In the face of the emerging global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the International Energy Agency says practical actions by governments and citizens in advanced economies and beyond can achieve significant reductions in oil demand in a matter of months. This would reduce the risk of a major supply crunch, according to new analysis released by the IEA last week.
“As a result of Russia’s appalling aggression against Ukraine, the world may well be facing its biggest oil supply shock in decades, with huge implications for our economies and societies,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, at the launch of the IEA’s 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use last Friday. At the event, Birol was joined by Barbara Pompili, Minister for the Ecological Transition of France. France currently holds the Presidency of the European Union.
According to the IEA, these efforts would reduce the price pain being felt by consumers around the world, lessen the economic damage, shrink Russia’s hydrocarbon revenues, and help move oil demand towards a more sustainable pathway.
If fully carried out in advanced economies, the measures recommended by the IEA’s plan 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. This would significantly reduce potential strains at a time when a large amount of Russian supplies may no longer reach the market and the peak demand season of July and August is approaching.
The measures would have an even greater effect if adopted in part or in full in emerging economies as well.
“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,” Dr Birol said. “Our 10-Point Plan shows this can be done through measures that have already been tested and proven in multiple countries.”
The new report also includes recommendations for decisions to be taken now by governments and citizens to transition from the short-term emergency actions included in the 10-Point Plan to sustained measures that would put countries’ oil demand into a structural decline consistent with a pathway towards net zero emissions by 2050.
Since the majority of oil demand comes from transport, the IEA says its 10-Point Plan focuses on how to use less oil getting people and goods from A to B, drawing on concrete measures that have already been put to use in a diverse range of countries and cities.
The short-term actions it proposes include reducing the amount of oil consumed by cars through lower speed limits, working from home, occasional limits on car access to city centres, cheaper public transport, more carpooling and other initiatives – and greater use of high-speed rail and virtual meetings instead of air travel.
“France and all European countries must get out of their dependence on fossil fuels, in particular on Russian fossil fuels as soon as possible,” Minister Pompili said. “It is an absolute necessity, for the climate but also for our energy sovereignty. The plan proposed today by the IEA offers some interesting ideas, some of which are in line with our own ideas to reduce our dependence on oil.”
Advanced economies account for almost half of global oil demand. Many of them, including the largest energy consumers, are required as members of the IEA to have oil demand restraint plans ready as part of their emergency response measures.
Most of the proposed actions in the 10-Point Plan would require changes in the behaviour of consumers, supported by government measures. How and if these actions are implemented is subject to each country’s own circumstances – in terms of their energy markets, transport infrastructure, social and political dynamics and other aspects.
The IEA says it is ready to support all countries in designing and optimizing measures to suit their respective circumstances. Government regulations and mandates have proven to be very effective for successfully implementing these measures in various countries and cities, combined with public information and awareness campaigns.
Ultimately, however, reducing oil demand does not depend solely on national governments. Several of the measures can be implemented directly by other layers of government – such as state, regional or local – or just voluntarily followed by citizens and corporates, enabling them to save money while showing solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
The IEA report notes that reducing oil use must not remain a temporary measure. Sustained reductions are important not only to improve countries’ energy security but also to tackle climate change and reduce air pollution. Governments have all the necessary tools at their disposal to put oil demand into decline in the coming years, and the report sets out the key ones to achieve this goal, including hastening the adoption of electric vehicles, raising fuel economy standards, boosting alternative fuel supplies, accelerating heat pump deployment, and producing and consuming plastic more sustainably.
- Reduce speed limits on highways by at least 10 km/hImpact*: Saves around 290 kb/d of oil use from cars, and an additional 140 kb/d from trucks
- Work from home up to three days a week where possibleImpact: One day a week saves around 170 kb/d; three days saves around 500 kb/d
- Car-free Sundays in citiesImpact: Every Sunday saves around 380 kb/d; one Sunday a month saves 95 kb/d
- Make the use of public transport cheaper and incentivize micromobility, walking and cyclingImpact: Saves around 330 kb/d
- Alternate private car access to roads in large citiesImpact: Saves around 210 kb/d
- Increase car sharing and adopt practices to reduce fuel useImpact: Saves around 470 kb/d
- Promote efficient driving for freight trucks and delivery of goodsImpact: Saves around 320 kb/d
- Using high-speed and night trains instead of planes where possibleImpact: Saves around 40 kb/d
- Avoid business air travel where alternative options existImpact: Saves around 260 kb/d
- Reinforce the adoption of electric and more efficient vehiclesImpact: Saves around 100 kb/d
Note: Impacts are short term and reflect implementation in advanced economies where feasible and culturally acceptable; kb/d = thousand barrels of oil a day.
Read the report
In the face of the emerging global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the IEA’s 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use proposes 10 actions that can be taken to reduce oil demand with immediate impact – and provides recommendations for how those actions can help pave the way to putting oil demand onto a more sustainable path in the longer term.