Josh Wood

A journalist's observations on Lebanon and elsewhere

Can Lebanon’s Roads “Go Green?”

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I first started thinking about the prospects for green technology cars in the Middle East when I was riding in a cab in Cairo’s Dokki neighborhood a couple of months back.  The driver apologized as he banged a right into petrol station and rather than driving up to the normal pumps, got into backed up line of white cabs.  I was slightly confused – and agitated at the time because of the wait – until he popped his hood and I saw that he was getting compressed natural gas (CNG).

Cairo’s newish cab fleet of white cabs with black checkers running through the middle are a god send for the city.  Not only do they use fairly-priced meters which keep arguments with drivers over fares to a minimum, but they’re also helping clean up the city.  On the economic side, drivers get more miles per gallon and get chances to earn more money by hosting advertisements on the sides of the cars.  With a trade-in option for previous vehicles, it’s little wonder that Cairo’s dilapidated and old fleet of black clunkers is quickly losing ground.

The thought that passed through my mind was that if Cairo – a city known for its chaos, pollution and corruption – can go green, can other places in the Middle East?

In Lebanon’s proposed 2010 budget (yes, still held up in bureaucracy even with less than 90 days left in the year) there is a clause that would slash import tariffs on hybrid cars entering the country.  These import tariffs plus a 10% Value Added Tax mean that cars in Lebanon can cost much more than their actual retail price.  Many cars in the country cost up to 50% more.

Right now, a Toyota Prius costs about $60,000 in Lebanon – not exactly a steal compared to the price tag in the $20,000 – $30,000 range in the US.  With those kinds of prices, its easy to see why hybrids aren’t exactly hip in Lebanon just yet.

However, if the clause passes hybrids could suddenly see their prices drop significantly and could in some cases, be even cheaper than their non-hybrid equivalents.  It will be interesting to see.

Anyways, I go into more depth on this in my article in this month’s Executive Magazine, so check it out.

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Written by woodenbeirut

October 6, 2010 at 2:23 pm

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