The Department of Energy's emergency conservation plans to fail to measure up to the seriousness of the problem and, therefore, fail to challenge the people to do enough. The government must expect more of all of us-business, labor and the public in general-and demand more of us.
We are involved in a long-term crisis. It is time that everyone in this country realizes that fact and is governed by it. We do not need a plan that starts off strongly and then diminishes.
As a student of human nature, as every retailer has to be, I know that to the degree individuals can themselves determine the best way to make energy reductions, the higher the chances of effective savings will be.
Five years ago I served as chairman of the Los Angeles Energy Conservation Committee, a tripartite body appointed by the mayor, representing labor, business and the public. Our job was to develop an energy conservation program involving the entire population. Saving energy was imperative. At the time of the 1973 Arab embargo, Los Angeles had only 75 to 90 days' supply of fuel oil on hand. With the "Los Angeles Plan" we quickly realized an overall energy saving of about 17 percent.
In preparing the plan, we recognized that we might face a lengthy challenge with various degrees of severity. That is the national situation today: We have no guarantee that supplies will not be interrupted by another crisis similar to the one in Iran, or that some producer may not suddenly restrict output.
We wanted to affect employment to the minimum degree, and we wanted a program that was easy to administer. We learned immediately that people had to understand fully what the problem was and that it was essential to explain to them in clear language what was expected of them.
The Energy Department would fix temparature restrictions, stop weekend gasoline sales and restrict advertising lighting. I do not believe it is feasible to fix temperature readings. Rather, I believe we should ask for and expect business and individuals to seek a percentage reduction in energy used.
A number of major opportunities for conservation that we achieved in Los Angeles are lacking in the department's plan. For instance, lighting was perhaps the single most productive area in which individual businss owners found a means of saving electricity. Our approach was to leave it to the different building owners and operators to achieve in whatever way they chose a 20 percent saving.
On the average, for the first 60 days after the plan was put into effect, commercial savings were well above 20 percent, although there had been no time to change equipment, to change lighting systems or to make capital improvements. That saving came through conservation.
Specific steps were taken by each building owner or operator. Some buildings were old, some were less efficient in lighting, some were new, some were overlit.
The Los Angeles Dodgers achieved a better than 25 percent reduction in energy usage by as simple a method as starting their night games a half hour earlier.
The same approach was used in regard to heating: Some buildings were way overheated; each had a different set of problems. To think you can take several million buildings and say that all temperatures ought to be a "X" degrees is ludicrous.
More important, we involved the industrial and residential sectors, as well as businessses. The savings in industry and residences was between 11 and 13 percent.
I believe that gasoline can be saved in the same way. We have a 168-hour week in this country. To close service stations 20 or 30 or 40 percent of the time-on weekends, say-does not get at the principal objective of giving people a target and telling them how much they should reduce their driving.
In any given area, there are enormous opportunities for savings. We proved in the recent California drought that we could achieve a water savings of up to 40 percent. We got people involved in conserving water, and we fixed a target for them to meet.
These ideas will work. But we must involve labor, industry and individuals to develop a plan to carry it out. It can be done on a national scale as well as in a large metropolitan area like Los Angeles.
In Los Angeles, we were successful because people understood the problem. They were given targets. It was left to them how to do it.