European governments have been racking their brains to come up with a realistic way of reducing energy consumption with a sharp and quite understandable focus on natural gas. But now, a group of NGOs is proposing cutting oil consumption by as much as a third. And it believes it can be done quickly. Transport & Environment, or rather, the European Federation for Transport and Environment, is a group of non-governmental organizations campaigning for what they describe as "a zero-emission mobility system that is affordable and has minimal impacts on our health, climate and environment."
The group this month released a report titled "How Europe can cut a third of its oil demand by 2030." The report details short-, medium-, and long-term steps to be taken for Europe to decrease its oil consumption significantly.
Some of the proposed measures, such as the accelerated electrification of transport from cars to trucks are not exactly new or original. The electrification of transport is one of the pillars that the whole energy transition movement rests on, so this "accelerated electrification" is basically a given in any such proposal.
T&E also proposes boosting the fuel efficiency of ships and improving road freight efficiency among its short-term steps for reducing oil demand in Europe. The idea is to entirely eliminate Europe's need for Russian oil by 2030, according to the report, which just goes to show that some people, even in these turbulent times, can find a way to kill two birds with one stone, solving both Europe's emission and Russian dependence problems.
One of the key suggestions for short-term measures for reducing oil consumption is, of course, reducing travel by switching to remote work on some days. The T&E authors also propose limiting business travel, especially air travel. And they also propose "Shifting from private car use to transport modes that are fossil free (like walking and cycling), or more efficient (public transport), and shifting some freight to rail or in urban areas to electric or cycle delivery vehicles."
That's an impressive lineup of measures that appear to be quite simple to implement as long as one forgets there is still, officially, such a thing as people having the right to choose how to get from point A to point B. It is up to governments, therefore, to curb this right, the report appears to suggest, in a very delicate way.
For instance, the authors propose that the shifting from private car use to public transport "can be encouraged by car-free days, reduced public transport ticket costs, and increased bus only lanes for priority access in cities."
Cheaper bus tickets and more bus lanes can pass for encouraging action but car-free days are a prohibitive action - a radical change of the sort needed to reduce oil consumption by a third will not happen with encouragement alone.
The authors also propose making more people share a single car, suggesting they opt for bicycles or walking unless they are going to a place that is more than 5 km away, and also loading trucks more fully to save on fuel consumed.
Noting the unpleasant fact of lower fuel efficiency for ICE cars in city driving, the report says car sharing could be beneficial, as well as reducing speed limits for inter-city travel. It's all about saving barrels of oil in consumption in order to reduce a dependency on an unfriendly supplier. And the authors of the T&E report have not left anything out, even the aerodynamics of trucks.
"A retrofitting programme for truck aerodynamic devices" is one of the measures the authors believe need to be taken to improve transport efficiency, cutting fuel consumption. The fast electrification of corporate car fleets, trucks, delivery vans, and taxis is also crucial among the short-term measures. And all this only concerns road transport.
Yet T&E also has big plans for maritime transport and for air travel too, beginning with more fuel efficiency, made mandatory by any relevant authority, and, again, speed limits. Speed limits on ships, for instance, can save the equivalent of 9.5 million tons of oil. Of course, it would also affect travel times, which might not be good for supply chains that involve maritime transportation of commodities and goods, but that is now of lesser concern than shaking off the Russian oil shackles.
In air travel, T&E proposes "targets for absolute reductions in corporate flying, to 50% or less of pre-pandemic levels." It also says that immediate cuts should be prioritized before going on to add that "Long-haul flights can be substituted with virtual collaboration; businesses can reduce frequent flying and shift from regional air travel to high-speed rail."
Trains appear to be a favorite mode of transportation for the study's authors - high-speed, of course. Among their more fascinating ideas is for employers to grant extra days off to employees who take their vacation in places they travel to by train or to encourage them to work while traveling by train.
The main enforcer of these changes would be the European Union, where it has authority, and national governments, where it doesn't. It will be interesting to see how Europeans will react to these suggestions while they are being told to consume less energy, pay more for it, and prepare for even worse times ahead.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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