Vehicles powered by compressed natural gas, methanol mixes and other fuel
alternatives will be crucial elements in reducing Israel’s dependence on oil in
the not-so-distant future, according to a proposal approved at this Sunday’s
The plan mandates that 2013 to 2025 become a transition
period for Israel’s transportation sector to non-petroleum alternative energy
sources, pursuant to two prior decisions in 2010 and 2011.
In February of
2010, the cabinet first decided to establish a team led by National Economic
Council chairman Prof. Eugene Kandel, which would formulate a national
policy on reducing petroleum dependence.
Less than a year later, in
January 2011, the cabinet approved this national policy, which called for
Israelis to develop technologies to reduce global oil dependence in
transportation alongside a NIS 1.5 billion government investment over the next
Sunday’s proposal, which was headed by Eyal Rosner of the
Alternative Fuels Administration at the Prime Minister’s Office, aims to reduce
petroleum’s weight as an energy source for Israel’s transportation by 30 percent
in 2020 and by 60% in 2025, the Prime Minister’s Office said.
reducing the domination of petroleum as a transportation fuel source, will be
lowering of the cost of living in general via the reduction of fuel prices,
according to the proposal. Also critical to reducing the petroleum presence is
encouraging economic growth – including green growth – and simplifying
bureaucratic and regulatory processes that will promote technological
developments as well as infrastructure growth for alternative
In addition to decreasing the burden of petroleum on the
transportation fuel market, the proposal also stipulates that the government
must establish a comprehensive action plan for alternative fuel integration
going forward. Under this action plan, the director-general of the
Transportation Ministry will be responsible for characterizing the safety
requirements for compressed natural gas (CNG) buses within 180 days.
in that same time frame, the director-general will need to formulate regulations
for vehicles powered by alternative energy sources, such as those operating with
multiple fuel options (Flex Fuel Vehicles), as well as those running on
biofuels, methanol, ethanol and various other systems, the proposal said. The
director-general will also be responsible for completing regulations, including
those involving repair garages, for electric and hybrid-powered
The Transportation Ministry director-general will also need to
formulate cooperation plans with automakers on fuel mix integration, as well as
regulations and policy for the new types of transportation in conjunction with
the Finance Ministry and Tax Authority, the document said. Such policies will
ideally bring about the reduced use of private transportation, as well as
introduce methods and models for car sharing, “personal mobility” on two-wheeled
vehicles and “personal rapid transit” – individual pod-car public transportation
Meanwhile, the director-general of the Industry, Trade and Labor
Ministry will be tasked under the action plan with examining the barriers to
basing industrial production on natural gas and alternative fuels. In addition,
this director-general will be responsible for creating measures that would
promote and create competition for these oil substitutes, in collaboration with
various government offices.
Among the other stipulations of the action
plan will be the formulation of a taxation plan for the new fuel sources by an
inter-ministerial committee, including an examination of green taxation policies
by the Tax Authority, the proposal said. Meanwhile, the director-general of the
Energy and Water Ministry will need to oversee further field tests and
demonstration projects to prove the operational feasibility of the various fuel
The director-generals of the Transportation and Energy and
Water ministries, together with the standards commissioner of the Industry,
Trade and Labor Ministry, will also need to examine the regulatory processes
that allow for mixtures of traditional gasoline and methanol such as M15 (15%
methanol), M30 (30% methanol) and M85 (85% methanol).
The action plan
will also require the director-general of the Environmental Protection Ministry
to perform a techno-economic analysis on the use of organic wastes to produce
alternative fuels, the document continued.
In addition, a new
inter-ministerial team headed by the national planning director for fuel
alternatives at the Prime Minister’s Office will formulate a comprehensive plan
for encouraging the introduction of non-petroleum-based fuels into cities. That
same director for oil substitutes will need to present the progress of the
entire action plan to the government every six months.
Finally, as part
of the government’s green policies, the Finance Ministry accountant-general will
need to review and formulate a policy to increase the use of alternative fuel
vehicles in the government fleet of cars, the proposal said.
Water Minister Uzi Landau praised the government’s approval of the proposal,
calling natural gas “the country’s biggest growth engine” and a mechanism for
reducing Israel’s dependence on oil.
“Research and development in this
area could lead to a breakthrough that will contribute to reducing global
dependence on oil,” Landau said. “To this effect, it is important to find a way
in which we can most vigorously combine international political activity that
summons Jewish people toward advancing the development and implementation of oil
alternatives in transportation.”
While experts praised the government’s
decision to approve the proposal, they also stressed that portions of the
document were left a bit too vague.
“I think this is a huge advancement,”
Dror Strum, president of The Israeli Institute for Economic Planning, told The
Jerusalem Post during an interview at the group’s Herzliya office on
The biggest problem that Strum had with the proposal, however,
was that the availability of natural gas quantities was not defined in its
pages. For example, he said, the annex pages of the document suggest that in the
year 2025, the country will require about 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas
for public transportation, while the Zemach Committee report issued by the
Energy and Water Ministry in September only estimated about 1.49 billion cubic
In response, the Energy and Water Ministry assured the Post that
there was no contradiction because the Zemach Committee report also included an
index with the 5-billion cubic meters estimate.
Regardless of what the
exact number is, Strum stressed that in order to advance its action plan
regarding petroleum alternatives for fuel, it must first ensure that the country
maintains enough of its natural gas supply at home – at least 85% for the year
2015, a percentage that would gradually decrease year-by-year.
government should have taken another step and said we want to secure and decide
very clearly that in using natural gas, we are making the use of natural gas in
domestic markets a priority,” Strum said. “We are living in a world of
interpretations, not of certainty.”