Energy Secretary urges Americans to conserve

In a move reminiscent of the 1970s, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman urged Americans Oct. 3 to drive slower, turn down the thermostat and conserve energy as the coming winter threatens to bring record prices to heat a home.

Bodman announced a new national campaign called “Easy Ways to Save Energy” and said he would travel the nation to promote energy conservation.

The Energy Information Administration, a division of the Energy Department, has predicted that home-heating costs may rise by as much as 71 percent this winter in some regions. Such high costs for natural gas, propane and home heating oil will come on top of all-time high gasoline prices.

The Bush administration’s campaign complete with a mascot called the Energy Hog seeks to promote conservation at home, the office and on the road.

But it doesn’t set fixed goals for reducing energy demand. Nor does it suggest a target temperature for home thermostats. Energy Department spokesman Michael D. Waldron said it’s up to Americans to determine their comfort zone while seeking to conserve energy.

President Bush and his team aren’t donning sweaters just yet or designing comprehensive energy policies beyond trusting the market and providing incentives to industry. But to lead by example, White House thermostats have been ordered set at 72 degrees. Staffers are being reminded to turn off lights and shut off computers when away from the office.

“Individual action from every American can add up to a tremendous collective effort and can produce significant results,” Bodman said.