A video purporting to show an endless line of cars queuing for compressed natural gas in Tehran was posted on YouTube yesterday, but was allegedly filmed on May 9, 2010, around midnight.
In an effort to reduce gasoline consumption, the Islamic Republic has encouraged the production and sale of natural gas vehicles and bi-fuel vehicles which run on compressed natural gas (CNG). Consumers have bought such cars in order to overcome gasoline rationing and a significant hike in gasoline prices which is expected once the new subsidy law is implemented. It is also feared that new sanctions will severely restrict gasoline imports. Although Iran has some of the world's largest petroleum reserves, it depends on gasoline imports because of its failing refinery capacity. According to Deputy Oil Minister Azizollah Ramezani, there are about 1.5 million bi-fuel vehicles on the country's roads today.
Unfortunately for the owners of such vehicles, the Islamic Republic has not built enough CNG stations to service the automobiles. Only 900 such stations are currently operating in the country, according to Ramezani, who may be suspected of padding the figures. In an unusual show of candor, Fars News published a report, reprinted by the Iranian energy conservation association, in September 2009 about the long lines of cars outside CNG stations around the country. (As Fars News is close to the Revolutionary Guards, this report may have been part of a campaign by the IRGC to gain the national contract for building a chain of outlets. The Khatam ol-Anbia Reconstruction Base, the IRGC's main engineering company, and perhaps the largest such group in the country, is already involved in several massive oil and gas projects, including the South Pars Gas Fields.)
'Most owners of bi-fuel vehicles, which entered the market following the decision of the 9th government (NB Ahmadinejad's previous administration) to optimize and reduce energy consumption, continue to express dissatisfaction, mainly because they must waste a great deal of time in long lines in front of CNG stations,' wrote Fars News. The news agency's intrepid reporter wrote, 'Around 11 AM, we arrive at the CNG station in Kordestan Freeway and the first thing that attracts our attention is a long line of cars stretching for 500 to 600 meters.' Reza Somboli, the CNG station's manager, told Fars news that such numbers of vehicles can be witnessed around the clock and that it is only between 1AM and 5AM that the line grows a bit shorter. This particular station has 4 pumps with 8 nozzles, but only 4 nozzles are actually working. A motorist must wait 90 minutes on average to get from the end of the line to a gas pump, Somboli said.
The Fars News reporter witnessed the same problem at the Shahid Hakim CNG station (3 pumps) a bit farther away. The footage posted on YouTube purportedly shows the Shahid Hakim CNG station:
View Tehran - Hakim Compressed Natural Gas station, Hakim Freeway - 9 May 2010 in a larger map
A translation of the cameraman's comments follows the video:
Hello, hello. So today was May 9, 2010. We were driving by, around midnight, and we saw a very interesting thing and we thought you should see it too. This car which you see parked sideways in a traffic circle is waiting in a nice line. Now this is where the queue starts.
What could this line be for?
Please drive a bit faster, because at this rate we won't make it home.
What a nice line. I'm Parsa Kamranian and am one of your dear countrymen visiting from Dubai. I saw this scene and it was really fascinating for me.
What a line. Unbelievable.
Maybe Julia Roberts is at the end.
Let me give a hint to our smart fellow citizens. We're near Kordestan [Freeway in Tehran]. Stop, stop the car. (They stop next to a motorist) Sir, what are you queuing for?
This line is for gas, my dear.
Gas! So that's what it is.
(Another motorist confirms the line is for gas.)
And here we are. The Shahid Hakim CNG station.