Top 10 actions to cut oil use

The IEA’s 10-point plan to cut oil use proposes 10 actions that can be taken to reduce oil demand which will have an immediate impact

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.

10: Reinforce the adoption of electric and more efficient vehicles

By the end of 2021, 8.4mn 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.

The near-term priority is to ensure successful delivery of car orders to consumers. Where possible, fleet orders may be prioritised, as their impact on moderating oil demand is larger than for households with multiple cars.

Impact: Avoids more than 100 kb/d of oil use in the short term, building on expected sales of electric and more fuel-efficient cars over the next four months. Sustained action on supply chains and policy support can help secure further savings.

09: Avoid business air travel where alternative options exist

Given the space requirements in planes, the journeys of passengers in premium classes consume three times more oil than those in economy class. Although not all business travel by plane can be avoided, in many cases the use of virtual meetings can be an effective substitute. A significant reduction of around two out of every five flights taken for business purposes is feasible in the short term, based on the notable changes witnessed during the Covid pandemic.

Impact: Avoids 260 kb/d of oil use in the short term.

08: Using high-speed and night trains instead of planes where possible

Where high-speed rail lines connect major cities at distances under 1 000 km, trains provide a high-quality substitute for short-distance flights. High-speed rail can substantially replace short-haul air travel on routes that offer affordable, reliable and convenient train journeys. The use of night trains can be a means to cross wider distances in particular and spread traffic across different times of the day.

Impact: Avoids around 40 kb/d oil use in the short term.

07: Promote efficient driving for freight trucks and delivery of goods

Vehicles can be driven to optimise fuel use. The possible measures span a wide range and can include improved vehicle maintenance (such as regular checks of tyre pressure) as well as driving habits. Governments can introduce so-called eco-driving techniques as part of the tuition and examination processes required to receive a driving license and advanced driving certificates, as has been done in France and other countries. Broader public information campaigns can supplement these targeted efforts.

Impact: These measures can avoid around 320 kb/d of oil use in the short term.

06: Increase car sharing and adopt practices to reduce fuel use

Car users from different households can choose to carpool for non-urban trips, reducing oil demand and saving money at the same time. 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. 

Impact: An increase of around 50% in the average car occupancy across advanced economies in 1-in-10 trips and adopting best-practices to decrease car fuel use can save around 470 kb/d of oil in the short term.

05: Alternate private car access to roads in large cities

Restricting private cars’ use of roads in large cities to those with even number-plates some weekdays and to those with odd-numbered plates on other weekdays is a measure with a long track record of successful implementation. During the first oil shock, the Italian government substituted car-free Sundays with an odd/even number plate policy. Since the 1980s, such schemes have been deployed in many cities to tackle congestion and air pollution peaks, including Athens, Madrid, Paris, Milan and Mexico City.


Impact: A reduction of around 210 kb/d of oil in the short term if alternate car access is applied on two days per week in large cities with good public transport options.

04: Make the use of public transport cheaper and incentivise micro-mobility, walking and cycling

An effective way to reduce oil demand is to shift travel demand away from private cars to public transport, micro-mobility options, walking or cycling wherever practical.

Where public transport exists, a short‐term temporary response can be to reduce fares for public buses, metro and light rail. Trial initiatives, including in some US cities, have shown that reduced or free public transport fares result in increased ridership. 

Impact: Short-term measures where feasible and culturally acceptable can avoid around 330 kb/d of oil use.

03: 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. Brussels, Edinburgh, Vancouver, parts of Tokyo and other cities have used them more recently to promote public health, community-oriented spaces and cultural events. More than 3 000 towns and cities registered for the European Mobility Week in 2021, which included a commitment to a car-free day.

Impact: Avoids around 380 kb/d of oil use in the short term if implemented in large cities every Sunday. If only one Sunday per month, the amount drops to 95 kb/d.

02: Work from home up to three days a week where possible

Before the pandemic, the use of private vehicles to commute to work in advanced economies was responsible for around 2.7mn barrels of oil use a day. Yet 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.

Impact: One day of working from home can avoid around 170 kb/d of oil use. Three days of working from home avoids around 500 kb/d in the short term.

01: Reduce speed limits on highways by at least 10 km/h

A country-by-country and state-by-state analysis shows that a reduction of speed limits on highways by 10 km/h relative to current levels can significantly reduce fuel consumption for cars, light commercial vehicles and trucks.  

Speed limits on highways vary widely among countries but are typically in the range of 100 km/h to 135 km/h. For example, average speed limits on urban and rural interstate highways in the United States are around 110 km/h. In the European Union, speed limits vary between 100 km/h and 140 km/h – except in Germany, which has no speed limit on some highways.

Impact: 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.


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