The OPEC oil price increase that is expected to hit people here and across the country with almost immediate gasoline price increases will gnaw into pocketbooks in many other ways, too.
Electric utility rates will rise slightly next year and more in 1980. Home heating oil will go up three cents or more a gallon, affecting 200,000 homes in this area. The cost of government, already a political issue, will shoot even higher.
"It will mean an extra $50 million exported from the people and the government of the District of Columbia next year and that'll mean the loss of probably a couple of thousand jobs," said David Morris of the Institude for Self Reliance, a group that promotes alternative energy sources such as solar energy.
"It makes our efforts more urgent and more economically attractive."
William Treworgy, Montgomery County's deputy budget director, estimated the OPEC action will add more than $600,000 next year to county spending for gasoline, fuel oil for schools and other buildings, even the petroleum-based asphalt used on roads.
"That's a lot of bucks," he said, adding that it is not clear how county officials will come up with the money.
Vic Rasheed, executive director of the Greater Washington Maryland Service Station Association, which represents 1,200 dealers here, said he expects gas prices at the pump to rise as much as 2 cents a gallon within a month.
He said this "isn't too much, adding that he is more concerned about the Carter Administration's efforts to remove federal price controls from domestic oil, thereby "granting our own oil companies the opportunity to increase prices for gas and make the consumer pay more. OPEC thinks, 'What the hell, why should we hold back?"
Rasheed said gas price rises will force people to use leaded gas in cars designed for pollution-free unleaded gas, thus defeating government environmental aims.
"The problem is that the people who can least afford it, working people (who drive long distances to work), will be penalized...."
The decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries on Sunday to raise the price of crude oil by 14.49 percent in four steps during 1979 ended a price freeze in effect since 1977. Because it is phased in during the course of a year, overall impact of the increase is estimated by experts to be only 8 to 10 percent next year-on 4 cents a gallon at the service station.
The home heating market here-as it is elswhere-is dominated by natural gas, which is not directly affected by the increase. Many experts pointed out yesterday, however, that fuel prices all tend to rise when the price of oil goes up, because it becomes economically feasible to spend more money in searching for other fuels liek coal.
James Hickel of the National Oil Jobbers Council said the OPEC increase will be passed through directly to home heating oil customers, resulting in $35 to $50 in additional expenses for an average customer next year.
If federal price controls on domestic crude oil expire next May, as they are scheduled to do, Hickel said, then the total increase-from OPEC and the domestic decontrol-may rise 2 more cents to 5 cents a gallon. Heating oil now sells for a little less than 50 cents a gallon here-about the national average.
Hickel said there are "fewer and fewer" local oil distributors every year because of oil price increases. In the Washington area where there are about 200,000 oil heat customers to 545,000 Washington Gas Light Co. customers, there are about 50 independent heating oil distributors.
The electric utilities serving the Washington area-Virginia Electric and Power Co. and Potomac Electric Power Co-have a smaller portion of the home heating market, but both are seeking substantial rate increase that have raised a public furor in Virginia and the District.
The OPEC action will add only marginally to the costs of these companies, their officials say.
Pepco senior vice president Edward Mitchell said the oil price increase will mean a $6 million price increase -or less than one percent-for electricity that must be passed through to customers in the fuel adjustment portion of their bills.
"Small though it is, we don't like it," Mitchell said.
Pepco burns 70 percent coal in its generating plants and 30 percent oil, according to Mitchell.Coal is cheaper so the company is trying to use it even more but is restricted by "environmental limits which make it extremely difficult," Mitchell said.
Although Pepco has no nuclear plants, Mitchell said prices increases in other fuels will make company officers take a second look at the possibility. "The whole industry realizes that nuclear power must come. It is our primary source of energy through the year 2000," he said.
Vepco, the big utility to the south serving 1.2 million Virginians, has an aggressive program of building nuclear plants and took the ocassion of the OPEC action to extol the virtues of nuclear power.
"We anticipate that our consumption of oil, which has been declining each year for the past several years, will drop next year with the addition of our fourth nuclear unit at North Anna and the outstanding performance so far demonstrated by our third nuclear unit (there) since it went into service earlier this year," Vepco President Stanley Ragone said.
Vepco which used oil in 40 percent of its power generation last year, projects a reduction to 36 percent oil use this year overall.
Vepco's nuclear units generated more than half the company's total power output during the past two months, Ragone said. However, this commitment to nuclear power has not kept the company from requesting an unprecdented 25 percent rate in crease and has brought problems of its own.
Two of Vepco's nuclear units will be shut down for long periods next year to repair defective equipment, and federal regulatory officials are investigating these and other problems at all Vepco's nuclear units.
"We must move to solar and renewable sources of energy," said June Allen of the North Anna Environmental Coalition, which has been fighting Vepco's nuclear goals.
As in the case of Pepco, the OPEC action adds only a small amount to Vepco's overall costs and will be charged to customers through the fuel adjustment clause.
"The real question is whether the increase in the price of oil will be used as another reason for raising electric rates, and it shouldn't," said D. C. People's Counsel Brian Lederer, who represents consumers in utility cases. "It will affect the price of electricity, but it shouldn't affect it that much."