Politics, Maryland's most famous hobby, promises to be both the problem and the solution if and when President Carter's energy proposals become law.
On the one hand, the Maryland governor's office is the only one among Mid-Atlantic states to have gotten and kept emergency gasoline rationing power since the gas lines of 1973. So Maryland is poised to resist any gas or oil shortages the Carter program may create.
But on the other hand, Gov. Marvin Mandel did not or could not prevent the state legislature from cutting the state's energy policy office staff from 68 to 10 in the same period.So Maryland is poorly poised to execute the sort of statewide energy effort the President proposed in April.
Carter's original proposals, which are still making their way through Congress, include a standby tax on gasoline, a tax on cars that get poor gas mileage, a wellhead tax on crude oil, an increase in the price of natural gas and a provision requiring new utility plants to burn coal instead of oil.
In addition, the President's proposal would offer homeowners a tax credit for insulating their homes. And efficiency standards would be established for home appliances, new electricity rates would be established to reduce "peak loads" and tax credits would be given for the use of solar energy.
Every department of Maryland's state government already has been given hints and pep talks on how to save energy in many of the ways Carter proposes. But there is no real muscle to enforce them.
The energy policy office might be expected to provide some, but it exists by executive order of the governor, and thus ranks below state departments. "Their attitude," said policy office director John P. Hewitt of state department heads, "is, I've got my own job to do."
Despite such politics, Maryland, in energy terms, is lucky in one way. It faces neither Minne-sota-like winters nor Texas-like summers.
But Maryland is also unlucky. It produces only 2 per cent of the energy it uses, and has less storage capacity than any other Eastern state except Rhode Island and Delaware.
So is all this a prescription for a Maryland energy disaster if the Carter plan is implemented by Congress? "No more than anywhere else," said Jack Hewitt. "But we haven't created the image of a problem. There hasn't been that much concern. I'm hopeful, but I'm a little worried."
Many of the themes in the President's energy proposal were explored by Hewitt's office under a $90,000 grant from the Federal Energy Administration. A final statewide proposal drafted by Hewitt's office could qualify Maryland for an additional $1 million in federal money over the next two years. The proposal is awaiting final action by the FEA.
The proposal, which was aired at public meetings across the state, has these high-lights:
In state government Evaluate current causes of waste; build energy efficiency into new buildings; establish energy "budgets" that departments would "be encouraged" to meet; move toward car pooling for state travel; institute a Baltimore-to-Annapolis shuttle for employees on state business, charge state employees full parking rates, and apply "energy efficiency standards" to all procurement.
In private buildings: Give state tax exemptions for energy conservation improvements, and encourage lower interest rates for loans on energy-efficient cars, boats and homes. "Lost" state revenues would be made up by a new state tax of two cents per million BTUs of oil or natural gas consumed in the state.
Transportation: Promote car pooling and park-and-ride parking lots; stagger working hours; subsidize public transit passes for government employees; impose a graduated state tax on all vehicles based on their weight, impose a new state gas tax of two cents a gallon; apply the 4 per cent state sales tax to gas; promote biking, and convert to right-turn-on-red.
Other measures being considered, according to Hewitt, are "peak-load" pricing of electricity and the establishment of minimum efficiency standards on all new appliances.
Hewitt said the first step most Maryland homeowners are expected to take will be to insulate their homes, or improve existing insulation.
He said one of the state's lagest banks has already indicated to him that it my offer "insulation loans" at 1 per cent below prevailing interest rates. The bank has headquarters in Baltimore, but Hewitt declined to name it.
Hewitt's proposal is designed to bring Maryland into compliance with a 1975 federal law that requires all states to have reduced projected energy use by 5 per cent by 1980.
Hewitt said that much of the thrust of his plan is to provide information and incentives for individuals to conserve energy on their own.
"The little state of Maryland cannot get involved in research and development." Hewitt said. "What we're saying is, 'O.K., folks, this is a way you can help yourselves.'"
Hewitt said the most costly long-range problem the state faces is that more than 60 per cent of its heat is provided by oil. "It isn't clear to me who would pay for the conversion (to coal, a key part of the Carter proposal)," Hewitt said. "But I'm sure it would cost a lot of money, and we don't have it."
Hewitt said he expects conservation of gas and improvement of home insulation to be the biggestt difficulties for individuals under the Carter plan, especially in rural and poorer areas of the state.
Only in Baltimore, Hewitt said, is public transportation presently an adequate alternative to the car. Throughout the state, he added, fewer than half the homeowners are expected to be able to afford "retrofitting" without loans or tax incentives.
His own home in Silver Spring, Hewitt said, is only 12 years old. "My house has 3 1/2 inches of insulation," Hewitt said. "It neds eight. So I've got to spend $500 to get to the proper levels. Well, a bell of a lot of people don't have $500."
In addition, few Marylanders appear to have a sense of urgency about gasoline conservation.
In the first quarter of 1976, sales of Buicks in Maryland rose 34 per cent above sales in the first quarter of 1975, one of the biggest such rises for a big car in any state in the country, Hewitt said.
Hewitt said any plan for energy conservation in Maryland can only be "really effective" if money is allocated to teach conservation to children, beginning at the elementary school level. Some of the FEA grant money went to money htis possibility, Hewitt said, but no money has been spent on actual lessons.
"I won't say people in Maryland are lazy," Hewitt said. "But they're hard to convert. There hasn't been a good reason to believe all this crisis talk. But right now I'm encourage because it has national attention."
The overwhelmingly Democratic Maryland state legislature had a spotty record on energy bills in the psat session. Of 174 energy bills introduced, 52 passed the two houses. Most of the 52 appropriated study funds, and none directly required conservation.