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Step off the gas pedal and a driving ban on Sunday? Pseudo-ecological nonsense continues

Noga z gazu i zakaz jazdy w niedzielę? Pseudoekologicznych głupot ciąg dalszy

Not so much an exercise, but simply checking what solutions would bring relief to the planet and oil consumption in Europe. Nobody wants to force it (yet), and the whole point is just to draw attention to certain behaviors. Some of them can be implemented over time (such as limiting the maximum speed on highways or promoting "eco driving"), others are downright harmful to the local community (e.g. a ban on driving to the city center on Sunday).

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– In the context of the energy crisis caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has published a plan to reduce oil consumption. This plan proposes 10 actions that can be taken to reduce oil consumption. The recommendations presented can, on the one hand, be seen as the implementation of scenarios that reduce dependence on oil and thus increase energy security. On the other hand, all recommendations presented can be treated as climate policy tools aimed at decarbonization and improving air quality – we read at the beginning of the "Get off the gas" report.

The authors of the IEA report themselves claim that at the moment the recommendations in the report are "an interesting intellectual exercise that can be carried out in the context of larger challenges. They are neither mandatory nor binding on our country.”

What ideas do the experts have?

  • Lowering the speed limit on motorways by at least 10 km/h.

This idea doesn't seem pointless, especially in Poland, where the limits are higher than in the rest of Europe. Of course, such restrictions have certain consequences, in the form of speeding by frustrated drivers who have strong and safe vehicles and new roads in front of them (at least in Poland). As a result, the declared savings of approx. 290 kb/d (40 thousand tons per day) for passenger cars and approx. 140 kb/d (19 thousand tons per day) for trucks are certainly overestimated, because there is no way that everyone they complied with the regulations.

– After joining the European Union, Poland saw an impressive increase in the length of the expressway network. Currently, there are over 5,000 kilometers of them, including approximately 1,800 km of motorways and approximately 3,200 km of expressways. This distinction is of a technical nature and for many drivers the difference between a motorway and an expressway is not very noticeable and comes down to the difference in the speed limit to 140 km/h on a motorway and to 120 km/h on a dual carriageway expressway and the general satisfaction with "free of charge" the latter, unlike expensive commercial highways. Available literature data indicate that the actual average speeds on motorways are lower than the permissible speeds – noted in the WiseEuropa report.

  • Telework up to 3 days a week if possible.

Another idea that is not bad and is already being implemented by many companies. Of course, not every company can afford such a luxury and it all depends on the nature of the given "job". And there remains the resistance of some corporations to remote work, which some managers are as afraid of as the medieval inhabitants of the witch forests near Warsaw.

– The IEA estimates that in developed economies, commuting to work by private car is responsible for the consumption of nearly 2.7 million barrels of oil every day13. One way to reduce fuel consumption resulting from commuting to work may be to popularize remote or hybrid work. The IEA estimates that up to one third of professions could be performed in this form, translating into savings of PLN 170,000. barrels per week on one day and up to 500 thousand. barrels with three days of remote work a week – according to the WiseEuropa report.

  • Car-free Sundays in cities.

This is one of the stupidest demands in the IEA report. According to calculations, one Sunday saves 95 kb/d (13 thousand tons of oil per day), and all Sundays in a month save approx. 380 kb/d (51 thousand tons per day). This would certainly be the case, but the local cost of such an undertaking could be much higher. Many people only on Sunday have time and opportunity to go to a park in the city, a church, a confectionery shop, a cafe, a cinema, a playground and many other facilities that are in the city but not located outside the city or in the countryside. Are businesses (restaurants, cafes) and cultural venues ready for lower earnings in the name of reducing oil consumption? Does Poland or other countries want their citizens not to go to the theater, church or cinema on their only day off? I don't think so.

– It is worth noting that the introduction of car-free Sunday is a recommendation whose implementation in individual cities would bring relatively low benefits related to reducing oil consumption throughout the country, therefore it should be considered as a supplementary rather than a basic action – notes WiseEuropa in his report.

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  • Cheaper public transport and encouraging micromobility, walking and cycling.

Whoever can, can. We don't know how to encourage micromobility, we hope not with car bans. As for cheaper public transport, it is always a good way, but expensive for the local government. Moreover, many places would benefit from any public transport at all, because the authors of such reports do not seem to know that there are plenty of places in Poland that are excluded from transport and are confined to cars. And that's where we would start.

Is reducing speed on motorways a good idea? photo: K.Pawłowski Is reducing speed on motorways a good idea? photo: K.Pawłowski

  • Introducing the alternating use of private cars in cities and (another point) increasing car sharing and practicing ecodriving.

– Another solution, implemented during past oil crises, and nowadays, for example, in Mexico City, is alternating access to the road network for private cars with even and odd registration numbers. According to the IEA, implementing this recommendation two days a week could save PLN 210,000. barrels of oil per day. In theory, the solution in question could have nationwide scope. In practice, however, its implementation should be limited to urban centers or territorial units with a well-developed public transport system. Otherwise, it could contribute to deepening the phenomenon of transport exclusion – this postulate was commented on in the WideEuropa report.

As for carsharing, there were strong companies in large cities dealing in this type of business. Unfortunately, it turns out that it is not that simple, because the drivers who use the vehicles are not, to put it lightly, master drivers and the companies' losses are considerable. Moreover, this type of services have become much more expensive and it is often cheaper to take a taxi, so what's the point?

Both points are so general that it is difficult to discuss them in any way.

  • The rest of the points are promoting eco-driving for trucks and freight deliveries, using high-speed rail and night trains instead of planes, avoiding business flights if there are other options, using electric or more energy-efficient cars.

You can say "nihil novi", we have known it for years and such demands are made constantly, without interruption and habitually. Can this be done? Probably yes, but corporations, if there is no profit in something, will not be involved in it.

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The document is not binding on Poland

– It is worth emphasizing that this document is not binding on the Polish state, but is a recommendation. The IEA indicates that quick action in developed economies could potentially reduce oil demand by up to 2.7 million barrels per day over a four-month period, the WiseEuropa report said.

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