Iran's smog belies its nuclear ambitions

By Eric Watkins
Arab leaders of the Gulf region have appealed to Iran to "respond positively" to talks with world powers on the Islamic republic's contentious nuclear program.

They stressed the "right of all countries in the region to develop civilian nuclear energy within the standards and under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency."

But it looks like Iran is set to continue its defiance – and at a considerable cost to its own citizens’ health. That view emerged this week with reports about Iran’s efforts to produce its own gasoline.

Indeed, the head of Iranian National Oil Company has said that Iran intends to increase its gasoline production by 10 million liters within the next 3 months in an effort to show that sanctions imposed by the West are worthless.

“with the inauguration of the development projects for Iran's oil refineries next month, before the end of Iranian calendar year we can increase our gasoline production capacity by at least 10 million liters," said Masoud Mirkazemi.

The gasoline produced at Iranian refineries has a 98-100% octane rating, which proves that its quality is higher than imported gasoline, said Mirkazemi, adding that the West has lost regarding gasoline sanctions.

That may be, but the Sahamnews website, which is affiliated with the opposition E'temad-melli Party claims that substandard gasoline produced inside Iran is responsible for the heavy smog and pollution in Tehran.

The site claimed that the smog is cancerous and that the substandard gasoline has been produced inside Iran after the West levied its gasoline embargo on Iran following the deadlock in its nuclear talks.

Iran did not have the capacity to produce gasoline before the sanctions even though it has vast oil reserves, and the result shows. The smog has been so heavy that the government has had to reportedly call for public holidays in the past two weeks.

The website did not discuss why Tehran was particularly affected even though this domestically produced gasoline has been used throughout Iran. It said only that "Tehran and big cities" have been affected.

It quoted two lawmakers attesting to the smog being caused by this home produced gasoline.

"The pollution in Tehran is rising in an abnormal way. The substandard gasoline that is being used in Tehran has caused the rise in pollution... The source for much of this pollution is the government," said Mohsen Nariman, a legislator for the northern city of Babol.

"Unfortunately, the Oil Ministry has been unable to deliver standard grade gasoline and the Oil Minister has said that standard grade gasoline will not be delivered before 2012," said Anushiravan Mohseni-Bandi'i, a legislator for Chalus.

On Iran's nuclear ambitions, Mohseni-Bandi'i asked with a note of sarcasm, “How can a country that is pursuing nuclear technology not be able to guarantee the health of its own people?"

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