International Energy Agency Issues 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use

Some of these recommendations sound familiar.

Filling tank in France
That's $8.19 per US Gallon!.

Chesnot/Getty Images

Those radical greenies at the International Energy Agency (IEA), an organization set up in 1974 to ensure the security of oil supplies after the Arab oil embargo, are at it again! They previously came up with a 10-point plan to reduce Europe's dependence on Russia for natural gas in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine; we noted that they were great ideas that should be implemented everywhere to free up gas supplies and reduce carbon emissions.

Now they have cooked up another 10-point plan to reduce demand for gasoline and oil, also supplied by Russia, but note that these recommendations could "help pave the way to putting oil demand onto a more sustainable path in the longer term."

10 point plan to cut oil use

International Energy Agency

In a press release, the IEA notes that if fully carried out in advanced economies, the measures recommended would lower oil demand by 2.7 million barrels a day within four months—equivalent to the oil demand of all the cars in China.

“IEA Member Countries have already stepped in to support the global economy with an initial release of millions of barrels of emergency oil stocks, but we can also take action on demand to avoid the risk of a crippling oil crunch,” IEA executive director Dr. Fatih Birol said. “Our 10-Point Plan shows this can be done through measures that have already been tested and proven in multiple countries.”

The wonderful side effect of reducing oil consumption to fight Putin is that it is also effective at fighting climate change. Burning a barrel of oil emits roughly half a metric ton of CO2, so following the 10-point plan would reduce emissions by 1.35 megatons per day. And in light of current circumstances, the measures the IEA proposes are not really that extreme at all. Some of the more interesting ideas:

1. Reduce Speed Limits on Highways by at Least 10 Km/hour

Drive Slower in Hot Weather

Office for emergency Management via Wikipedia

That's only 6.2 miles per hour, which really wouldn't be noticed on North American highways if anyone actually drove at the speed limit. It is a far smaller reduction than the one imposed after the 1973 oil crisis when speed limits were reduced to 55 miles per hour. But according to Henry Grabar in Slate, half of Americans admit to driving 15 miles per hour over the speed limit; perhaps a better idea than a reduction would be enforcement of the existing limits or installation of speed cameras. This is estimated to save 290 kb/d (thousand barrels of oil per day).

2. Work From Home Up to Three Days a Week Where Possible

Non-stop Work will win!

Office for Emergency Management. War Production Board via Wikipedia

Given that everyone who could work from home was doing it during the pandemic, this would also be an easy move. The IEA sees big savings from the reduction in commuting just based on the mileage; there would also be savings due to less congestion, and there would also be less pollution. It is an especially good idea in summer: "As the weather gets warmer, air conditioning systems increase the amount of fuel used by cars. Therefore, working from home tends to save more oil during the summer months."

The savings would be particularly significant in the U.S., where the average commute is longer and, according to the IEA, "a new car in the United States consumes around 40% more fuel than one sold in Europe for a trip of the same length." This would save about 500 kb/d.

3. Car-Free Sundays in Cities

This was done in the 1970s to save fuel, but it is done in many cities now to promote public health. "Car-free Sundays help support the uptake of walking and cycling, which can generate a positive spillover effect throughout the week. Banning the use of private cars on Sundays brings a number of additional benefits to public health and well-being, including cleaner air, reduced noise pollution and improved road safety." And it will save about 380 kb/d.

4. Make Public Transport Cheaper and Incentivize Micro-Mobility, Walking, and Cycling

I'll carry mine too
credit: American Legion

This has been the Treehugger mantra for years. Paris has been leading the way on this; the French government has spent half a billion Euros for an "active mobility fund" to promote cycling. Many cities implemented temporary bike lanes and "low traffic neighborhoods" during the pandemic; the current oil crisis is a good reason to maintain them. The IEA also suggests serious incentives for alternatives to the car: "Belgium, France and Italy offer residents an allowance to buy a bicycle, with the amount depending on bicycle type. Boosting shared micro-mobility options such as electric kick scooter or electric bicycles can also help." This would be good for 330 kb/d.

