The other day The Himalayan printed the interesting headline “Hybrid cars fail to ease Pakistan’s gas woes even as taxes are lowered.” I puzzled over this one as their site loaded – did it mean that people drove their hybrids so much that any savings in fuel were then made negligible through an increase in use?
Sometimes the simple explanations fly right over my head. What the headline really means is: people just aren’t buying these vehicles, even though the customs duty or tax on them was lowered – sometimes by as much as 100%. A Toyota Prius is still two million rupees more expensive than a similarly sized Honda Civic.1
Pakistan has struggled with an energy crisis for years, and I wonder if people’s reluctance toward the new hybrid could stem from disappointment in the government’s earlier push toward using compressed natural gas (CNG). Pakistan heavily promoted CNG in the 1990’s, and today 80% of all cars in Pakistan run off CNG.2
This push, coupled with mismanagement (30-40% of CNG is apparently “lost through illegal and inefficient connections”) has led the country directly into the current crisis.3 There’s a possible pipeline to Iran, but it also brings the threat of US sanctions if completed. CNG may soon be only a memory in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, power-rationing blackouts have become routine. The shortage is estimated at about 3 billion cubic feet per day, or 75 percent of national demand.4 Cars line up at closed fuel stations, gas for cooking and heating is scarce, and winter is just getting started.
- http://www.pakwheels.com/new-cars/compare/honda-civic-vti-1-8-i-vtec-oriel-prosmatec-171-vs-toyota-prius-s-1-8-809 ↩
- http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/25/cars-pakistan-compressed-natural-gas-rationing ↩
- http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/pakistanis-protest-fuel-shortages-criticize-sharif-as-they-suffer-through-frigid-winter/2014/01/09/95ab0ace-75d6-11e3-bc6b-712d770c3715_print.html ↩
- Ibid. ↩