For the first time since the early 1970s, local gasoline stations are offering promotional items, such as free Redskins prints, to boost sales. This revised marketing practice confirms the contention of a recent Lundberg Report that we now have an oil glut in the world.
Last month's Harper's magazine emblazoned its cover with an announcement that the "The Energy Crisis Is Over."
Friends have approached me lately with words of consolation, concerned that maybe the D.C. Energy Office is slated for elimination just as the federal Department of Energy might be dismantled in line with the president's proposal.
The National Energy Policy Plan ("NEPP III"), a report to Congress from the U.S. Department of Energy published several months ago, calls for greater generation of nuclear power. It also calls for use of natural energy resources on land owned by the U.S. government, and for reducing--or repudiating--federal support of both conservation and renewable resources.
So the signals seem clear that we no longer need to conserve energy or use renewable resources, right? Wrong! Nothing could be further from the truth.
Conservation of conventional, petroleum-based energy resources and utilization of renewables such as solar still make good sense for the United States and for D.C. residents in particular. Why? Because conservation and alternative forms of energy:
* cost less than any other energy sources;
* provide new job opportunities;
* leave no radioactive waste or pollution;
* improve our balance of payments;
* require no technological breakthroughs or serious alteration of our life styles;
* enable us to depend less on foreign imported oil from areas frequently subjected to political unrest;
* help to correct the imbalance under which the U.S. population uses 30 percent of the world's energy supply although we only have 6 percent of the world's population;
* permit the District to be more of an energy producer and less an energy importer (85 cents of every energy dollar now spent in the District goes outside to energy suppliers);
* help lower-income consumers who are least able to keep up with escalating costs of oil, gas and electricity.
The current national administration is shifting the burden for conservation and renewable energy programs to the states. The D.C. government responds to that challenge through its energy office, whose mission is to make our government and our citizenry energy-efficient.
Some accomplishments so far include reducing the size of the city government's motor vehicle fleet by several hundred units, completing energy audits of approximately 90 percent of District-owned facilities and revising procurement procedures to ensure that goods are purchased on the basis of cost and energy efficiency. In addition, D.C. government employees continue to recycle used oil, paper and cans.
The results of these kinds of efforts in the last fiscal year were that costs of more than $6 million were avoided and energy savings made of 10 percent to 15 percent.
The city is exploring uses of alternative or renewable resources, including electric vans; propane-powered vehicles for police; gasohol; waste-to-energy conversion at the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant; methane gas production at the Lorton landfill; small-scale, innovative heating systems, perhaps at or around D.C. General Hospital; and solar applications (rooftop collectors) at the Bates Street Housing Development.
Other services include nearly $6 million in field assistance payments last winter to 20,000 low-income families, and insulation and other such protection services for hundreds of poor families.
The energy office has received an enthusiastic response to its telephone hotline (724-2100) and workshops (including programs in Vietnamese and Spanish), publications about how to solve energy problems, energy audits, technical assistance to small businesses and small grants for innovative energy ideas.
Costs of energy continue to rise. The need, therefore, to conserve conventional sources of energy and use renewable ones is as great today as ever. And the need for a D.C. office to guide the city to energy-efficiency is all the greater now that the federal government's policy is to turn these responsibilities over to the states.
We ask District residents to work with us in saving money on fuel costs and in improving living conditions for us all.