Sam Davies

Cutting down on oil use is in our hands

I’m currently recovering from Covid, so will keep this week’s blog to the bare minimum. However, I did want to draw your attention to a report published this week by the International Energy Agency (IEA): a ten-point plan for reducing oil use.

It’s prompted by the immediate desire to reduce demand for Russian oil, but its recommendations obviously support wider ambitions to reduce carbon emissions too. The scaling of the savings from the different options is very helpful, in particular highlighting the fact that adoption of electric vehicles is one of the less effective measures, producing significantly lower savings than working from home, car sharing, reducing vehicle speed and avoiding business travel.

In all likelihood we’ll be a long time waiting for national government to move on any of this, but at least some of it is within our own control. I hope the report receives the coverage required to get the message across.

Stay safe and I hope full service will be resumed next week!

Sam Davies


  • I do hope your Covid recovery is really quick. We can’t manage without you.
    Every best wish.

  • Thanks Sam, all really interesting ideas. Since Covid I think people are more used to/open to many of these. What a difference it could make.

  • In 1974, after there was a fourfold increase in the price of oil, the US government introduced a 55mph speed limit on all roads and highways. The law remained in place until 1995. I expect there was a reduction in the number of accidents. Why not introduce that in the UK?

  • Sam

    Thanks for your comments and hope you get over Covid soonest.
    I agree fully that we can all do more to reduce the use of hydrocarbons. I also would suggest that so can Cambridge City Council. There is much noise from the Council regarding policies on sustainability etc. and for example replacing Council vans with electric vehicles. Delivery of carbon reduction measures by the Council is well intentioned by many but delivery is often limited. There are many examples that demonstrate the Council is not joined up eg.:

    Why in the summer do the Council cut the grassy areas in streets whether it is needed or not? Near my house, every two weeks a man on a petrol mower cuts the grass. Even Kings College last year left grassy areas to go wild and cut once at the end of the growing season.

    Why are there so many taxis driving around looking for parking spaces and then sitting idling engines? I understand there are around 470 licences in Cambridge and many more from South Cambs that ply their trade in Cambridge. Cut back on the licences and save fuel and embedded carbon in vehicles. Reduce the cost of licences for electric vehicles and increase the cost for diesels.

    Why do the diesel powered Council vehicles often idle engines when the drivers are taking a mobile phone break? Why are contractors to the Council not contracted to switch off vehicle engines when waiting by roadworks they are engaged on – I accept this might be a County Council issue.

    There is a long list of issues, many minor, that together offset any savings accrued from purchasing electric vans. The issues that are of concern are very visible however and the Council team managers should lead and set good examples of how they are delivering and not puffing.

    Thanks David

  • Being 22 although committed to our environment I must admit I do not think where water, electricity, gas and oil etc. come from I just take it for granted I can switch on a light, if cold I can turn up the central heating, that I can have 24 hour WIFI access.
    Also the issues seem so BIG that I often feel well what can I do?
    That’s why people like you Sam, are invaluable to our communities.
    Making things accessible and showing us in plain language what things we might be able to integrate into our lives making it easier to both understand and take some action.
    Hope you get some time to recharge, Immy

  • Thanks for highlighting that, although I’m disappointed that ‘car free Sundays’ was the height of their active travel ambition (we need a great deal more than that to make a real dent in transport emissions), and also that building retrofit to permanently reduce fossil fuel use didn’t get a mention. OK that’s mostly gas, but there are plenty of off-grid places where oil is still heavly used for heating.

    So yes, all that IEA stuff, and actually a whole lot of other stuff too.