You would think that the world’s most expensive gas station ever built would be in a high-priced city like New York or Tokyo or some remote location, but it was, in fact, in one of the most war-torn places in the world–Afghanistan.
According to a report from October 2015 by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the Department of Defense spent a whopping $43 million to build a gas station that few cars could even use.
The Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) was the government entity in charge of building a compressed natural gas (CNG) station in the city of Sheberghan, Afghanistan, that would take advantage of Afghanistan’s large natural gas reserves and reduce the number of foreign imports. They awarded a contract in 2011 to Central Asian Engineering to build a CNG station on Afghan government land for just under $3 million. The gas station was completed in 2012 and later given over to a company called Qashqari Oil and Gas Services to run in May 2014. The company didn’t renew its business license six months later.
The report stated that between 2011 and 2014, the TFBSO spent $42,718,739 for the construction and initial operation of the gas station, with the amount being broken down to about $30 million in overhead costs and $12.3 million in direct costs. A comparative CNG station in neighboring Pakistan was found to cost $306,000.
But the station needed CNG equipped cars and trucks to be able to use it. The cost for a vehicle to be converted to run on CNG was about $700, which was more than what an Afghani made on average in an entire year–$690. The U.S. government paid to convert 120 Afghan vehicles, but SIGAR found that no other vehicles were converted. The infrastructure for the transmission of natural gas to the station wasn’t even in place enough to make CNG accessible.
While it seems like a mystery why the station was built in the first place, an even bigger mystery is why the Department of Defense (DOD) had no answers where all the money went and why it was so expensive to build the station. The DOD was unable to provide any documentation to SIGAR or even supply a feasibility study. And to make matters worse on finding answers, the TFBSO, which was supposed to report directly to the DOD, closed down in May 2015. Chalk this one up to another prime government boondoggle and tax dollars that will never be seen again.
Top Image Source: SIGAR