World agency suggests lowering speed limits by 10km/h and ‘car-free Sundays’ to save oil

Business Insider US
Pumping petrol
Californian Mike Delgado fills up. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
  • The International Energy Agency on Friday released a plan for an emergency reduction of oil demand.
  • Russia's "appalling aggression" against Ukraine is driving the world toward its biggest oil supply shortage in decades, the IEA said. 
  • Oil prices have gained about 40% in 2022, but are off their highs after Brent hit $139 a barrel.
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Slashing speed limits and making public transportation cheaper to use are among ideas the International Energy Agency proposed Friday to reduce oil demand in the face of a supply shortage likely to worsen amid Russia's war against Ukraine. 

"Emergency measures can quickly cut global oil demand by 2.7 million barrels a day, reducing the risk of a damaging supply crunch," the IEA said in its 10-point plan released Friday. 

Reducing speed limits on highways by at least 10 kilometres an hour topped the agency's list. Fuel consumption for cars, light commercial vehicles, and trucks can be significantly lowered by slower speed limits and many countries including the US lowered them during the 1973 oil crisis, it said. 

Working from home up to three days a week where possible and car-free Sundays in cities rounded out the IEA's top three ideas. 

The world will likely face the "biggest oil supply shock in decades" stemming from "Russia's appalling aggression against Ukraine," the agency said in outlining why it was issuing a 10-point plan. 

Russia - the world's third-largest oil producer - launched its war against the former Soviet republic on February 24, prompting Western sanctions.

OPEC's Secretary-General Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo said last week there's "no capacity in the world" that could replace the 7 million barrels of oil Russia produces per day

In the IEA's list: 

  1. Speed limits: The IEA said a country-by-country and state-by-state analysis fed into its speed-limit proposal. "Around 290 kb/d of oil use can be saved in the short term through a speed limit reduction of just 10 km/h on motorways for cars. A further 140 kb/d (predominantly diesel) can be saved if heavy trucks reduce their speed by 10 km/h."
  2. Work from home: One day of working from home can avoid the use of 170 kb/d of oil and three days avoids around 500 kb/d in the short term, it said. 
  3. Car-free Sundays: Such action can reduce the short-term use of 380 kb/d of oil if implemented in large cities every Sunday. The amount drops to 95 kb/d if cities only instituted a plan for once a month. 

Car-free Sundays were introduced in countries such as Switzerland, the Netherlands and West Germany during the 1973 oil crisis, it said. "Car-free Sundays help support the uptake of walking and cycling, which can generate a positive spillover effect throughout the week."

Avoiding business air-travel and making public transportation cheaper to use were also among the IEA's proposals. 

An illustration shows part of the IEA's 10-point proposal to cut oil demand

West Texas Intermediate crude and Brent crude, the international benchmark, have gained nearly 40% during 2022, and surged to highs so far of the year after Russia invaded Ukraine. Brent rose as high as $139 a barrel before easing back. Prices this week resumed trading above $100 a barrel. 

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