Telecommuting three days a week, cheap public transport and strict speed limits: this is how the IEA wants to reduce oil consumption | Economy

Traffic jam in one of the main arteries of Brussels (Belgium), in a file image.
Traffic jam in one of the main arteries of Brussels (Belgium), in a file image.FRANCOIS LENOIR (REUTERS)

Telecommuting, cheaper public transport, stricter speed limits, traffic-free Sundays in cities, carpooling, and a drastic reduction in air travel for business. In the midst of the global struggle to disengage from Russian oil, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published this Friday a battery of measures that would reduce crude oil consumption by 2.7 million barrels per day, about 3% of world demand. and the equivalent of what all the cars registered in China spend. That figure is limited only to rich countries and could be achieved, according to the agency dependent on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in a very short term: just four months. “These are changes that have been shown to be effective in many countries,” says its director, Fatih Birol.

Lowering the heating thermostat, as recently requested by the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, is a useful gesture to reduce the consumption of natural gas from Russia, especially in the countries of the center, east and north of the continent. But to put the scissors on oil, you have to look at transport, which burns 60% of the crude oil that is extracted from the subsoil. “The potential tensions would be significantly reduced [en los mercados energéticos] at a time when a large amount of Russian supply is stopping arriving, especially when the season of greatest demand, July and August, is approaching”, point out the Agency’s technicians. Advanced economies account for almost half of total oil demand, so the effect of these measures would be amplified if they were also extended to emerging economies.

The decalogue of measures proposed by the IEA is completed with a call to limit the access of combustion cars to cities by days of the week —based on license plates, for example—, increase efficiency in the transport of goods by road transport and parcel delivery in cities, speeding up transit towards more efficient cars —electric, as far as possible— and replacing travel by plane with high-speed trains on routes where both alternatives exist. Also with an appeal to micromobility, walking and cycling.

The study openly underlines the change in citizens’ habits —with official support in its implementation— as a fundamental part of cutting oil consumption. “Ultimately”, it reads, “demand reduction does not depend solely on national governments: many of these measures can be implemented by other levels of the Administration —regional or local— or, simply, voluntarily by the citizens and businesses. That would allow them to save money and, at the same time, show their solidarity with the Ukrainian people.”

On Wednesday, the IEA itself warned of the risk that the Russian invasion of Ukraine could end up causing “the biggest oil supply crisis in decades.” And that, the head of the Paris-based agency stressed this Friday, would have “enormous implications for our economies and our societies.”

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