Even as Israel prepares to send delegations abroad to evaluate energy alternatives, the National Infrastructures Ministry said Sunday that the country spent "at least" NIS 27 billion on petroleum products in 2005, not including taxes.
"The National Infrastructures Ministry is working to reduce the State of Israel's dependence on oil," pledged minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, calling on all members of the government to join the effort.
Ben-Eliezer said that during his term in office he would seek to advance energy conservation as well as use of renewable energy sources and alternative fuels, noting that the world's major oil reserves are located in "such countries as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria and Venezuela" and that oil prices had tripled since 2001-2002.
This was the first year the ministry compiled figures on energy spending as part of its efforts to promote energy consciousness.
Findings from a government energy data base indicate that the economy's heaviest fuel costs were incurred by land transportation, which burnt NIS 13.8b. worth of benzene and diesel, followed by industry, construction and agriculture, which consumed NIS 5.2b. of various fuels, the ministry said.
An additional NIS 2.9b. of crude and diesel was required to produce electricity last year, while NIS 2.5b. went to power aviation and NIS 384 million worth of crude and diesel were consumed by the nation's boats.
Ben-Eliezer is set to leave Monday at the head of a delegation of ministry professionals and members of the Israeli business community specializing in energy and infrastructure destined for Baku, Azerbaijan, where the group will participate in a summit on energy in the Caspian Basin, a region rich in oil and natural gas.
Ben-Eliezer was scheduled to speak at the opening ceremony and present a lecture on Israel's energy network and its integration with regional and global systems.
During the talks, Ben-Eliezer will meet with the Azeri president Ilham Aliyev, as well as with the country's foreign and energy ministers, and energy ministers of other nations present, including Turkey, Ukraine and Georgia. He also will meet with leaders of private-sector energy providers in Azerbaijan, including non-Azeri companies.
The ministry hopes to interest the Azeris in piping oil to the Far East through Israel and supplying Israel with natural gas, it said.
The ministry also said recently that it would send a representative to an international seminar on energy conservation organized by the Chinese Communist Party's Financial and Economic Committee to be held June 12 and 13 in Beijing.