gas and electricity cuts add to the tension

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Cold weather has been hitting Iran for several weeks, causing gas cuts, which in turn cause power outages. Residents live at home in freezing cold, schools and state institutions are closed. While the country has already been the scene of mass protests against the regime for four months, the situation has led to new demonstrations.

After Russia, Iran has the largest natural gas reserves known in the world. However, the country is unable to provide its citizens with enough energy for national consumption. The Iranian regime welcomed the idea of ​​a “hard winter in Europe” after Russia invaded Ukraine. For months, he had been wishing that European governments would have no choice but to negotiate with him to exchange Russian gas for Iranian gas, because he already saw an advantage in the negotiations. But it is the Iranians who are shivering because the country is hit by a particularly cold winter.

At the onset of cold weather, in January 2023, authorities first had to close schools and many public facilities due to lack of gas for heating. Iranian Oil Minister Javad Ovci assured on January 15: “The closing of schools, universities and government offices in Tehran helped us a lot, we were able to save 2.5 million cubic meters of gas per day. .

But all cities are still without gas and therefore without heat, outside the temperature sometimes drops to minus 20, even minus 30 degrees. Amol, Sabzevar, Neyshabur, Gorgan and many other cities are without gas.

This gas cut has caused a new wave of protests in several Iranian cities, along with outrage on social media. Among them is the city of Torbat-e-Jam in the east of the country.

“The gas sector in Iran is old and underdeveloped”

Reza Gheibi is an Iranian economics journalist living in Turkey. He explains the reasons for the gas shortage in Iran as follows:

Iran is a country that continues to flare natural gas in oil well operations [on parle de “torchage”: NDLR] and those who cannot extract it due to old technology and mechanisms. Iran wastes more than 5 billion dollars every year [4,5 milliards d’euros, NDLR] increases the volume of gas in the operation of oil wells, and according to the World Bank, it ranks as the third most flared country in the world.

For decades, the Islamic Republic has not invested enough in the oil and gas industry to either develop it or maintain it.

To improve the situation, Tehran needs a lot of money and advanced technologies, which Iran does not have. Foreign companies should invest in this sector in Iran, but foreign companies do not want to enter a country like Iran where investments are risky and there are many international sanctions. Iran’s old and underdeveloped gas sector is not even able to use the country’s natural resources for its own needs.

This gas shortage has had other effects: people are turning to electricity to heat their homes and offices, putting more pressure on the country’s power grid. Iran’s national grid also consumes natural gas.

As a result, power outages occurred several times a week in most cities. In order to prevent general blackouts, the Iranian authorities have taken drastic new measures: public lights have been turned off at night in a number of cities, including the capital Tehran.

Power outage in Ashtehard industrial area. The entire area was plunged into darkness and many businesses had to shut down.

The lights of highways in Tehran have been turned off. Accidents happened in this darkness on January 11.

“The city has become strange, I don’t feel safe.”

Simin [pseudonyme] Iranian, lives in Tehran:

Twice in the last three days, electricity has been cut for several hours. And every time they informed by SMS that the electricity was cut off due to a technical fault. But the main problem I personally face is that street and road lights go out at night in many neighborhoods. Thus, the responsibility for the lighting of public places falls on the citizens. The only light sources in these dark streets are the lights of houses or shops. I don’t go out often, but every time I do, the view of the city in the dark amazes me. The city is strange and dark and I don’t feel safe. “

This darkness is visible even from the sky. Satellite images of Tehran, Isfahan and other areas of central Iran taken during the summer nights of 2022 show more light sources than the same areas in January 2023.

The photo on the right was taken on January 19, and the photo on the left was taken on October 18, 2022. The January photo shows fewer lights in winter in Tehran and Isfahan and many other regions of Iran. © The Observers/NASA

“Fewer women dare to take to the streets”

Simon continues:

There are fewer and fewer people on the streets, in cafes or restaurants. After months of protests, the streets seem empty, especially for the women who have led the protests for four months. We used to go to the central streets without a hijab so that there would be people around us, so that if the moral police gave us trouble, the people would protect us. Now that the main streets are dark, the number of women who dare to go out into the streets is decreasing.

Gas and electricity cuts have another effect: power plant engines run at full speed to produce as much electricity as possible, and to do so, they burn “diesel”, a cheap and low-quality, heavy and polluting fuel oil. has a significant impact on air quality. Our observers provide detailed information about this in the second part of our survey, which will be read on our website on Thursday, January 26.

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