Mar 18, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Russia crisis spurs push to cut oil use

Illustration of a tank gun barrel with an oil barrel shoved inside of it.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The International Energy Agency just unveiled ideas for quickly cutting oil demand at a time when Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine could bring substantial loss of Russian barrels from global markets.

Why it matters: The 10-point plan comes amid IEA warnings that the war could become the biggest supply crisis in decades as countries look to isolate Russia.

  • It's part of a wider reckoning in Europe — Russia's largest market — and elsewhere over how to curb reliance on Russia while keeping markets supplied and avoiding even greater economic shocks.

Zoom in: The plan says that "immediate actions" in advanced economies could reduce global oil demand by about 2.7 million barrels per day within four months.

They include...

  • Reducing highway speed limits by about 6 miles per hour; more working from home; street changes to encourage walking and cycling; car-free Sundays in cities and restrictions on other days; cutting transit fares; policies that encourage more carpooling; cutting business air travel; and more.

The big picture: Russia is the world's largest combined exporter of crude and oil products combined and the second-largest crude exporter.

  • The plan arrives two days after IEA projected that Russian exports could fall by around 2.5 million barrels per day next month and maybe more "should restrictions or public condemnation escalate."

Our thought bubble: This all seems ... maybe hard to imagine? The idea of coordinated adoption of mass behavioral changes on a compressed time frame sounds like an uphill climb.

The intrigue: The report also notes the near-term proposals should be part of wider, longer-term efforts to curb oil demand to help fight climate change and cut air pollution.

  • It talks up areas like stronger policies for deployment of EVs, charging infrastructure, home heat pumps and more.
  • "Governments have all the necessary tools at their disposal to put oil demand into decline in the coming years, which would support efforts to both strengthen energy security and achieve vital climate goals," it states.
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