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EU urges citizens to work from home, drive slower to reduce reliance on Russia

AP Photo/Matt Dunham

The European Union is encouraging its citizens to work from home, use public transportation and turn off heaters in an effort reduce the bloc’s reliance on Russian fuel.

If EU residents adopt a prescribed list of energy-saving steps, they can together “save enough oil to fill 120 super tankers and enough natural gas to heat almost 20 million homes,” according to an outline published by the European Commission and the International Energy Agency (IEA) on Thursday.

The outline, called “Playing my Part,” aims to slash the bloc’s reliance on Russian energy while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a news release accompanying the plan explained. 

“The Russian war in Ukraine is a human tragedy and a humanitarian disaster, and we’re all looking at what can we do ourselves — what can we do professionally and what can we do personally,” European Commission Director-General for Energy Ditte Juul Jørgensen said at a virtual summit on Thursday.

“The one thing that everyone can do — each of us can do, individually at home and at work — is to save energy,” Jørgensen added.

Doing so, she explained, will enable Europeans to save on their energy bills, improve climate conditions as a whole and help Ukraine.

The EU imports about 150 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia per year. However, Jørgensen explained that the implementation of European Green Deal policy initiatives could cut about 100 billion cubic meters by 2030 by accelerating and scaling up renewable energy.

“But the most effective measure, and the absolutely necessary measure, is energy savings,” Jørgensen said. “We can cut immediately.”

Specific recommendations put forward by EU leaders include turning down heating and using less air conditioning, adjusting boilers to more efficient settings, reducing speed on highways, walking or biking for short trips and avoiding planes when trains are an option.

Turning down the thermostat by just 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) would save around 7 percent of the energy used for heating, while setting an air conditioner 1 degree C warmer could decrease the amount of electricity used by up to 10 percent, according to the plan.

With a typical one-way car commute in the EU amounting to about 15 kilometers (9 miles), working remotely for three days a week could cut monthly household fuel bills by about 35 euros ($38) — even when accounting for increased energy usage at home, the outline explained.

The plan also estimates that reducing highway speeds by about 10 kilometers per hour could save drivers about 60 euros ($65) each year, according to the plan.

“We are, in my view, in the first global energy crisis. It looks like that this crisis may be with us for some time to come,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said at the virtual summit.

Birol stressed that even if the EU’s liquefied natural gas import capacity was 100 percent working — which he described as “a big, big, big challenge” — the bloc would still need a substantial amount of additional gas to get through the next winter.

Countries will therefore be left to choose between government rationing of consumer energy supplies or “we do it ourselves,” Birol said.

The steps presented in the plan, he explained, are actions consumers can take in “the most effective and practical way,” according to Birol.

“You save money, you at the same time push Russia back and you are on the front line with the Ukrainians against Russia,” he said.

Tags energy use European Union

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