Owners and manufacturers of motorboats are dominating nationwide public hearings being held by the Department of Energy to hear public comments on a proposed federal plan to reduce gasoline usage in the event of a severe oil shortage.
DOE has drafted nine proposed measures that could be implemented in states that do not meet conservation targets which would be established in the event of a fuel oil crisis.
One of the proposed rules would prohibit use of "private recreational motorboats within a state on Sundays, or during the entire weekend," depending on the amount of fuel the state needs to save.
Alerted to the proposed rule by boating magazines and boating associations, individuals and organizations have turned out in force to be heard in the three hearings already held.
In Altanta on March 3, according to DOE official Carol Snipes, security guards had to be hired because "we were swamped with boaters, some coming all the way from Florida."
Out of 100 requests to be heard at the Washington hearings scheduled to begin March 20, approximately 50 represent the boating industry, according to Snipes.
In addition, Snipes said comments from boaters attacking the rule are coming into her office at the rate of about 2,000 a day. "We've never had anything like that . . . and don't have the people to read them yet."
Boaters are only some of several gasoline and fuel oil users that could be affected by the rules though they seem the best informed on the DOE proposals.
Other elements in the federal plan as now drafted include:
A vehicle-use sticker that would restrict an owner of a gasoline or diesel-powered vehicle from driving one, two or three days a week, depending upon the severity of the fuel shortage. Each day of the week would have a different color sticker, under the proposed rule. A car would be required to bear one, two or three stickers, depending on the number of days it was prohibited from being used.
An employer-based commuter and travel measure that would require businessmen with 100 or more employes to adopt measure to reduce auto use. Among the suggested programs are prepaid public transportation programs and reduction of parking sites, company-sponsored vans or buses and even work-at-home programs. Each employer would have to file his plan within 30 days of the implementation of the overall conservation program.
A "compressed workweek measure" that would require "private sector employers" to cut one day of work from each week. DOE hopes that most companies would agree on either a Monday or Friday closing to "ensure that all interdependent activities can continue on a reliable schedule." The expectation would be also that work hours would increase during the shorter week so that pay would not be cut.
Expanded enforcement of the 55 mph speed limit along with the option of reducing it further.
Establishment of minimum automobile fuel purchases -- $7 for eight-cylinder engines and $5 for autos with fewer than eight cylinders.
Limiting of gasoline purchases to odd or even days based on license plate numbers.
The long process toward adoption of the federal plan and the regulations to implement it could take over a year to conclude. The draft proposals were first offered for public comment in December, and only 250 responses were received.