US legislators led by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D Louisiana) introduced a bill in the Senate on Tuesday that aims to promote collaboration with Israel on energy research and development.

Landrieu proposed the bill alongside Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Titled the United States-Israel Energy Cooperation Enhancement Bill, the legislation aims to recognize the potential for and foster collaborations on developing resources such as natural gas and alternative fuels, through the countries’ academic, business, governmental and other sectors, according to the senators.

“With the discovery of the Leviathan field, Israel has the opportunity to achieve energy independence, boost its economy through natural gas exports and enhance its security,” Landrieu said. “This is an incredible chance for the US to share our energy expertise to support a critical ally, while creating economic opportunities here at home.”

Her region of America – the Gulf Coast – has one of the most advanced offshore drilling industries in the world. Landrieu argued that the US is “uniquely qualified to lead the effort to help Israel develop this resource.”

Landrieu has been working for years toward strengthening the bond between the US and Israel on energy research and development, organizing the first American oil and gas trade mission to Israel in October 2011, in conjunction with the US Department of Commerce. The following year, Landrieu chaired a second such delegation, where she called Israel’s gas finds “a game-changer” for a country in a “very difficult neighborhood,” during an energy conference.

In June 2012, Landrieu arranged the visit of a high-ranking delegation of Israeli energy officials, including then-energy and water minister Uzi Landau, to Louisiana and Washington, DC, to discuss energy collaboration.

“Through energy collaboration, academic cooperation and continued government dialogue, we will create jobs for our domestic oil and gas industry, support a critical ally in the Middle East in its quest for energy independence and security, and demonstrate the strength of the US-Israel relationship,” she said.

The US-Israel Energy Cooperation Enhancement Bill calls for an official recognition of the cooperation between the countries on this issue, and encourages collaboration among their academic institutions, business sectors and particularly the United States National Science Foundation and the Israel Science Foundation.

Urging continued engagement among the countries’ relevant agencies and ministries, the bill proposes sharing best practices in a number of energy-related fields. Among these are regulatory best practices, cyber energy infrastructure, energy efficiency of water technologies, environmental management of deepwater exploration and coastal protection and restoration.

The bill calls for expanding existing USIsrael joint grant programs, through the Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) program and the Binational Science Foundation. If the bill becomes law, these programs will be reauthorized through the end of the 2024 US fiscal year.

In addition, the bill calls for cooperative agreements between the US Department of Energy – including its National Laboratories – and the Israeli government, as well as the opening of a US-Israel Center based in America that would further dialogue, collaborations, technological innovation and geopolitical studies related to natural resource development.

“This is legislation that will strengthen the special bond between the US and Israel by increasing cooperation and dialogue on cutting- edge energy issues,” Wyden said. “The US should seize this opportunity to help Israel capitalize on a historic discovery of natural gas, and continue to share research and best practices on a range of renewable and other energy technologies.”

Murkowski stressed that the legislation will ensure “a cooperative spirit” among some of “the best and brightest” in the two countries.

“Cooperation with our closest ally in the Middle East is in our strategic interest and is especially important in light of recent discoveries of potentially major reservoirs of natural gas off of the coast of Israel,” she said.

Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and head of international affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce, praised the senators for taking steps in line with the chamber’s goals of strengthening regulatory and policy collaborations with Israel on energy.

“The American business community and the Chamber’s US-Israel Business Initiative are eager to advance a 21st-century energy partnership between the United States and Israel that moves both countries toward a more stable energy future,” Brilliant said.

The Israeli Energy and Water Ministry provided no comment in response to the bill.

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