5. Alternate Private Car Access to Roads in Large Cities

"Restricting private cars’ use of roads in large cities to those with even number-plates some weekdays and to those with odd-numbered plates on other weekdays is a measure with a long track record of successful implementation." This is iffy, and can only work in cities with good alternatives; even the IEA notes that people cheat. Theoretically it's good for 210 kb/d.

6. Increase Car-Sharing and Adopt Practices to Reduce Fuel Use

squeeze in one more
credit: American Legion

There are now apps that make car-sharing a lot easier and safer, along with programs like high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. Practices such as monitoring tire pressure and raising the temperature in air conditioning season can help. Increasing car occupancy by 50% from the average 1.5 people per car trip adds up to 470 kb/d.

7. Promote Efficient Driving for Freight Trucks and Delivery of Goods

let's keep 'em pulling for victory

via Google Arts and Culture

The IEA suggests the usual tricks like "eco-driving" but there could be big savings if we all just slowed down a bit. They note that "lower demand for very short delivery times can contribute to increasing the overall fuel efficiency of logistics during last-mile delivery," because loads can be consolidated instead of a truck doing same-day or overnight delivery. In North America, trucks could be "piggybacked" on trains instead of driven on the highway if everyone wasn't in such a hurry. Prioritizing fuel savings over time savings could make a far bigger dent than just 320 kb/d.

8. Use High-Speed and Night Trains Instead of Planes Where Possible

"Where high-speed rail lines connect major cities at distances under 1,000 km [621 miles], trains provide a high-quality substitute for short-distance flights. High-speed rail can substantially replace short-haul air travel on routes that offer affordable, reliable and convenient train journeys. The use of night trains can be a means to cross wider distances in particular and spread traffic across different times of the day."

Alas, this is not the case in North America where these trains don't exist. That's why the IEA expects it to only replace 2% of aviation activity and only save 40 kb/d.

9. Avoid Business Air Travel Where Alternative Options Exist

is your trip necessary?
credit: American Legion

This is happening anyway. In speaking with some high-flying corporate executives recently, I was told that they all plan to use virtual technology more and fly less because of the time and money savings. As one told me, "I can do in an hour on Webex what took two days to do face-to-face and then took another two days to recover." The IEA is calling for a reduction of about two out of every five flights, but it is likely that it will be higher than that just because of the way business practices have changed. The savings might be more than 260 kb/d.

10. Reinforce the Adoption of Electric and More Efficient Vehicles

"Actions taken now to hasten the adoption of electric vehicles will have a sustained effect in the future. Similarly, new conventional vehicles sold must be fuel-efficient; fuel economy targets, as well as taxes that penalise high-emissions vehicles, are key for supporting further fuel economy improvements." This would save more than 100 kb/d in the short-term.

High fuel prices are already dampening the ardor for pickup trucks and increasing demand for electric cars, but governments could do a lot more to encourage a pivot by the automakers to smaller, more efficient vehicles. The market did drive changes after the 1973 oil crisis; that's how we got the Japanese car boom in teensy Hondas and Datsuns.

There's So Much More That Could Be Done

Beat the date

Hennepin Collection/ University of Minnesota

We have looked at Intelligent Speed Assistance or speed governors before; the tech is being built into cars now but governments don't have the nerve to make it mandatory. Perhaps circumstances have changed enough to put it back on the menu. And I couldn't write a post like this without a call for a massive rollout of e-bikes, with separated bike infrastructure and bike storage built everywhere, and even free e-bikes for anyone who promises to ride them. That would probably be the fastest and cheapest move that could take millions of cars off the road. Of course, not everyone can ride a bike. Not everyone has to, but imagine if we went from 3% of trips to 30%, still well below some European cities. What a difference that would make.

The remarkable thing about the IEA 10-point plans is that these are the things that the environmental movement has been suggesting for years as a way of reducing carbon emissions and dealing with climate change, but there never seemed to be any urgency, even when we had critical dates and timetables to cut emissions and stay below 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius). Perhaps, as in the run-up to World War II, people and governments will take it seriously and actually do something, and we might just beat that 2030 date for reducing emissions.