Iran's nuclear program: 4 things you probably didn't know

Do the US and Israel believe that Iran has a nuclear weapons program?  Did President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really promise to "wipe Israel off the map"?  The answers may surprise you.

3. Iran has a legitimate need for more energy, which is driving its nuclear efforts.

Iran has always insisted that its nuclear research was for peaceful purposes only: to provide more energy to a growing Iran.  In all the debate over the possibility of Iranian nuclear weapons, it is easy to overlook the fact that Iran does indeed need more power, power which nuclear plants could provide.

While Iran is a major supplier of both oil – it is the fourth largest producer in the world according to the CIA's World Factbook – it is also a major consumer.  The Green Party of Iran (an environmental party not to be confused with the Green Movement behind the 2009 presidential protests) estimated in 2000 that Iran ranked second only to the US in gasoline consumption.  But despite Iran's huge oil production, it lacks the facilities to refine it into gasoline, forcing it to import a barrel of oil for every eight it exports.  According to Majd, some Iranians blame their lack of refining infrastructure on Western sanctions.

Iran is also the world's fifth largest producer of natural gas globally according to the CIA's World Factbook.  But it consumed 137.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2010, almost as much natural gas as it produced that year. (Editor's note: This sentence was revised to correctly reflect Iran's natural gas production in 2010.)

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