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As Fuel Costs Rise, Group Urges Federal Workforce to Telecommute

An Internet-based pro-telecommuting group urges the federal government to take its own advice on energy conservation.

As fears of Hurricane Rita drove crude futures to a new record, an Internet-based pro-telecommuting group urged the federal government to take its own advice on energy conservation -- by promoting telecommuting among federal workers.

"President Bush underlined the requirement for Americans to conserve gasoline," Telework Exchange Executive Director Stephen W.T. O'Keeffe said in a statement Wednesday. "Telework provides America with a green opportunity to reduce gas consumption and a golden opportunity to improve our economy's productivity. The federal government must walk the walk as well as talk the talk on telework."

The for-profit alliance of technology companies, released a "Fuel Smart Economy: It's No Gas" hours before oil companies evacuated staffs from production centers and refineries in Rita's path.

Crude futures shot up to more than $68 a barrel, and experts predicted an energy crises if Rita hits Texas less than a month after Katrina damaged facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi. Texas and Louisiana supply 44 percent of the nation's oil.

While government leaders, from the White House, to the Environmental Protection Agency and state governors, have been urging Americans to conserve fuel, the Telework Exchange said the nation could save 233.3 million gallons of fuel each week if white-collar professionals worked from home.

The group, which promotes adoption of federal telework requirements, estimates that white-collar workers spend $355.8 million a day and use 583.3 millions of gallons of fuel each week.

Rising gasoline prices have boosted estimates from the $250 million a day white collar workers spent in April, when the Telework Exchange launched its Web site.

Federal white-collar workers spend $19 million a day to commute and use 31.1 million gallons of gasoline each week, according to the report. If that group worked from home twice a week, they could conserve 12.4 million gallons of fuel each week.

Federal personnel and budget leaders serve on the Telework Exchange advisory board.

Proponents of telecommuting claim that it increases job satisfaction, employee retention and productivity, while saving money, reducing stress and decreasing the amount of pollutants in the air. Skeptics point out that it's not suited for every employee or job description, distractions can be greater at home and it can be difficult to absorb and contribute to company culture from afar.

While Rita approaches, Intel Corporation Spokesman Kevin Quinn pointed out another benefit.

"Beyond cost savings and productivity advantages, telework provides critical continuity of operations benefits," he said.

Telework Exchange, which hands out bumper stickers reading: "Honk if you'd rather be teleworking" and "My other car is a PC," estimates that only 20 percent of federal employees telecommute. Few are aware of their telecommuting policies though more than 50 percent are eligible to work from home, according to the Telework Exchange.

The group's fuel conservation report is based on a survey of about 3,500 federal government employees registered on the telework Web site.

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