60 MKs demand gas export issue come to Knesset

Letter to Netanyahu says decision whether or not to export Israel's natural gas is a weighty one that demands public discussion.

April 24, 2013 20:52
2 minute read.
Tamar natural gas rig.

Tamar natural gas rig 370. (photo credit: Albatross)


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At an emergency session of the Knesset’s Social-Environment Lobby on Wednesday, some 60 MKs signed a letter demanding that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu bring the issue of determining gas export allocations to the legislature.

“The decision on the issue of exporting the gas from reservoirs discovered near Israel’s coasts bears far-reaching economic, social and environmental implications,” said the letter, written by MK Dov Henin, chairman of the lobby.

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“The issue is a weighty one and it should be discussed and ultimately decided by the hands of the Knesset, in the framework of a comprehensive and transparent public and professional discussion,” he continued.

Last fall, the Zemach Committee – headed by Energy and Water director-general Shaul Zemach – recommended that the government allow for the export of no more than 500 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

While the government has yet to adopt this recommendation, environmentalists as high-ranking as Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz and former environmental protection minister Gilad Erdan have said this allotment is too generous.

The already flowing Tamar reservoir, with 250 billion cubic meters of gas, is to be used for domestic purposes only, but its roughly double-sized neighbor Leviathan is expected to be used, at least in part, for export.

From the point of view of the gas entrepreneurs in the Mediterranean, without the opportunity to export gas to other markets, exploration in the region will cease. Without the certainty that there will be profitability and multiple markets for their work, new companies would have no incentive to enter the region, the firms say.

At the emergency meeting of the Social-Environment Lobby, Henin stressed that the exports would have deep implications for Israel’s economy and would be “a mistake all around.”

Exporting the gas would drive up electricity prices in the home and would leave less of the cleaner resource for domestic use, harming public health, Henin said.

“This battle is critical and significant and without the public’s support we cannot do anything,” opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich said.

“We would lose ecofriendly-based energy independence, we would lose money, we would lose thriving industries that rely on natural gas and we would lose cheap electricity for all of us and a substantial price reduction on all the products we buy,” Yacimovich continued. “The direct loss to each family if the gas is exported will be more than a quarter million shekels.”

Dana Tabachnik, head of the economics and environment department at Adam Teva V’Din, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, compared the export of gas to the export of water – asking the attendees meeting to facetiously accept her offer “to preserve for the state enough water for 15-25 years.”

“After all, due to the global and regional shortage of water, we can export the rest of [it] and make great financial profits,” Tabachnik said.

To ensure that Israelis enjoy the benefits they are entitled to from the gas finds, Tabachnik called upon Knesset members to approve a bill proposed by Henin – and drafted by Adam Teva V’Din – that would guarantee a gas supply for Israel for the next 50 years.

“The Israeli government has a moral obligation to ensure that future generations will enjoy the gas reserves that will produce less polluting energy,” Adam Teva V’Din executive director Amit Bracha said.

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