International Energy Agency calls for more walking, and car-free Sundays

Car-free Sunday Singapore Car-free Sunday Singapore

The conflict in the Ukraine has led to huge price spikes for oil, devastating many people across the world. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released a ten-point plan for advanced economies to “lower oil demand by 2.7 million barrels a day within four months – equivalent to the oil demand of all the cars in China”. These changes would make our neighbourhoods more safe and peaceful, save money, and make our air cleaner. (Advanced economies includes OECD countries + Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Malta and Romania.)

This could have an impact because the IEA is very influential amongst governments and companies, to whom it has provided analysis and policy guidance since it was formed following the oil crisis of 1973.

If the IEA plan were taken up in all advanced economies, it would mean a 6% fall in oil consumption in four months. For context, Covid-19 led to a drop of 16% worldwide in Q2 2020 versus 2019 levels, but the planned savings should have fewer negative impacts.

Improving conditions for walking is an important factor – the IEA advocate for car-free Sundays, and for micromobility, walking, and cycling to be incentivised.

IEA 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use

The IEA report notes: “Reducing oil use must not remain a temporary measure. Sustained reductions are desirable in order not only to improve energy security but also to tackle climate change and reduce air pollution.”

Australia’s liquid fuel problems

After a series of refinery closures, Australia now imports 90% of our petrol and diesel. In the event of an emergency, the Federal Government reported in December 2021 that we have 67 days of reserve available onshore, up from 18 days of petrol in 2019. The Federal Energy Minister is rumoured to be suppressing a report on Australia’s liquid fuel insecurity – it was finished in 2019 but has still not been made public.

Currently Australia has terrible fuel standards (until 2024, our petrol is allowed to have much higher sulphur and aromatics than other countries), and no formal vehicle fuel efficiency standards (the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries has a voluntary target that is a decade behind Europe). Had fuel standards been introduced in 2016, in 2019 Australians would have saved a combined A$1 billion.

In a report commissioned by the Australian Electric Vehicle Council, Ernst and Young calculated that when petrol vehicle is replaced by an electric vehicle, our government and society benefit by more than $8,000, and when a diesel vehicle is replaced, the benefit is more than $11,000. (Electric vehicles do, however, release particulate matter due to their tyres and brakes disintegrating which are bad for our health, and have all the other issues of motor vehicles i.e. spatially inefficient, parking, resource intensive, etc.)

The NSW Government is aiming to electrify all 8000+ buses by 2030.

The IEA points and their calculated impact:

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

    Impact*: Saves around 290 kb/d of oil use from cars, and an additional 140 kb/d from trucks
  2. Work from home up to three days a week where possible 

    Impact: One day a week saves around 170 kb/d; three days saves around 500 kb/d
  3. Car-free Sundays in cities 

    : Every Sunday saves around 380 kb/d; one Sunday a month saves 95 kb/d
  4. Make the use of public transport cheaper and incentivise micromobility, walking and cycling 

    Impact: Saves around 330 kb/d
  5. Alternate private car access to roads in large cities 

    Impact: Saves around 210 kb/d
  6. Increase car sharing and adopt practices to reduce fuel use 

    Impact: Saves around 470 kb/d
  7. Promote efficient driving for freight trucks and delivery of goods 

    Impact: Saves around 320 kb/d
  8. Using high-speed and night trains instead of planes where possible 

    Impact: Saves around 40 kb/d
  9. Avoid business air travel where alternative options exist 

    Impact: Saves around 260 kb/d
  10. Reinforce the adoption of electric and more efficient vehicles 

    Impact: Saves around 100 kb/d

Note: Impacts are short term and reflect implementation in advanced economies where feasible and culturally acceptable; kb/d = thousand barrels of oil a day.