Iran warned of catas­tro­phe due to high en­ergy con­sump­tion

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IRAN’S sacked oil min­is­ter has is­sued a part­ing warn­ing to Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad, pre­dict­ing a loom­ing ‘‘ catas­tro­phe’’ in the Ira­nian en­ergy sec­tor be­cause of high con­sump­tion.

‘‘ If we do not find a so­lu­tion to the en­ergy prob­lem in the next 15 years, the coun­try will face a catas­tro­phe,’’ Kazem Vaziri Ha­maneh was quoted as say­ing at his farewell cer­e­mony.

‘‘ I am ready to prove that if the fuel sit­u­a­tion con­tin­ues along cur­rent trends we will face an en­ergy cri­sis in the fu­ture,’’ he said. ‘‘ The cur­rent pat­tern of con­sump­tion is a dis­as­ter for the coun­try.’’

The com­ments by Vaziri Ha­maneh, who also re­vealed for the first time that he was sacked in a cabi­net reshuf­fle last week, are a stark warn­ing about the en­ergy prob­lems of a coun­try rich in nat­u­ral re­sources.

Iran is OPEC’s num­ber two crude

oil pro­ducer and is also pin­ning ma­jor hopes on its gas re­serves, es­ti­mated to be the world’s sec­ond largest proven re­serves af­ter Rus­sia.

But fren­zied con­sump­tion of petrol forces it to im­port mil­lions of litres per day of re­fined oil to make up for a do­mes­tic short­fall. Waste­ful heat­ing meth­ods also cre­ate gas short­ages in win­ter.

The Gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced petrol ra­tioning in June in a bid to ease the im­mense strain on the bud­get of im­port­ing petrol for Iran’s 70 mil­lion peo­ple, but it is still forced to im­port huge quan­ti­ties of petrol daily.

A fur­ther prob­lem comes from un­der­in­vest­ment in its oil fields, an is­sue com­pounded by US ac­tion to pre­vent banks lend­ing to Iran be­cause of its con­tro­ver­sial nu­clear pro­gram.

The in­flu­en­tial re­search cen­tre of par­lia­ment also sounded a down­beat note on the fu­ture of Iran’s gas in­dus­try, say­ing that ex­ports would not be pos­si­ble in the next 10 years given the scale of do­mes­tic con­sump­tion. ‘‘ It seems that for at least the next 10 years there will not be any ex­tra gas for ex­port. Iran is ad­vised to re­move gas ex­port from the coun­try’s pol­icy due to the lim­ited pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity,’’ it said.

Turkey is cur­rently the only re­cip­i­ent of Ira­nian gas ex­ports, re­ceiv­ing sev­eral bil­lion cu­bic me­tres an­nu­ally.

But Iran is seek­ing to ex­port large quan­ti­ties of gas to Turkey and other coun­tries in the Mid­dle East, as well as to In­dia and Pak­istan through new pipe­lines.

Vaziri Ha­maneh con­firmed for the first time that he was sacked in the reshuf­fle, which also saw the de­par­ture of In­dus­try Min­is­ter Alireza Tah­masebi and was seen as a bid by Ah­madine­jad to step up his con­trol over the econ­omy. ‘‘ I did not re­sign, be­cause I still have the abil­ity to work. Any­one who has the abil­ity to work will not re­sign,’’ Vaziri Ha­maneh said, ac­cord­ing to the Mehr news agency. ‘‘ Sack­ing me from the min­istry was the pres­i­dent’s idea, and I obliged,’’ he added.

Vaziri Ha­maneh is a vet­eran oil min­istry of­fi­cial who was Ah­madine­jad’s fourth choice for the post when he took power in 2005. Two can­di­dates were re­jected by par­lia­ment and an­other stepped back of his own ac­cord.

He com­plained that in the ‘‘ two years of Ah­madine­jad’s Gov­ern­ment, oil man­agers had been forced to pay for all mis­takes made in the past.

‘‘ And I say here if th­ese group’s pres­sures are not stopped, the in­dus­try and the coun­try will face cri­sis.’’

Tah­masebi also launched a sting­ing at­tack on Ah­madine­jad’s eco­nomic poli­cies in his res­ig­na­tion let­ter, com­plain­ing of un­der­in­vest­ment and dam­ag­ing per­son­nel changes. AFP

Crit­i­cised: Pres­i­dent Ah­madine­jad

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