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Energy Agency Wants Brakes on Fuel Consumption - Proposes Free Public Transit PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 27 March 2005 06:59
Energy Agency Wants Brakes on Fuel Consumption - Proposes Free Public Transit

The International Energy Agency is to propose drastic cutbacks in car use to halt continuing oil-supply problems. Those cutbacks include anything from car-pooling to outright police-enforced driving bans for citizens.


Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2005 08:12:12 -0500
To: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
From: Mike Nickerson < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Subject: Prepare for shortages - International Energy Agency

Energy body wants brakes on fuel consumption - proposes free public transit

By  Adam Porter in Perpignan, France

  Thursday 24 March 2005, 18:09 Makka Time, 15:09 GMT

Vehicular fuel accounts for a big chunk of global oil consumption

Fuel "emergency supply disruptions and price
shocks" - in other words, shortages - could be
met by governments. Not only can governments save
fuel by implementing some of the measures
suggested, but in doing so they can also shortcut
market economics.

An advance briefing of the report, titled Saving
Oil in a Hurry: Measures for Rapid Demand
Restraint in Transport, states this succinctly.

"Why should governments intervene to cut oil
demand during a supply disruption or price surge?
One obvious reason is to conserve fuel that might
be in short supply.

"But perhaps more importantly, a rapid demand
response (especially if coordinated across IEA
countries) can send a strong market signal."

The report goes on to suggest a whole series of
measures that could be used to cut back on fuel
consumption. They are cutting public-transport
costs by a certain amount to increase its usage
while simultaneously dissuading car use.

Sweeping proposals

Then more radically the idea of going further and
cutting public-transport costs by 100%, making
them free to use. Car-pooling, telecommuting and
even corrections to tyre pressures are also

But the most hardline emergency proposals come in
the form of drastic speed restrictions and
compulsory driving bans. Bans could be one day in
every 10 (10%) or more stringently on cars with
odd or even number plates. They would be banned
from the roads on corresponding odd or even days
of the month (50%).

The report says public transport
should be made free to use
In forming its conclusions the IEA tacitly admits
that extra police would be needed in these
circumstances to stop citizens breaking the bans.
Even the cost of those extra patrols are part of
the IEA's study.

"Policing costs are more substantial and may
consist of overtime payments for existing police
or traffic officers or increases in policing
staff. We assume this cost at one officer per 100
000 employed people."

As an example that means that the US workforce,
currently around 138 million people, would need
an extra 1380 officers to help enforce the bans.
It may seem an optimistic figure. But even if
this were so, the IEA is not put off.

"If our policing cost estimates are relatively
low ... results clearly show that even a doubling
of our estimate would make (bans) a
cost-effective policy. The more stringent
odd/even (day) policy is also more cost-effective
than a one-day-in-ten ban, as the costs are the
same ... maintaining enforcement is critical."

Tough love

Yet despite these measures, that many citizens
would find quite draconian, the IEA concludes
that tough love is better than none at all.

"Our main conclusion finds that those policies
that are more restrictive tend to be most
effective in gaining larger reductions in fuel
consumption. In particular, driving restrictions
give the largest estimated reductions in fuel

High oil prices are spurring talk of
conservation and cutbacks in use
Here, however, they do strike a word of warning
for governments and those in power.

"Restrictive policies such as this can be
relatively difficult to implement and thus may
come at higher political costs."

According to the IEA's little-known emergency
treaty, the Agreement on an International Energy
Programme (IEP), "measures to achieve demand
restraint fall into three main classes -
persuasion and public information, administrative
and compulsory measures, and finally, allocation
and rationing schemes".

This would mean that countries who signed up to
the treaty, including the five biggest economies
of the world - US, Japan, Germany, UK and France
- would all have to institute cuts.

"In the event of an activation of IEP emergency
response measures, each IEA Member country will
be expected to immediately implement demand
restraint measures sufficient to reduce oil
consumption by 7% of normal demand levels. In a
more severe disruption, this could be raised to

Effective ban?

There are some interesting asides in the report.
As Americans have the most cars, the driving bans
could be got around by having one car with an
odd, and one car with an even number plate.

Proportionately it makes the ban less effective than in other countries.

For Opec members, high prices
have meant budget surpluses
As well as this older cars may be kept in service
longer if they have "useful" number plates which
the IEA admits is "counter-productive from an
air-pollution reduction perspective, as older
vehicles would tend to pollute more".

However, curtailing the working week and home
working would be more effective in the US as more
people travel to work alone in their cars.

As would correct tyre pressures. In Japan speed
reductions are less effective as there are less
motorways on which to travel fast.

  Families with only one car would also be hit
harder than their richer friends as "bans may
have some additional costs in terms of reduced
accessibility and mobility options particularly
for single-vehicle households with limited access
to alternative modes".

Without doubt this report signifies that the IEA
is searching for new ways to maintain supply
security in a volatile oil market. Whether it can
achieve its aims with this radical report is
another matter.

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