The International Energy Agency foresees an energy crunch ahead. Normally, people travel more in the summer when the weather is favorable and a nice, long vacation is on the minds of many. But oil supplies will be under pressure this year as the criminal Russian invasion of Ukraine disrupts the oil industry worldwide, causing the price of gasoline, jet fuel, and other energy products to rise.
The IEA has an answer — demand restraint. Simply put, lowering the demand for gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and heating oil will help balance out the cuts in supply created by bans on Russian oil exports. When demand exceeds supply, prices rise. If demand and supply are in balance, prices remain stable. If demand is less than supply, prices fall. It’s simple, basic economics.
The IEA suggests 10 ways to reduce demand for oil without crashing the economies that rely on oil to meet their energy needs. They are represented by the graphic above, but for those of you who are not visual learners, here they are in a text-based format.
- Reduce speed limits on highways by at least 10 km/h— Saves around 290 kb/d of oil use from cars, and an additional 140 kb/d from trucks. [Note: kb/d = thousands of barrels a day]
- Work from home up to three days a week where possible — One day a week saves around 170 kb/d; three days saves around 500 kb/d
- Car-free Sundays in cities — 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 cycling — Saves around 330 kb/d
- Alternate private car access to roads in large cities — Saves around 210 kb/d
- Increase car sharing and adopt practices to reduce fuel use — Saves around 470 kb/d
- Promote efficient driving for freight trucks and delivery of goods — Saves around 320 kb/d
- Using high speed and night trains instead of planes where possible — Saves around 40 kb/d
- Avoid business air travel where alternative options exist — Saves around 260 kb/d
- Reinforce the adoption of electric and more efficient vehicles —Saves around 100 kb/d
Reducing The Demand For Oil
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, the IEA says in a blog post. If fully carried out in advanced economies, the measures recommended by the IEA’s new 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use 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.
“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,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol. “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. Our 10 Point Plan shows this can be done through measures that have already been tested and proven in multiple countries.”
Reducing oil demand does not depend solely on national governments, the IEA says. Several of the measures can be implemented directly by state, regional or local governments. They can also be adopted voluntarily by citizens and corporations, 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.
Reducing the demand for oil can help cushion the disruptions in the global oil markets created by Russian war crimes in the short term, but it is also an effective strategy for curtailing the worst effects of an overheating planet. We know that gasoline engines are between 20% and 30% efficient. The best of them — the engine in the Toyota Prius — is only 39% efficient. Diesel engines are a little more efficient, but not much.
What that means is the majority of the energy contained in a gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel is pissed away by a profligate society that thinks fossil fuel energy is inexhaustible and can be squandered at will. If we are to survive as a species, we need to be smarter and not throw away more than half of the energy available to us as heat, carbon dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, and fine particulates.
The IEA plan is a good one. Let’s do this!