USDA's annual: saving energy with dogs, soda cans

* Bahar, the Turkish sheep dog, is white, fluffy, and cute enough to make a statue smile. When fully grown, she will relate well to sheep and help American farmers save energy.

* "Energy Ernie," on the other hand,is not cute. In fact, Energy Ernie looks like a suitcase. Covered with dials, knobs, and readouts, Ernie is a computer that can predict what the environment will be like in 100 years.

* Patrick Platt III may have been cute once but is too old now for that sort of thing. An ingenious eighth grader, Patrick has designed a solar window made from soda cans and scrap wood that can pump out air heated to 125 degrees F.

Bahar, Ernie, And Patrick symbolize the contents of the new 1980 Yearbook of Agriculture, according to Secretary of Agriculture Bob Bergland.

"It's a how-to book on people's attempts to cut energy costs," Mr. Bergland said at a recent press conference marking publication of the book.

The 1980 yearbook, entitled "Cutting Energy Costs," contains such chapters as "How to Raise Sheep Easier and Cheaper" and "A Family Checklist to Conserve Enregy." It is the 81st volume in a series notable mainly for its dullness.

"Some years they're been pronounced very good door stops," admitted one USDA official.

In fact, at leat four of the volumes were lively enough to be reprinted by commercial publishers. One, the 1965 version ("Consumers All"), had 750,000 copies distributed.

Bahar, a charismatic ball of fur, was present during Bergland's remarks, but snoozed. She is an Anatolian Akbash dog, a Turkish breed renowned for its ability to guard livestock. By protecting sheep from predators. Akbash dogs could help cut down on the gas-guzzling patrols ranchers now make to defend their flocks.

"They regard sheep as their friends," sayd David Nelson, Bahar's owner.

Mr. Nelson first noticed Akbash dogs when he was in Turkey in the early 1970 s. While normally gentle, he says, the dogs will become angry and fight when a predator attacks their charges.

"That's unusual," he claims. "Most aggressive dogs just eat the sheep."

Energy Ernie is more of an educational tool than an overt fuel-saver. Labeled an electronic time machine by its developer, Montana State University, Ernie has dials that stimulate the use of coal, oil, natural gas, And other resources. Other dials can be set for resource-draining activities such as transportation or industrial production.

Users decide that activity they want to emphasize (steel production, for instance) and what fuel they want to use (say, coal). They punch a button, and Ernie tells them how many years they have before the resource is exhausted.

"It tends to reinforce the fact that we all have to work together," says Gary Smith of the University of Maryland. The school owns Ernie and willingly lends him out for public educational meetings.

Patrick Platt's window, though, is a model of practical economy. Constructed at a cost $13, it is a large wooden wedge studded with pop cans and covered with plexiglass. "The sun," he says, "heats the aluminum cans up real fast."

On a sunny day, air inside the window tops 140 degrees F. By the time a fan sucks it out and blows it into a room, it's still 125 degree F.

Patrick's window has garnered numerous blue ribbons at local fair and has raised more than one student's average in science class.

"A lot of my friends like the idea. They cart mine in and say they didn't have time to build it. They all get good grades," says Patrick.

The 1980 Yearbook of Agriculture is distributed free by Congressmen and women , or may be purchased for $9.50 a copy from the US Government Printing Office. Send check or money order to Superintendent of Documents, US Government Printing Office, Washington DC 20402.

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