The Federal Energy Administration is mixture evangelism, movies and lots of very specific advice in an effort to convince American business that there is an energy crisis, and that business can profit by doing something about it.
The show is going on at a series of more than 600 "energy workshops" being held around the country for executives, industrialists, restaurant officials and office building managers. Two held recently in the Washington-Baltimore area put some participants to sleep, but others were roused to promises of action.
Restaurant owners and managers agreed at a Baltimore seminar that their biggest problem in energy management was the customers.
"If they hear the fans going on or off, immediately people feel colder or hotter," said Mark Davidson, an energy consultant from the New York firm of Syska & Hennessy that contracted to conduct the Eastern Seabord workshops. "Some restaurants have put fan noise into the loud-speaker system" so dinners wil think the fans are always on, he continued.
When some participants at Davidson's recent Baltimore seminar recommended locking thermostats in public areas to keep customers from fiddling with the temperatures. H. "Mack" McClenny of High's Dairy Products shook his head. "We tried that but they found ways to get in 'em. We changed to thermostats that didn't work," he said.
Arthur Grant of Baltimore's Colony 7 hotel-restaurant summed it up. "You know that if you use fluorescent bulbs instead of regular ones you're saving, even with the same old sloppy usage. You can't control a guest," he said.
Trying to learn what they could control, 21 food and beverage managers came to one meeting in Baltimore and about 40 came to another in Alexandria earlier this month.
"We almost had to shut down during the energy crisis last winter because we couldn't use gas to cook," said Tommie Kilgore of Hochschild's in Baltimore. "We don't want to go out of business so I want to learn as much about saving as I can."
The seminars began with a 30-minute film by the Department of Commerce's Office of Energy Programs that forecast a nationwide energy shortage by the year 2000 of 24 million barrels a day of oil or oil equivalent. One million, the announcer said, supplies California for 10 hours, and the solution "can't be found by a business-as-usual approach."
Working from a confusing two-inch stack of paper, pamphlets and loose-leaf binder from the FEA, the participants divided into small groups to figure out their own establishments' energy usage. "Look at your kilowatt hour use per customer and see if it goes up or down with conservation efforts," Davidson advised.
Confused by the charts and tables, one group reported seven million more kilowatts used per hour than it should have, but Davidson was moving so rapidly that nobody noticed.
"Form an energy management team," the leaders went on to say. "This plan of action is one that works. I've seen it work. I know it works," said Dick North to the Alexandria group, his voice high with enthusiasm.
The mock "teams" were then assigned to survey a typical restaurant, data supplied by FEA, to find "ECOs" and "parameters" for "control loops" over "power factors," or energy conservation opportunities and limits of management possibilities for implementing them. The jargon flew along with the paper, and some in the Baltimore group nodded off.
Nick Guidara, administrative officer for Five Star Foods of Baltimore, which runs the Roy Rogers fast-food chain, said he would probably rely on a list of 50 specific tips in the workbook he was given. "The instructor was just trying to cover ground rather than teach . . . a lot of people didn't understand what was going on."
He would have preferred more group discussion and more time to do it in, he said. Patrick Tommey of Clyde's in Georgetown said he theough the Alexandria meeting was useful but agreed it was too short for the amount of ground covered.
"I'm going to look into recovering (the heat from) exhaust air pumped out of the kitchen, but nothing else much I can use comes to mind right off," Tommey said.
"Well, the methods and results will vary for each workshop because the groups vary," leader Davidson said. "Some guys are upper management and do all this in their heads; others can't divide one column (of figures) by another . . . the important thing for them to do it themselves, to see they don't need to call in consultants to figure it out."
Those who took part in the two workshops here so far were chosen by FEA with theaid of state restaurant associations and area guidebooks, said Susan Mathews of the FEA's Office of Conservation. Larger restaurants in larger cities were preferred to maximize the workshop impact, she said, and response had been excellent.
The series will continue through October. each workshop costs FEA about $2,000, according to Bob Conly in the workshop program office, but it is free to participants.
Other area sessions are scheduled for June 30 in Baltimore on saving energy in office buildings. Aug. 23 in Alexandria for retail store managers. Sept. 29 in Alexandria for office building managers, and Oct. 4 in Richmond for retail stores. Business people interested in taking part may contact the regional FEA offices.