Government plans return to ‘work from home’ to save fuel in Ukraine war crisis

People will be ordered to work from home in the event of a war-triggered fuel crisis in Ukraine, as part of the government’s secret contingency plans.

he Sunday World has learned confidential details of a contingency planning exercise held 10 days ago between all major state agencies and the government.

The high-level planning exercise proposed three fuel supply shortfall scenarios, and the possible consequences were presented and discussed.

Delegates were given a scenario of a 20% diesel supply shortfall in September and a 35% supply drop in December. The third scenario, the most extreme proposed for February 2023, is when gas and oil supply cannot meet power generation demand or farmers prepare to cut silage.

The Sunday World can reveal that in the event of a national fuel crisis, emergency contingency measures discussed at the high-level meeting include: non-essential workers will be ordered to work from home; a limit will be placed on all non-essential car travel; a strict limit on the amount of fuel motorists can buy; and the implementation of an immediate and strict reduction in the speed limit on motorways.

The plan also includes the introduction of an emergency scheme under which motorists with an odd number at the end of their registration will only be allowed to drive or refuel on alternate days. Those with odd numbers could fill up on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and those with an even number on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The confidential meeting, convened by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) on May 26 at the National Emergency Coordination Center, was dubbed the “Oil Emergency Exercise.”

The meeting brought together members of DECC, the National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA), Fuels for Ireland (FFI), the Department of Transport and the National Emergency Coordination Group (NECG).

Each group had to go through the three possible scenarios. A government source described the planning exercise and the options available to alleviate supply issues and protect societal function as “very, very austere”.

“They gave us a scenario where there was a 20% reduction in diesel coming into the country. And then one where there was a 30-35% reduction, and then another where, essentially, we don’t have enough oil or gas, and the question arises as to whether we divert the oil to electricity generation or agriculture to produce food.

“All of this is highly unlikely, but discussing it openly when we know the situation in Ukraine has been an eye opener.”

Senior government sources told The Sunday World that the likelihood of a fuel crisis of the scale discussed at the meeting is “very low”.

The first scenario would be introduced if there was an 18-20% diesel deficit.

The plan states that if a supply shortfall of this magnitude occurs, it will lead to “diesel stockouts” where many filling stations will run out and supply to critical and emergency services will be threatened. At this point, NORA would be required to release limited quantities from its 90-day reserve stock to meet essential demand.

In the second scenario, fuel inventories have fallen to dangerously low levels – 35% below demand for eight weeks until December 19, 2022.

At this point, the NECG will discuss activating the Petroleum Emergency Allocation Scheme “to control the supply and distribution of diesel”.

The contingency plan, if implemented, would prioritize essential services and essential workers, with other motorists urged to limit their driving. If Ireland were to introduce fuel rationing, consumers would be separated into four categories.

The first level includes essential workers. Those classified at level four are motorists making non-essential journeys.

Kevin McPartlan, CEO of Fuels for Ireland, described the planning exercise as “cautious”.

“While it remains very unlikely that we will experience a reduction in fuel supply, it is prudent that we and the government engage in contingency planning,” he said.

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