The Department of Energy (DOE) which now uses more than 11 million gallons a year would be forced to ration its own gasoline consumption beginning this fall under an allocation-plan-with-a-message being worked up in the House.
DOE actually ranks eighth on the list of government agencies in gallons of gasoline guzzled for all official purposes-from transporting VIPs to running lawn mowers. In fact, it uses less gasoline in a month than the Defense Department's civilian side burns in a day. DOE is different. And very, very unpopular at the moment in Congress, and with large segments of the taxpayer-public who are confused, angry and scared about the rising price of gasoline, and dwindling supplies.
To encourage/force DOE to make a symbolic conservation gesture, Rep. Carlos J. Moorhead (R-Calif.) this week proposed that DOE make a 20 percent reduction in its fuel consumption. To further encourage it, he proposed that it be written into the spending authorization for the DOE which was being studied by the Energy and Power subcommittee of the House.
During debate on his proposal, which has infuriated DOE brass, Moorhead held up a copy of a front page story (Feb. 14) from the Washington Post. It said the government is the nation's biggest user of gasoline, and that its civilian fleet of cars, trucks and busses is big enough to supply one vehicle for every six federal workers.
Moorhead would have forced DOE to make the 20 percent cutback in the upcoming fiscal year from the 11.4 million gallons of gasoline it used in fiscal 1978. The subcommittee finally agreed to base the 20 percent cutback on the total amount of gasoline DOE uses for this 1979 fiscal year, which ends in September. Final figures aren't in, but for the first quarters of the fiscal year DOE had used 2.8 million gallons of gas, almost half a million more gallons than it used in the same period last year.
After some debate, the subcommittee voted in favor of putting some sort of cutback on the DOE. Only Chairman John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) opposed it. Dingell, who represents the Motor City and who knows something of the wrath of Congress himself, said it would be "mischievous" to force DOE to cut back orbitrarily.
DOE officials argue that they run one of the most fuel-conscious operations in government, burning less gasoline than Defense, the Postal Service, Agriculture, Interior, treasury, Justice or the Department of Transportation.
They say that, contrary to published reports, most of the gasoline is used in its Nevada atomic test site, and at others facilities, and not for squiring VIPs around to talk about energy conservation.
The automobile lobby, gas lobby and others are teaming up to kill the DOE fuel cutback plan when it comes up for a vote before the full Interstate and Commerce Committee.