Environmental activists protested outside and repeatedly interrupted speeches
during the Fifth National Energy Convention on Monday morning, slamming the
government for hijacking the public’s natural gas resources.
outside Tel Aviv’s Hilton Hotel with banners, the protesters from the Green
Course movement accused the conference organizers and participating government
officials of having a capitalist agenda and of abandoning the public interest
regarding natural gas.
Inside the conference hall, activists repeatedly
interrupted the speakers with such accusations, and one young woman was even
escorted out by security.
“Every three minutes someone comes to disturb
us,” said the convention moderator, as the woman left the room between two
The activists, along with many other environmental groups
throughout Israel, have demanded that the government ensure a domestic gas
supply for 50 years. The 250- billion-cubic-meter Tamar reservoir, which began
flowing earlier this month, will likely supply the country with enough gas for
25 years, but the neighboring double-sized Leviathan reservoir is slated to be
used for both domestic and export purposes. While the government has yet to
approve legislation on the matter, the Zemach Committee in the early fall
recommended allotting no more than 500 billion cubic meters for export – a
number that environmentalists feel is too generous.
Organized by the
Israeli Institute for Energy and Environment (IIEE), the annual National Energy
Convention aims to bring together entrepreneurs, investors and policymakers to
discuss the current state of Israel’s energy market.
Following a speech
from the chairman of the IIEE, Yossi Rozen, during which he emphasized the
importance of the Environmental Protection and Energy and Water ministries
working together, the institute presented an award of recognition to former
energy and water minister and now Tourism Minister Uzi Landau.
minister’s words, which consisted mostly of thanks to his former staff, were
likewise interrupted by various shouts from the activists in the
While praising Landau’s accomplishments in the position, Energy
and Water Minister Silvan Shalom emphasized the importance of increased
supervision at every step of Israel’s gas developments moving
Recalling his position as Energy Ministry director-general 23
years ago, Shalom stressed that he is happy to have the opportunity to “close a
Pointing out the stark difference between Israel’s present and
past positions in terms of energy security, Shalom likewise referred to an even
more distant period – the times of the Yom Kippur War, when Israelis could fill
up gas tanks only once a week because of a petroleum embargo. Now, the country’s
own natural gas is flowing in its pipes, and private power companies are
beginning to supplement the country’s electricity supply in order to ensure a
robust system, he noted.
However, Shalom recognized that electricity
prices have risen dramatically, particularly since the gas supply from Egypt
ceased. Looking forward, he stressed the importance of putting the Israeli
consumer at the center – focusing not only on what is good for the state but for
the individual as well.
Intrinsic to maintaining Israeli energy
independence and security will also be cooperation on energy issues with the
“It was my good fortune that as soon as I assumed my
post, the gas began to flow,” Shalom said.
Following Shalom’s address,
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz similarly echoed the virtues of
the large natural gas supply that Israel is now able to call its own. In doing
so, however, he called upon the government to ensure that this gas is able to
serve his grandchildren’s generation as well.
Along these lines, Peretz
said that Israel must make sure that its own citizens have at least 550 billion
cubic meters of natural gas before determining an export quantity – particularly
because the gas has uses that extend far beyond electricity
“The transportation industry is on the margins of the gas
revolution,” Peretz said.
“However, it is one of the most polluting. We
cannot skip over this industry in the green revolution that has overtaken
In addition, Peretz stressed that he would ensure that companies
that define themselves as green in name are actually adhering to green
practices, ensuring as high a quality of life as possible for future
After both ministers spoke, a representative from a second
activist group – a cohort of Emek Hefer residents – received the podium to
address concerns about building a second natural gas receiving terminal in their
While the residents are not at all against gas development for
Israel, they do not want this development to come at their expense, and instead
prefer an at-sea gas reception terminal, he explained.
“Amir Peretz and
Silvan Shalom, your roles are to protect us, to protect our security,” he said.
“I call upon you to worry about me, to worry about my friends.”