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A Reagan way to conserve?

Next week watch for another idea whose time has come. A way to save energy that ought to please Ronald Reagan and conservationists, too. The President hasn't put his seal on it yet, but it's enough to make us think energy again even with spring in the air and gas prices falling. If a program of local zeal, volunteer effort, and private funding - with a little federal nudge money - is not a Reagan program, what is?

Americans can judge for themselves March 24 when Washington will be the scene of a conference on community energy projects. But no community or individual has to wait until then to remember that the fat years of energy or anything else are the time to prepare for the lean.

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We have heard from our readers in the past about all they are doing to use energy efficiently, to save money in the process, and to find their daily lives better rather than bleaker to boot. The present availability and lowered cost (still high) of fuel is no reason to go back to wasting it.

How to keep from wasting it is what can be learned from five communities at the conference next week. They are in Colorado, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. They were part of the Community Energy Project sponsored by the federal agency ACTION.

Enter the private sector. The John A. Hartford Foundation gave a grant to the United Way of America. From it the communities received grants on the basis of ''proven and projected'' ability to achieve significant energy saving through short-term voluntary conservation programs. Now, as a result of this federal-private-local partnership, the communities not only have cut waste themselves but will offer their examples to others.

Among the approaches: Mobilizing thousands of households for neighborhood workshops on how to pursue low cost/no cost conservation steps. Enlisting local crews of volunteers to help the elderly and disabled to weatherize their homes. Supplying conservation materials free to low-income participants through local contributions or government funds. Establishing educational programs in schools , job training for conservation tasks, campaigns to cut unnecessary automobile use and fuel consumption.

Does it take fanatics to meet and talk about such things in blossom time? No. Or, if it does, they are the kind of fanatics America needs. Though the whole Community Energy Project got going under the previous administration, we trust Mr. Reagan will notice how it has developed along public/private lines dear to him. These are not conservationists to joke about.

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