What needs to be done Diversifying away from oil

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Assuming that oil will have to take a significant share of the burden of reduction, it seems likely that European oil consumption will need to be reduced by well over 50 per cent by 2050. This chapter briefly reviews the kind of changes that will be needed to achieve this reduction, and the kind of measures needed to drive or encourage these changes.

Oil is principally used in the transport sector, but with significant proportions in domestic heating and cooking, in heating and cooling other buildings, in power generation and as a feedstock for the petrochemical industry. In all of these sectors it will be necessary to reduce or eliminate reliance on oil as quickly as possible.

The transport sector

In the transport sector three main changes are needed:

1 Integrate transport and land-use policies for cities, towns and other settlements in order to reduce journey lengths and times wherever possible.

2 Continuously improve the energy efficiency and carbon performance of planes, ships, trains and road vehicles of all kinds, with the introduction of electric- or hydrogen-powered vehicles as soon as possible.

3 Use more carbon-efficient modes of transport for journeys: rail trips rather than air flights; public transport rather than private transport; and cycling and walking wherever possible.

Aviation may have to remain a privileged user of oil, at least for the next two or three decades for essential uses. However, it needs to make the maximum possible efficiency improvements, and expansion of high-speed rail services should be preferred to air transport wherever possible. Further expansion of air transport and airports should also be discouraged.

In relation to shipping, efficiency improvements should be sought continually, and innovative ideas such as adding supplementary wind power to reduce fuel consumption need to be actively encouraged.

Household consumption of oil

Direct burning of fossil fuels in fires, boilers or for cooking will need to be phased out, and electricity (increasingly drawing on locally based renewable generation as well as the grid) or sustainably grown wood will have to become the standard household fuels. It would be useful to establish a timetable for this transition.

Power generation

In terms of power generation there will need to be a great effort to expand renewables of all kinds as rapidly as possible. In Europe the targets that have been set for the expansion of renewables are a good beginning; but more needs to be done to carry the different technologies into the marketplace at affordable prices.

Coal (and, to a lesser extent, other fossil fuels) will remain an important fuel for power generation for several decades ahead. Carbon capture and storage should be developed as soon as possible. It should then be mandated for any remaining oil-fuelled power stations as well.

A new generation of nuclear power plants may also have some part to play. But nuclear power technology has its own sustainability problems, and must not be allowed to divert investment resources and political attention from the major expansion of renewables and energy efficiency that are the primary goal of the transition.

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