While people must dramatically change their behaviors to reduce their negative
impact on the environment, oil is a critical energy source that will be here to
stay for the foreseeable future, according to a prominent Canadian
“Unless there is some major breakthrough that we can’t
envision yet, we will be dependent on oil for most of our transportation for
decades to come,” said Dr. Patrick Moore, chairman and chief scientist of the
Vancouver- based Greenspirit Strategies Ltd.
The management and
procurement of such oil must, however, be carried out in an environmentally
responsible manner, he told The Jerusalem Post during a meeting in Jerusalem on
Wednesday. Moore, his president and CEO Tom Tevlin, and senior vice president of
policy and planning Trevor Figueiredo were in Israel this week, visiting with
officials at Israel Energy Initiatives (IEI), the firm aiming to extract oil
shale from the country’s Shfela basin near Beit Shemesh.
environmentalist, Moore grew up in the wilderness of British Columbia,
attending a one-room school in his village until he went on to high school and
then college at the University of British Columbia. There, he said, he
discovered ecology as well as the beginning of the modern environmental
“Like many people my age at that time, I was radicalized,” he
said. He soon joined a small group opposing Alaskan hydrogen bomb
testing, and in the basement of a Unitarian church, they decided to launch a
protest fishing boat to travel to Alaska.
“We named it the Greenpeace,”
After his arrest along with the 12 other protesters on the
boat, Moore finished up his PhD and spent the next 15 years committed to working
at Greenpeace, where he eventually became an international director, until his
departure from the organization in 1986. He left Greenpeace due to what he
called “zero tolerance” policies and established Greenspirit a few years
At Greenspirit, he and his colleagues said they have become
devoted to a concept of sustainability according to an “operational definition”
– which focuses on continuing to procure the food, energy and materials needed
for survival today while reducing the environmental footprint by changing
“We believe that we can radically reduce our negative
impact on the environment by changing the way we do things and changing the
technologies,” he said, giving the simple example of turning off the lights in a
room or swapping a halogen bulb for fluorescent.
friendly behaviors are crucial, so is providing for the human population and
adhering to a balance of “economical, environmental and social priorities,”
according to Moore.
“I believe that too much of environmentalism is
isolated from the need to take these things into consideration,” he said. “At
the extreme end, it’s almost as if nature would be better off without people
In the past few days, he and his colleagues have visited
IEI’s proposed oil shale pilot extraction site, have reviewed all of the
relevant maps and data, have visited the company’s laboratories at Ben-Gurion
University and have met all the key people involved with the project, he
In the Shfela basin, the company has estimated reside 40 barrels of
usable oil in the shale rock layer buried about 300 meters under the Earth’s
surface. Stressing that an impermeable layer separates the shale and the
area’s aquifer, and that the drilling will entail in-situ, underground
oil-heating through horizontal pipes, IEI has promised that its drilling will be
as environmentally friendly as possible. Having completed exploratory trials,
the company is eager to begin its pilot phase, but environmental activism groups
such as Greenpeace have adamantly opposed the project’s continuation – citing
risks to the aquifer and to open space.
“In general it would be a good
idea for Israel to have its own oil supply,” Moore said. “I understand that
we’re going to need oil for some time.”
Oil will remain absolutely
critical to both Israel and the world, particularly in terms of transportation
needs for the coming decades, while alternative sources such as hydroelectric,
nuclear and geothermal may be ideal for electricity systems, he
“An in-country industry producing oil would be a huge economic
boom to Israel,” Moore said, stressing that an energysecure Israel would more
likely lead to peace in general.
“There’s an economic component, and
there’s the environmental component of the relatively small footprint of this
form of extraction,” he explained.
Although he stressed that Greenspirit
had not yet become a direct “proponent” of IEI’s oil shale program, he said the
company abided by the environmental, social and economic principles that “fall
into our definition of sustainable.”
“In general we support this approach
because it has these attributes,” he said.
Tevlin added that “there’s
work to be done – we have to find out how the process goes.”
Greenspirit has experience working in a wide range of industries in agriculture,
energy and mining across the world, the organization’s time spent handling oil
sands in Canada are perhaps most applicable to the Israel oil shale project. In
Canada, some of the oil sands are mined from the surface – and then after oil
extraction, return to the ground clean – while others require a similar in-situ
drilling process, Moore explained.
“We support the Canadian oil sands
because every square inch of land by that law must be reclaimed,” he said.
“We’ve seen it with our own eyes.”
Although the area being “actively
disturbed” remains this way for some years, it truly does undergo a proper
rehabilitation process afterward, he added.
For the leaders at IEI,
bringing in Moore and his team provides the company with critical strategies as
to how to promote sustainable development, a field in which Israel is still very
new, IEI CEO Relik Shafir explained.
“We think that utilizing their
experience and knowhow will be beneficial to our approach,” Shafir
Moshe (Musa) Gabay, vice president for business development and
legal affairs at IEI, was directly responsible for finding Moore and said he and
his colleagues knew “we need to seek help outside of Israel,” in order to
implement a comprehensive sustainable development strategy.
“To me, it
fit perfectly,” Gabay said. “[Canada] is a perfect example of a country that is
facing successfully the challenges of developing a resource.”