Energy Transition

10 ways to cut oil use and help tackle the global energy crisis

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been helping cause an energy crisis

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been helping cause an energy crisis Image: Unsplash/Waldemar Brandt

Stefan Ellerbeck
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) is proposing a 10-point plan to cut global oil use as the Ukraine conflict deepens fears about supply.
  • It’s urging governments to encourage citizens to drive more slowly and share transport where possible.
  • Other recommendations to tackle the energy crisis include more working from home, car-free days in cities, and cheaper public transport.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made the global energy crisis even worse. Demand for oil had already begun to shoot up after the world’s major economies began to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. But Moscow’s decision to invade its neighbour has prompted governments to seek supplies from elsewhere, contributing to the threat of a major supply crunch.

Practical actions by governments and citizens could achieve significant reductions in oil demand very quickly, according to new analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The Paris-based grouping of 31 industrialized countries - which doesn’t include Russia - estimates global demand could be reduced by 2.7 million barrels a day within 4 months. That’s equal to the oil demand of all the cars in China. To achieve this goal, the IEA has singled out 10 steps we must all take.

A chart showing oil demand reductions in advanced economies within four months in the 10-point plan
How the IEA proposes advanced economies drastically reduce oil demand before the peak demand season. Image: International Energy Agency
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What's the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

The IEA’S 10-point plan to tackle energy crisis:

1. Reduce speed limits on highways by at least 10km/h

Many countries already use temporary speed limit reductions on highways, mostly to reduce congestion and/or air pollution and to improve road safety.

2. Work from home up to 3 days a week where possible

Around one-third of the jobs in advanced economies can be done from home, opening up the possibility of reducing oil demand while maintaining productivity.

3. Car-free Sundays in cities

Car-free Sundays were introduced in countries such as Switzerland, the Netherlands and West Germany during the 1973 oil crisis. Cities in other countries have used them more recently to promote public health.

4. Reduce public transport prices and incentivize walking and cycling

Investment in public transport and infrastructure to support walking and cycling has been boosted by sustainable economic recovery packages introduced in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

5. Alternate private car access to roads in large cities

Restricting private cars’ use of roads in large cities on alternate weekdays is a measure with a long track record of successful implementation around the world.

6. Increase car sharing and adopt practices to reduce fuel use

Governments can provide additional incentives by designating dedicated traffic lanes and parking spots next to public transport hubs and by reducing road tolls on higher occupancy vehicles. Such measures are in force in suburban areas of cities like Madrid and Houston, among others.

7. Promote efficient driving for freight trucks and goods deliveries

Governments can introduce so-called eco-driving techniques as part of the tuition and examination processes required to receive a driving licence and advanced driving certificates, as has been done in France and other countries.

8. Using trains instead of planes where possible

High-speed rail can substantially replace short-haul air travel on routes that offer affordable, reliable and convenient train journeys.

9. Avoid business air travel where alternative options exist

Although not all business travel by plane can be avoided, in many cases the use of virtual meetings can be an effective substitute. A reduction of around two out of every five flights taken for business purposes is feasible in the short term, based on the changes witnessed during the COVID pandemic.

10. Increase adoption of electric and other more efficient vehicles

By the end of 2021, 8.4 million electric cars were on the roads in advanced economies, building on record sales in Europe in particular. Demand for electric cars continues to be strong, on the back of plummeting costs of batteries in recent years and government support.

Since the majority of oil demand comes from transport, the IEA’s 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. It believes its plan would significantly relieve price pressure on consumers, make oil demand more sustainable and reduce Moscow’s hydrocarbon revenues.

Oil price pressure on consumers

It is clear that people around the world are suffering the consequences of some of the worst price spikes for decades. The World Economic Forum recently reported that the price of gasoline in the United States has reached an all-time high, averaging over $4 a gallon for the first time since 2008.

A chart showing state gas prices averages
The price of gasoline in the US has reached an all-time high. Image: World Economic Forum/Visual Capitalist

Gas prices were already rising before the invasion of Ukraine because of increased demand following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. The current surge could add up to $2,000 in annual costs to the average American household.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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