To the editors:

The escalated decontrol of oil may or may not give President Reagan and Energy Secretary James Edwards red faces from political embarrassment—as Rich Jaroslovsky mused in his article ("Reagan and Big Oil," TNR. May 2)— but that decision and the scuttling of federal conservation and fuel assistance programs will make a lot of New England noses frosty red this winter.

Reagan and Edwards fail to grasp that Americans long ago turned down the thermostats on their oil and gas furnaces and put on their wool sweaters. Most of us survive. But these rising prices pose a serious hardship among the elderly whose fixed incomes keep them from matching the oil industry increase for increase. What is desperately needed is a federally funded fuel assistance program, federal support for conservation and alternative energy resource development, and a strong signal from the White House that it will tolerate no financial foolishness from the oil industry. One such signal would be to support full funding of the special counsel's office in the Energy Department—an investment of about $35 million with a payback to the taxpayers of three or four times that amount in recovered oil company overcharges.

Barney Frank
House of Representatives
Washington, DC