Ready To Drive 55? Group Proposes Gas-Saving Measures

International Energy Agency says we can almost make up for Russian oil

Women using mobile phone on road trip
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Enes Evren / Getty Images

Should your city prohibit driving on Sundays to help cut gas prices? How about lower the speed limit, reduce subway and bus fares, or run more passenger trains at night?

The International Energy Agency, a group representing 31 advanced economies, has made 10 suggestions for cutting back on oil use after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent oil and gas prices soaring. 

The suggestions—while not terribly new (a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit was mandated during the 1973-74 oil embargo, for instance)—could cut global oil consumption by 2.7 million barrels a day within four months, the agency estimated. That’s almost as much as it expects global oil supplies to shrink because of sanctions and other deterrents to buying Russian oil. (For perspective, the U.S. used an average of 19.8 million barrels a day in 2021.)

The recent spike in gas prices is unsettling household budgets around the country, particularly lower-income families that spend a higher proportion of their overall income on necessities like fuel. At the most basic level, there are two ways to relieve the price pressure—get countries other than Russia to supply more oil or burn through less gas. Here’s how the IEA recommends we do the latter: 

  1. Reduce speed limits by at least 10 kilometers per hour (about 6.2 miles per hour,) an idea the U.S. tried during the 1970s OPEC oil embargo. 
  2. Encourage working from home up to three days a week, which is particularly helpful in the summer, when the use of car air conditioning consumes more gas.
  3. Ban the use of private cars in large cities on Sundays. This was done in cities in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and West Germany in the 1970s, according to the IEA. 
  4. Restrict the use of private cars in large cities, splitting weekdays so that even-numbered license plates could drive certain days, and odd-numbered ones other days. Italy did this during the 1970s oil shock, IEA said, and Athens, Madrid, Paris, Milan, and Mexico City later implemented similar policies. 
  5. Temporarily reduce fares for public buses, light rail, and subways or metros. 
  6. Increase incentives for carpooling, including the use of apps like BlaBlaCar, Liftshare, Scoop, TripBuddy, ecov, and GoKid.
  7. Promote more efficient use of commercial fleets to reduce the amount of diesel used in trucking goods. 
  8. Replace short-distance air flights with overnight high-speed train trips, both for personal and business travel. 
  9. Encourage online business meetings over in-person ones to reduce business travel—and business class airline seating. Passengers in premium seating use three times more oil than those in economy class, given the space requirements, according to the IEA. 
  10. Encourage the adoption of electric cars, including helping to alleviate recent shortages of semiconductors and other materials that are making it hard to fulfill orders. 

Have a question, comment, or story to share? You can reach Terry at tlane@thebalance.com.

Article Sources

  1. International Energy Agency. "10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use."

  2. Energy Information Administration. "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)."