The Rev. James Salango thinks he is on to something - something he believes could make at least a little dent in the energy crisis.

Last Sunday, at Christ Memorial Presbysterian Church in Columbia, he handed out copies of a ledge he devised to put his idea into practice.

The pledge began: "I commit myself to obey all traffic laws, with special emphasis on the 55-mile-per-hour limit on highways, for a period of six months. This promise I shall keep and hold inviolate except in cases of dire emergency (I myself shall be the criterion as to what constitutes an emergency) . . ."

Nearly 43 per cent of the members present signed the statement and dropped it in the offering plate, and the response so encouraged the silver-haired clergyman that he began to think big.

"There are 133 million church members in this country," he pointed out in a conversation Monday morning. "Let's say that amounts to 50 million families. If each family saved a gallon of gasoline a week by driving within the speed limit, that would save a total of 2.6 billion gallons a year."

Besides, he continued, there would be the added bonus of saving lives through the reduced accident rates that accompany slower highway speeds.

The pledge that he asked church members to sign points out that "this is one way that I can cooperate in making practical certain principles embodied in scripture and upheld by my church, help in saving lives by a more temperate and sensible approach to driving, and help conserve energy in our nation."

Salango conceded that just possibly not all of those 133 million church-goers would be willing to sign the speed-limit pledge, but he believes that confronting them with it might "get them thinking about the problem."

He said he tried the idea out on some of the men in his congregation before last. Sunday's service and "some of them said. 'It's a great idea, but wait till after my vacation.'"