(June 1, 2008, Vancouver, B.C.) Eco-week can Conserve Oil, Reduced Emissions, reduce traffic congestion, allow for more quality time with Family and Friends, provide extra benefits for Senior citizens and people with low incomes… sounds like Science Fiction (or a bad infomercial) but a solution now exists to do this without any new technology.
Recently the Prime Minister of Canada said there is little the Federal Government can do to reduce the burden of High Gas Prices to the consumer. Well Mr. Prime Minister, I beg to differ with you but with World Oil prices near $125 per barrel there are conventional solutions.
How do we deal with the increasing demand on Oil with limited supplies without implementing new technology? Solution: Move from a 5 day 8 hour per day work week to a 4 day 10 hour per day work week. While this is not a new solution, the way in which this “Eco-week” is structured is different from other previous suggestions solving most of the problems which had made it unfeasible in the past.
The Eco-week for most will not provide the traditional three day weekend each week, as this will just lead to more commuters taking trips away from home each weekend.
Instead for some, each Wednesday will become their extra day off, while this may not be everyone’s favorite structure of a four day work week (10 hour per: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday Friday), it is done to reduce the incentive to drive on the day off, there is no penalty for people that drive on their extra day off as people typically drive less on weekends than on work days. A U.S. Federal Government study showed that travel on the main highways in San Diego is reduced on weekends between 20% on Saturdays to over 29% on Sundays when compared to daily averages for the workweek.
Is there a need to do this? Apart from reducing gas consumption and the added benefit of less pollution – allowing countries and companies to meet carbon reduction targets, there are studies which show increased productivity as employees are better rested and tend to be happier with a four day, ten hour per day work week. Is this out of necessity? Yes, as supply and demand of Oil increases globally – specifically in the emerging markets of China and India, this Eco-week can have a major influence on reducing gas consumption to allow the world to meet the growing demand.
With the current Gasoline consumption of the U.S. at 9.359 Million Barrels per day, I estimate with an average 25% reduction of traffic on that extra one day (within the U.S. if the entire workforce changed to this Eco-week), would save 2.339 Million Barrels of Gas on that one day. Spread over an entire week this one day difference would average out to a daily savings in the U.S. of 334,250 Barrels (3.57% reduction of U.S. gas consumption per day). Over a year that totals just over 122 million barrels.
Recently the U.S. Congress forced the Administration to halt the U.S. Oil Reserve acquiring their daily quota of 76,000 barrels per day to add to the reserve of 701 million barrel stockpile (currently at 97% capacity) which is in place to cover two months of oil imports in the case of a major disruption. This halt in the Oil Reserve was done to put more gas on the market to help bring prices down but most analysts see this as having little effect on the price at the pump, it doesn’t address global supply and demand levels and thus has little impact on the price of gasoline. The average daily savings of the eco-week if implemented just in the U.S. is almost 5 times more than the reserves daily quota and there is a push to double the Oil Reserve capacity to 1.5 billion barrel stock pile. With the Eco-week savings going toward the Reserve (if the reserve was at 1.5 billion barrel capacity) this would only take just over 5 years to accumulate the remaining oil requirement.
Why is it important to have a reserve? China's government has released nearly 170,000 barrels of fuel from its strategic petroleum reserve last week to ensure adequate supplies in earthquake areas. This is for a localized event, how much more would be required in a nation wide emergency.
Another benefit from Eco-week is the amount of money the commuter is required to use to get to work, with a potential fuel savings of 20% each work week, the worker has a further incentive to keep the mileage down on their extra day off.
One problem of having all people off work on a Wednesday is the congestion would increase on the other four days as the time when people begin work won’t be as staggered as it currently is thus leading to longer delays and higher fuel usage in the increased congestion.
The solution to this is a tiered system for eco-week; some corporations may choose to take Tier 1 as discussed above providing Wednesday off. Other corporations may be required to be open throughout the week and can allow 50% of their work force to take the Tuesday off and the other 50% to take the Thursday off, this would be the Tier 2 Eco-week. Fuel savings for Tier 2 are still met as with Tier 1, the volume of commuters is reduced from Tuesday and Thursdays and fuel savings increases for those in traffic with reduced wait times, this also doesn’t allow for a three day weekend and reduces the potential for higher mileage three day weekend driving.
