Europe Leads Bid To Cut Russian Oil Dependence By Lowering Speeds

An urgent request to lower speed limits in European Union member countries as a way to tackle dependence on Russian fuel and help Ukraine has been proposed.

“With the catastrophic invasion of Ukraine, European reliance on Russian oil has become a strategic threat,” the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) and five environmental and road safety organizations wrote.

“The current crisis requires bold action,” the April 5th letter to the European Commissioners responsible for Climate Action, Energy, Environment and Transport stated. “With Covid-19 vaccines and, more recently, the economic sanctions on Russia, Europe has shown that it can be effective and efficient when it moves together to face a major crisis.”

The group of six organizations said that strong consideration should be given to recommendations to lowering speed limits, which could have a significant impact “reducing dependence on imported oil, tackling climate change and reducing road death and injury.”

In addition to the European Transport Safety Council, the groups who authored the letter include: the International Road Victims’ Partnership; European Federation of Road Traffic Victims; European Cyclists’ Federation, Clean Cities Campaign; and Transport & Environment.

The organizations noted that Brussels and Paris recently reduced the urban speed limit to 30 km/h (about 18 to 19 mph), and an analysis in the Brussels region showed that after the lower limit was implemented, toxic emissions, noise and crashes all declined, and journey times were largely unaffected. And research conducted in the UK showed that “lower speeds flatten out the extra acceleration needed in stop/start driving and can reduce CO2 emissions, and therefore fuel consumption, by 25% on typical cars.”

The proposed move outlined in the letter follows the European Parliament’s call to lower speed limits in its report on road safety adopted on October 6, 2021.

Soon after the letter, a series of simple actions that people can take to reduce their energy use and save money, “and that would save enough oil to fill 120 super tankers and enough natural gas to heat almost 20 million homes if adopted by all EU citizens,” were announced by the European Commission and the International Energy Agency.

By following the recommendations, the typical EU household could save, on average, close to €500 a year, and if all EU citizens followed the recommendations at home and in their workplace, it would save 220 million barrels of oil a year and around 17 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

Suggested measures by the European Commission and the International Energy Agency include modest modifications in thermostat and air conditioner use, reducing driving speed, and walking, cycling and taking public transport more frequently.

“In short, a recommendation on speed limits will reduce oil dependence, help tackle the climate crisis and reduce the scourge of road injury,” the April 5th letter said. “Safety remains a compelling justification for reducing speed. It is a contributing factor in most crashes,” so reducing average speeds across the EU by just 1 % could save 2,100 lives a year.

News about the proposed recommendations to reduce reliance on Russian fuel were reported in the European Transport Safety Council’s April 2022 Safety Monitor.

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