Wedded to the wheel

26 February 2013

Cars still rule the Middle East’s roads. But change can – and must – come, writes Robin Mills

The scheme has some problems. Ahmadinejad’s political opponents in parliament suspect it was intended to create a subservient lower-income bloc; and it stoked already serious inflation. The sharp devaluation of the rial under the pressure of US-led sanctions has now virtually reversed the subsidy reform. Nevertheless, the concept, under more favourable circumstances, seems the best yet advanced for the region. Egypt and Jordan have mooted similar plans. Low fuel prices encourage big cars and suburban sprawl. Compressed natural gas (CNG) has gained ground in Israel, Iran and Egypt as a way of using domestic resources and improving air quality. The UAE has some CNG trials, and even gas-powered abras (the water taxis that ply Dubai’s Creek). But CNG does not have the clear economic benefit to Gulf motorists that it does in the US or India. Similarly, electric and hybrid vehicles have made virtually no progress....

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