Uzbekistan’s gas shortage sparks calls for reform

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“We are experiencing problems with fuel throughout the whole year and especially during the cotton campaign, and after it,” said Kamol, a driver for the Samarkand tourist board, referring to the harvest season of one of Uzbekistan’s major exports. “All fuel goes to feed trucks and tractors on fields, and the gas stations are empty. We have no other way to find fuel, only to use speculators.”

Many drivers feel forced to purchase fuel on the black market, where prices typically are two-and-a-half times higher than normal market prices.

Others have begun converting their automobiles to run on liquefied gas — methane and propane. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 45,000 cars were converted in 2011, almost double the amount the year before.

Though much cheaper than gasoline, liquefied gas reduces a car’s power. And it doesn’t eliminate the long lines: There are far fewer liquefied gas stations than gasoline stations in Uzbekistan, and the procedure for filling liquefied gas cylinders is slow.

The reporter has requested anonymity for fear of government reprisals.

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