Emergency measures can quickly cut global oil demand by 2.7 million barrels day, reducing risk of damaging supply crunch

In the face of the emerging global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, practical actions by governments and citizens in advanced economies and beyond can achieve significant reductions in oil demand in a matter of months, reducing the risk of a major supply crunch, according to new analysis released by the International Energy Agency today.

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 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. 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.

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’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. 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.

“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, who is launching the Plan at a news conference today with Barbara Pompili, the Minister for the Ecological Transition of France, which currently holds the Presidency of the European Union.

“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.”

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 stands ready to support all countries in designing and optimising 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.

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