“You know what I did? I left troops to take the oil. I took the oil. The only troops I have are taking the oil, they’re protecting the oil. I took over the oil.”

  • Power Cuts in Beirut Spawn an Informal Energy-Hawking Industry

    Even if Bassil’s strategy were to be implemented, there is still the issue of generator operators who make large sums of money off the state’s absence. Gilbert is one of these operators. An affable man in his thirties, he lives just outside Beirut where he sells power from generators. A little while back though, Gilbert had a problem.

    “There was a glitch once in my neighborhood and for some reason we were getting 24 hours of state-sponsored electricity,” he says. Unwilling to change his lifestyle of sleeping until noon, Gilbert decided to take some initiative.

    “I went to someone at the electric company and bribed him to give us power cuts,” he said, cackling hysterically. “That’s how I make my money.”

    Much of the country lives on generators these days, especially outside of Beirut. In Tripoli’s Bab al-Tabbaneh, 76 percent of residents make less than $500 a month, according to a report released by the UN in February. An average of around $75 of that goes to paying for generator costs.

    “We only pay for the generator because we steal electricity,” said Mohammad, a resident of Bab al-Tabbaneh who preferred his last name not be used. He added that he believed the fixed cost of electricity was around $12 a month for the area.