The plea for energy conservation in President Carter's State of the Union message prompted several District Liners to write to me.

In each case, the writer dealt with conservation measures over which he had personal control -- things like home thermostate settings, better planning to reduce the use of the family auto, the recycling of things like newspapers and aluminum cans, and even a review of driving habits aimed at eliminating speeding, jackrabbit starts and other wasteful practices.

Not one person wrote to me about the vast opportunites to conserve energy at his place of employment. Apparently we've been dealing with a national problem in terms of, "What's in it for me, personally? Can I save money by making these changes?"

Many companies have recently been taking an increasing interest in conserving energy. With understandable pride, they tell of their conservation achievements in advertisements, and in their annual statements to stockholders. a

At the Washington Post, several programs have been initiated to save fuel and power.

But I have seen few heart-warming manifestations of cooperation from employees. People are apparently much more interested in energy savings that lower their own costs than in those that lower somebody else's.

Some of the specifics of employee disregard for conservation in shops and offices and enough to send a pinch-penny like me straight up the wall.

Lights are left burning all night even after the cleaning crews are finished. Windows and doors are left open during both the heating and cooling seasons, causing thermostats to call for the use of even more energy. Electric machines -- especially typewriters, coffee pots and video display terminals -- are left on all day, all night, all weekend. And nobody cares. "Watchmen" make their rounds at frequent intervals without ever closing a window, turning off a light, or checking to see whether a coffee pot has boiled dry. Reporters use sheets of 6-ply paper (one original and five copies) to jot down one telephone number. Rest room faucets drip endlessly for lack of new washers.

Once when hot water ran constantly from a faucet that needed a washer. I reported it repeatedly and each time was told, "We'll get to it." Finally, I used psychology. "Don't bother," I said, "If you guys are busy with more important things, I'll fix it myself."

That finally got it fixed. But it is my said duty to report to President Carter that unless he can find some wayhs to persuade people that energy wasted on the job is also important, we are doomed to pay billions of dollars of needless tribute to the oil cartel.

The biggest dumbbell in town knows that the age of plenty is behind us. We have finally become aware that the natural resources of the earth are finite, and they are being used up at an alarming rate. From now on, we will have to scratch harder to dig out what's left.

We will have to use our resources sparingly and recycle everything that can be salvaged. Our future, perhaps our very existence, depends upon the intelligence with which we adapt to these new conditions. Yet some among us just "can't be bothered."

They drive me nuts. When I raise hell with my colleagues for wasting energy, it is not merely because I am a cantankerous curmudgeon but because I feel an obligation to their children and to my grandchildren. We brought them into this precarious world and we have a responsibility not to squander natural resources that rightfully belong to them. POSTSCRIPT

This might be a good moment to recall the Old New England precept: "Use it up, wear it out: make it do, do without." It certainly has gone out of style in recent decades. SMILE A WHILE

The current issue of Changing Times, the Kiplinger magazine, contains an exceptionally good collection of zingers. Here are a few samples:

"This just in from our combat correspondent covering the war on inflation: So far, no peace feelers."

"Sports widows are celebrating NFL month, which stands for No Football Left."

"There's something new down at the bank. It's an inconspicuous ceiling panel from which, should you ask about mortgage rates, a little oxygen mask drops down."

"If you put the money in the bank instead of buying a new car, in a few years you'll have enough to buy a used car."

"If Lincoln were president today, he'd have a spend his birthday campaigning in New Hampshire."

Humph! If Lincoln were president today, he probably wouldn't be sure when his birthday fell.