The widespread belief that rising energy costs will help revitalize cities by bringing back suburbanites is false, according to a report issued by a minority research organization.
Instead, suburbanites can save money simply by insulating their homes and remaining where they are, according to researcher Ellis Cose in a study just released by the Joint Center for Political Studies.
Rising energy costs are a vital concern in the District of Columbia. but officials are divided on the reasons why.
"From the positive side the energy crisis represents a windfall for the city," said one official who asked not to be identified.
"It will bring suburbanites back and keep some who might go out there."
It is just this kind of thinking that Cose attacks in his study," Energy and the Urban Crisis."
Prices will probably not soon rise enough to casue suburbanites to flock to the less energy-intensive housing modes of the city." he wrote." . . . It is not enough . . . to simply assume that because cheap energy made it possible to go to the surburbs, expensive energy will lead to a revitalization of the city."
Cose argues that development of new technologies such as solar energy and other resources that are more readily available in the surburbs than in cities may even contribute to further decline of the cities.
"Those who favor environmentally beneficial technologies may find themselves on a collision course with city dwellers - largely black and poor - who are unable to pick up and go as they please, and who may therefore see such technologies as threatening an already difficult existence," he wrote.
Cose thinks rising energy prices may contribute to the development of clustered centers of activity in the suburbs will enable people to cut down on car use without surrendering the suburban way of life.
"In such a circumstance, the nation's older central cities could very well become even less desirable than previously," Cose wrote. "For, just as the rising gasoline prices would cut into income of those in the suburbs, price increases would cut substantially more into the incomes of the poor in the central cities, indirectly contributing to the urban blight which caused so many Americans to look away from the cities in the first place."
The Joint Center for Political Studies, of which Cose is a senior fellow, is an independent research organization that seeks to aid black and other minority elected officials.
Brian Lederer, who as people's counsel of the District of Columbia is responsible for representing energy users in rate cases, said he thinks Cose is "right on target."
Lederer said that the impact of rising energy costs is "probably the number two political issue in the District (after housing) and since it aggravates the housing problem it's like a dynamic duo."
But Lederer added that city politicians don't know how to seize upon the energy issue because it is complex and they tend to be intimidated by the utility companies.
Lederer said utility costs may rise dramatically in the District in the next few years. He is currently fighting Potomac Electric Power Company's request for a 16 percent rate increase. This increase along with other projected charges, would mean a 13 percent annual increase in electricity costs in the District from now until 1962, Lederer said.