Experts: Balance gas exports, domestic needs
By SHARON UDASIN
Environment ministry D-G: Productive, stable economy will be one that is integrated with green concerns.
While the large discoveries of natural gas are an “economic blessing” that can
contribute enormously to Israel’s green growth path, the country must be careful
with the quantities it chooses to export, experts agreed on
“There’s no question that this is an economic blessing,” said
Environmental Protection Ministry director-general Alona Sheafer-Karo.
“It’s going to reduce pollution, [and] it’s going to give us money,
but together with that it raises very essential questions.”
was speaking at a panel called “A Greener Israel – A Distant Dream?” at the 2012
Presidential Conference in Jerusalem on Thursday. While exporting some
quantities of gas is certainly important, more of the gas should be left at home
for domestic use rather than be sold to others. This way, the country can avoid
a situation like the one afflicting Argentina, which over-committed its gas
export quantities and now has to import, despite its large gas reserves,
“We want to produce clean transportation here at
home,” she said.
The decisions that a committee led by Energy and Water
Ministry director-general Shaul Zemach on exactly how much gas to export will be
absolutely critical to Israel’s environmental and economic future, according to
“It’s going to be a fateful decision,” she
Dita Bronicki, cofounder of renewable energy provider Ormat
Industries, agreed with the director- general’s assessment, stressing that “we
were fortunate and we found gas close to us.”
“This is going to be a
terrible mistake if we are going to base ourselves on export of gas rather than
using it for ourselves and our own transportation needs,” Bronicki
“We are a very small country with big needs,” agreed Efi Stenzler,
the chairman of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund.
Freeman, commercial vice president of Eastern Mediterranean at Noble Energy,
agreed that security of supply is crucial and that selling to the domestic
market is always preferable, as the infrastructure required is
However, he argued that “people will only come in and develop
gas fields if you can sell the gas,” and this requires leaving a decent quantity
of gas available for export. Freeman also said he had “every confidence” the
economic issues associated with natural gas development in Israel would be dealt
with quite responsibly in Israel.
Maintaining enough gas within Israel’s
bounds is an “issue of the future generation,” and changing the mindset to
prefer the long term over now, added Prof. Eran Feitelson of the Hebrew
An economy, he stressed, cannot be based on natural resources
alone – it must be based on technological development and knowhow.
these lines, Israelis must internalize that a productive, stable economy will be
one that is integrated with environmental c o n c e r n s , Sheafer-Karo
“This is a perception that is already passé – but in Israel for
some reason we haven’t gotten rid of it – that there’s a dichotomy between the
economy and the environment,” she said.
“We cannot have a stable society
which is a safe investment to investors without talking about the
In Israel, such a small country, there are some 1,200
development sites where pollution levels are so bad that the developers will
need to invest billions of shekels in purifying these lands, Sheafer- Karo said.
Unless Israel continues to pass and enforce environmental regulations, it will
be in a very bad place both environmentally and economically, she
Stenzler agreed that Israel – and the world – “needs a new
vision,” so that the ever-increasing population on the globe can get out of a
situation of environmental emergency.
“Is a green world just a dream?”
Stenzler asked. “We need to erase the question marks; the future is already
here. However, we are struggling for the continuation of the existence of the
human race. This is the biggest challenge that we have.”