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  Geotimes - September 2007 - Iranian carmakers shift to natural gas cars

Energy and Resources
Iranian carmakers shift to natural gas cars

Recently mandated gasoline fuel rationing in Iran has forced the country’s top automaker, Iran Khodro, to beef up its production of cars that run on both gasoline and compressed natural gas. Government officials told reporters they expect the country will produce nearly twice as many dual-fuel cars during the current year than it did last year, according to an article in the Tehran Times on July 26.

Despite being one of the top five oil producers and exporters in the world, Iran lacks the appropriate infrastructure to produce enough gasoline to meet its own demand (see Geotimes, March 2007). The country imports at least 40 percent of its gasoline yearly. In an attempt to reduce the nearly $10 billion the government spends on subsidizing the cost of gasoline each year, Iran raised the price of gasoline in May to the equivalent of 11 cents per liter, about 38 cents per gallon. In June, the government announced a nationwide gasoline rationing system, angering many citizens who depend heavily on their cars due to the country’s limited public transportation system. Now, Iranians are allowed to purchase only 100 liters, or approximately 26 gallons, of gasoline each month.

Iran is in a better position to supply its citizens with natural gas. Iran is the world’s fourth largest producer of natural gas, and the country sits on the world’s second largest natural gas reserve, Azizollah Ramezani, gas supply manager of National Iranian Gas Co., told the Tehran Times on July 15. Most of the natural gas that’s produced in Iran is used domestically, he says. However, at the moment, the country has only 212 compressed natural gas stations. But by March 2008, Iran anticipates having at least 1,000 compressed natural gas stations nationwide, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported July 9.

In response to gasoline rationing and the promotion of compressed natural gas, Iran Khodro, the Middle East’s largest automaker, says it plans to start increasing its production of dual-fuel cars, and in October, it will begin to manufacture engines that run solely on natural gas, the Associated Press reported on July 10.

In addition to potentially saving Iran money, using natural gas may be more environmentally friendly, too. Cars running on compressed natural gas may be more fuel-efficient and emit less pollution than gasoline cars. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for example, estimates that cars running on compressed natural gas emit fewer carcinogenic pollutants into the air, and emit between 90 and 97 percent less carbon monoxide and 25 percent less carbon dioxide than traditional gasoline cars.

Iran claims the fuel rationing system is already working. During the first three weeks of rationing, the government estimates the country has conserved 400 million liters, over 100 million gallons, of gasoline, government officials told the Tehran Times on July 26. They also claim car accidents have decreased by nearly a third, and Tehran, the country’s capital, has less air pollution.

Erin Wayman

"Iran faces petroleum woes," Geotimes, March 2007

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