Brace yourself for this: The legendary revenooer who traipses the hills and probes the swamps for illicit moonshine is making some compromises in behalf of the energy crisis.

So conciliatory is he, in fact, that he's actually promoting the idea of the backyard still -- not for drinking, mind you, but for producing engine fuel.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which goes after that illegal white lightning, is revamping its regulations to make it easier for John Doe to distill his own alcohol for use as fuel.

Now that raises the possibility that somewhere along the line patriotism is going to give way to thirst, but that's another story for another day.

The story for today is that the federal government's regulations on home-distilling are so complex that they discourage patriotic energy warriors from making alcohol that can be used as engine fuel.

With the growing interest in gasohol, as the gasoline-alcohol mixture is called, and pressure from Congress to help&it along, the Treasury Department's Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau last spring drafted legislation to ease the procedures.

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Birch Bayh (D-Ind.), one of the veteran gasohol proponents, and in the House by Al Ullman (D-Ore.), whose support as Ways and Means Committee chairman counts for a lot.

The legislation directs a slashing of red tape at the bureau in processing applications for home-size distilled spirits plants, which the agency calls DSPS (stills to the rest of us).

Application procedures are highly complex now and require the posting of a $100 cash or surety bond if a still is to produce less than 2,500 gallons of alcohol a year. Now, home-produced alcohol cannot be sold or given away.

Those rules would be made more lenient under the streamlining being proposed by the bureau. An agency spokesman conceded that if home-distilling catches on, there will be no sure-fire way -- short of the precise records John Doe must keep -- of knowing that some alcohol won't end up in a highball.

"There will be no way we can possibly polile all of these very small operations," the spokesman said, "so people will pretty much be on their honor to use the alcohol for fuel."

The inspiration for all of this came from what the bureau described as an avalanche of public interest in producing alcohol from grain, garbage and other organic matter for use as a gasoline extender.

"Thousands upon thousands" of inquires in the past year led the bureau to publish a booklet on the use of ethyl alcohol as fuel, plus two fact sheets explaining regulations and procedures applicants must follow.

But as is sometimes the case with these well-intentioned gestures,, the instructions were cloaked in bureau-cratese and drew complaints from puzzled patriots.

Thus the proposed streamlining of the rules.

Bayh and other grain-state legislators who are big on gasohol are pleased as punch with the bureau's move. Bayh, in fact, is chairman of the National Alcohol Fuels Commission, an advisory panel created by a bill he introduced in Congress.

The commission, with 12 members from Congress and seven from the public at large, will hold the first of a series of regional hearings on gasohol on Monday in Indianapolis.

The idea behind the hearings is to stimulate interest in gasohol, collect good ideas that are being used around the country and bring Uncle Sam four-square behind gasohol.

"Of course," said a Bayh assistant, "you don't want to suddenly give a green light to bootleggers. But if a farmer down in Posey Country (A real pace, in Indiana) wants to, he ought to be able to easily turn his waste material into fuel. That's what this is about."