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Issues with Domestic Gasoline? The Battle Over Gasoline Rages On in Iran

By Maryam Kashani, Rooz Online

cartoon by Farhad Bahrami, Etemaad daily

The worsening of the air pollution situation in Tehran has resurfaced the in-fighting among Iran's political factions over gasoline.

Tasnim news agency, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, recently published a special report on imported gasoline and asserted that in fact it is the cause of the deteriorating air condition in Tehran. The news service writes, "While the head of the environmental organization speaks of an increase in the number of healthy days in Tehran because of the suspension of using reformulated domestically produced gasoline and because of the growing use of the imported Euro-4 gasoline, the arrival of the cold weather speaks of a different story. We are in fact witnessing the return of polluted air to Tehran and this time the increased pollution has a different source. Now, imported gasoline is the culprit which while on paper meets the Euro-4 standard, but to increase the octane purity level of the fuel requires the use of heavy metal additives such as MMT," which are said to be pollutants themselves. The report continues, "The former deputy of the national refinery and distribution company Jalil Salari has said that since domestically produced gasoline lacks MMT additives yet always passed the environmental tests, it is clear that the imported gasoline that is distributed in Tehran is of substandard quality."

Kayhan newspaper also published a report on the subject and wrote, "The head of Iran's environmental organization Masumeh Ebtekar believes that one main cause of Tehran's unhealthy air quality has been the use of domestically produced gasoline and that by stopping its distribution the pollution situation in Tehran would be corrected. Domestic production of gasoline has been stopped now but Tehran's air quality continues to fail acceptance tests."

Vatan Emrouz, the mouthpiece of the conservative hardliners known as the principlists also had a story on the subject and published it under the title of, "Hello Mrs. Ebtekar." The story itself read, "The directors of the environmental agency had in the past repeatedly asserted that domestically produced gasoline was substandard and directly attributed it to the unhealthy air quality of Tehran, directing public opinion to believe that by replacing domestically produced gasoline with its imported counterparts air pollution in Tehran would diminish. But these days, even if one ignored the display boards that present Tehran air quality condition, or the warnings that are issued one after another about the very bad air quality of the capital, all one has to do is look up and be convinced that the quality of air we breathe is in trouble." The writer continues, "Arak refinery now produced half its earlier amounts of gasoline, which amounts to about 8 to 9 million liters. And since all of Tehran's gasoline needs used to be met by this refinery, it is not clear how is the capital's need for gasoline met."

Since Hassan Rouhani's administration has come to office, the ministry of oil, on recommendations of Iran's environmental agency, has stopped producing gasoline domestically and instead has embarked on importing Euro-4 gasoline from abroad. The plan was to gradually phase out domestically produced gasoline because of its unacceptable air polluting ingredients. But conservative hardliners opposed this plan and there are reports that they opposed it because they reaped huge benefits from the gasoline produced by refineries affiliated to the Khatam-ol-Anbia company refineries affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards.

By mid May last year and as differences over this issue heightened, the CEO of the national refinery and distribution company of Iran Abbas Kazemi said this in response to a reporter's question about what he thought about the roots of the conflict over domestically produced gasoline: "I do not know about the root cause but petrochemical units are paid $90 more to produce high octane gasoline than what can be imported from the outside."

In those days, there were also reports that the oil ministry had refrained from providing the four petrochemical plants affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards. Fars news agency, itself affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, quoted Mohammad-Reza Rezai, a Majlis representative who had met with the minister of oil and wrote, "This meeting was about providing the necessary fuel to the Fars province refineries (Firuzabad, Jahrom, Darab and Fasa) and the minister refrained from providing the necessary fuel to these refineries. The minister said after the meetings 'since some of ownership stock of these plants belong to Khatam-ol-Anbia company I am not going to provide them with their needs.' Still, the fuel needs of these plants were subsequently provided but the differences between the oil ministry and the Revolutionary Guards remained public."

Last September/October, the issue domestically produced gasoline again made headlines and Kayhan newspaper posted headlines that the minister of oil had said that domestically produced gasoline was not air pollutant. Even though the government's spokesperson denied the quote, the issue did not leave the front pages of newspapers. Some conservative media in Iran said importing gasoline from outside was ignoring domestic capabilities and was against the 'resistance economy' envisioned by ayatollah Khamenei. Ansare Hezbollah's official newspaper also wrote, "The importation of 8 to 10 million liters of gasoline a day means the discontinuation of domestic production by local refineries enacted by the ministry of oil and is against the direction of resistance economy."

Despite these, the government has not altered its policy on this and the minister of oil Bijan Zanganeh announced, "Domestically produced gasoline had to be removed from the basked of acceptable fuels because of their air polluting qualities and those who have a stake in their continuation must end the hype (they have created)."

It appears that those interests that have a stake in the production and distribution of domestically produced gasoline have not accepted to step back and re-launch their protests with every opportunity that comes up.

... Payvand News - 11/25/14 ... --

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