The Tier 3 work week is reserved for those at or slightly above minimum wage, these people would have Monday (50%) or Friday (50%) as their day off as a further incentive to working for lower wages as these people would be the least likely to drive long distances for their three day weekend.
Senior citizens who decide to continue to work after age 65 would also belong in Tier 3 work week but they would only work 8 hours per day on the 4 days a week – but paid for 40 hours, this would offer an incentive to those who want to continue working while at the same time improve their lifestyle and also stager these commuters during the rush-hour with their 8 hour work day.
As our workforce ages and many find they are unable to afford to retire or don’t want to, this solution would benefit not only those seniors but the companies which are looking for employees with work and life experience.
At age 75, those seniors who want to continue working, would drop to 3 eight hour days; Tues., Wed., Thurs., but paid for 30 hours per week. With baby boomers aging this could solve many problems beginning to arise in the workforce with less skilled workers and more job openings not being filled.
Larger and medium sized companies may also have the ability to stager their workforce using Tier 4: 20% of the workforce having each one day off during Monday – Friday, with only the 20% of the oldest and 20% of the youngest employees provided either Monday or Friday off.
Some Schools, out of necessity to stay within budget, have recently announced a shift to a four day school week to save not only to save on fuel for school bus fleet but also on savings realized if they can avoid heating of the school building on these extra off days in winter and cooling in late Spring and Early Fall. The four day school week adds an extra hour to each of the four school days.
Parents or guardians of School age children would be exempt from the first four Tiers and would be part of Tier 5, this part of the workforce would be allowed the same day off as their children’s school district.
This Tiered system would not only reduce the fuel consumption but would also reduce traffic congestion throughout the workweek which would also increase vehicle fuel efficiency thus saving even more fuel and reducing stress due to traffic.
Companies or businesses which are closed on a particular day (if the entire workforce is provided the day off) would also realize other savings with reduced heating and cooling.
If this Eco-week was implemented worldwide, with the global requirement currently at 85 million barrels per day, the world could save over 3 million barrels per day which is over 1.1 billion barrels per year – this equals a third of the U.S. yearly consumption and would thus reduce the worldwide supply and demand – which is currently behind much of the increases in oil prices.
These calculations do not take into account the savings which could be realized due to increased speeds with reduced congestion which should be substantial.
Benefits of Eco-week:
Reduced gasoline requirements
Increased fuel efficiency of vehicles – able to drive at economical speeds and idle less
Increased disposable income
Reduced heating and cooling requirements for work and school buildings
Less wear on vehicles over time (also increasing fuel efficiency and reducing costs for repairs and tune-ups)
More quality time for families to be together within the week
Incentive for low income employees (3 day weekends)
Incentive for senior citizens with 3 day weekend (age 65-69) & 4 day weekends (age 70+) and increased pay for seniors.
Potential for price reduction at gas stations as Supply and Demand is not outstripped.
Allow countries to place more oil into their reserves thus reducing geopolitical effects on gas prices.
I believe the major shift will not immediately come from governments but from Corporations looking to become eco-friendly and may help some companies achieve targets for carbon reduction requirements. If enough companies and the general public support the Eco-week then governments will eventually get behind it.
Down the road:
The numbers provide on gas savings are based on current driving habits (with very little inconvenience to the public), I believe it is not unreasonable to double these potential oil savings with some extra effort from the commuter to making a point of only use their vehicles for essential items on their extra day off. Can you imaging a world where we only require half of the current United States daily gasoline consumption by just modifying our workweek!
Also going a step further once (and if) Eco-week becomes widespread, would be to remove Sunday shopping to further reduce gas consumption on Sunday’s, as people would still have their Saturday and their extra day off during the week to shop, so the retail market would still have the two days throughout the week they used to have to service their customers and sales but would also realize the savings on Sunday wages and save on retail business heating cooling requirements.
While we live in a world which has become dependent on Oil, we can do a better job of managing the remaining supply.