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US Senate c'tee passes bipartisan US-Israel energy bill
By SHARON UDASIN
20/12/2013
Cooperation enhancement bill to foster partnership on developing natural gas, alternative fuels on all levels.
 
The United States Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday passed a bipartisan bill that aims to bolster collaborations between Israel and the US on energy issues.

Led by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), alongside Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the United States-Israel Energy Cooperation Enhancement Bill hopes to foster partnerships on developing resources such as natural gas and alternative fuels, on academic, business and governmental levels.

Landrieu and her colleagues introduced the bill in September, at which time she argued that the US is "uniquely qualified to lead the effort to help Israel develop" its new-found hydrocarbon resources. Her region of America – the Gulf Coast – has one of the most advanced offshore drilling industries in the world.

“Today’s Senate vote is a huge step forward in our work to enhance the partnership between Israel and the US on energy production," Landrieu said, following the committee's decision to approve the bill. "With the Gulf Coast’s unparalleled expertise in offshore oil and gas development, we are in a prime position to help our critical ally develop this resource."

Landrieu has been working for the past few years to strengthen US-Israel collaborations on energy research and development. In doing so, she organized the first American oil and gas trade mission to Israel in October 2011, in conjunction with the US Department of Commerce. The following year, she led a second such delegation, during which 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 was instrumental in bringing a delegation of Israeli energy officials, including then-energy and water minister Uzi Landau, to Louisiana and Washington, DC, to discuss partnerships in the field.

If the bill goes on to pass on the Senate floor, it will encourage continued engagement among the countries' government agencies, the bill suggests jointly honing regulatory best practices, cyber energy infrastructure, energy efficiency of water technologies, environmental management of deepwater exploration and coastal protection and restoration.

"This will boost economic opportunities here at home, while supporting Israel in its effort to secure energy independence and security," Landrieu said.

The bill also calls for an official recognition of cooperation between the two countries on energy, strengthening a particular relationship between the United States National Science Foundation and the Israel Science Foundation. Likewise, the bill aims to expand existing US-Israel governmental grant programs, through the Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) program and the Binational Science Foundation, programs that would be reauthorized through the 2024 US fiscal year if the bill becomes law.  

In addition, the bill calls for cooperation between the US Department of Energy – including its national laboratories – and the Israeli government, as well as the launch of a US-Israel Center based in America that would advance further discussions about and developments of technological innovation and geopolitical studies relevant to the energy sector.

"Over the last several years, I have been working to increase collaboration on energy development with this critical ally, and this legislation is a major part of that effort," Landrieu said, thanking those who partnered with her on the bill. "I urge my Senate colleagues to support this legislation."
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