their own.'"

"I'm not sure that was the message the President was trying to get over to the American people," I said.

"Of course, it wasn't," Clemstone said. "But he doesn't have the confidence in the next generation that I do. He doesn't think they hav the moral fiber and the pioneer spirit to go out and drill for their own fuel."

"But suppose it's true that there aren't any more reserves of gas and oil left?"

"If my son came to me and said, 'Dad, I can't find any oil,' do you know what I'd do? I'd hand him a shovel and say, 'Okay go out and dig for coal.'"