The Israeli government must educate the public as to how a strong natural gas
export policy will not only strengthen the country’s economic position globally
but also create jobs at home, a United States Chamber of Commerce official told
The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
“I think there’s a good debate going on in
the government – a healthy debate on how to maximize the gas finds and how to
strengthen the domestic economy and have a supply that provides energy security
for 30 to 50 years, combined with the reality that there could be an abundance
of gas that could be exported,” said US Chamber of Commerce executive vice
president and head of International Affairs Myron Brilliant.
was in Israel from Saturday through Monday meeting with various government
officials with the aim of fostering further cooperation between the US and
Israel on the latter’s emerging hydrocarbon industry.
week-and-a-half ago, Brilliant sent a letter and a detailed 12-page memo to
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as to how the two countries can advance this
partnership, which could also serve as a “catalyst” for elevating overall
In order to maintain and strengthen the relationship,
however, Israel must establish stable, supportive and transparent policies and
regulations for handling its gas both at home and in its export capacity, the
Chamber of Commerce official wrote.
Because the US has recently gained a
wealth of experience from its own gas finds, Israel should take advantage of the
country’s expertise as it develops those policies that will regulate the
industry, the memo said. Although warning that excessive regulation can threaten
economic and security goals, the memo stressed, the government must push forward
scientifically rooted environmental safeguards to protect its
Meanwhile, an export program for gas must be grounded in
certainty and clarity, as an unstable program could “paralyze energy sector
activity” and discourage future investors, the memo said.
also be able to guarantee uninterrupted gas flows by accumulating reserves in
gas reception terminals so that backups exist in the event that a terminal
Revamping the archaic Petroleum Law of 1952 will also be critical,
as will streamlining regulatory framework so that investors and stakeholders do
not have to contend with such a plethora of regulatory bodies, the memo
Together, Israel and the US should move forward with work on
improving cyber and physical protection mechanisms for energy facilities, and
should continue cooperative research and development activities on an academic
level, the memo stressed.
Opening a branch of a US non-governmental
organization in Israel – such as the American Petroleum Institute – could also
be worthwhile for Israel’s regulatory future, the memo noted.
was well received and was widely distributed among different ministers and
government officials, Brilliant noted on Monday.
environmental organizations have been up in arms over the possibility of the
country exporting up to half of its natural gas resources, if recommendations
from the Zemach Committee – chaired by Energy and Water Ministry
director-general Shaul Zemach – do end up receiving government
While Brilliant said he is fully aware of and understands the
concerns, he stressed that “an export policy that gives some regulatory clarity”
can only serve to benefit the country.
Only such a policy can bring in
new participants to the market, who will potentially be able to increase natural
gas explorations and finds, Brilliant explained.
“It’s not just the
direct beneficiaries,” he said. “It’s the indirect
Increased dialogue between the US and Israeli governments
on energy matters may be able to provide constructive support for Israel’s
potential aim of exporting some of its finds, he continued. The US, too, has
been undergoing a similar debate on hydrocarbon exports, and all the while the
Chamber of Commerce has been advocating exporting the resource in a liquefied
natural gas (LNG) state, Brilliant explained.
“We believe that we can
keep costs low in our economy, secure energy resources but also develop export
markets that can create jobs,” he said. “You can secure growth in your domestic
market by having a balance.”
Like America, Israel needs to develop a
stronger energy policy, with the understanding that energy protocols cannot be
separated from economic and security strategies, according to Brilliant. In
part, this mission can be accomplished by strengthening “the vibrancy of the
economic relationship between Israel and the US in technology fields,” he
It is the goal of the Chamber of Commerce to see more US energy
firms coming to Israel’s Eastern Mediterranean for natural resource exploration,
Although expressing certainty that a decision to export
gas would be the correct path forward, exactly how Israel should position itself
in the global energy market, Brilliant argued, can be flexible.
option, he noted, would be working together with neighboring Cyprus, a nation
that also has sizable gas discoveries and plans to construct an LNG export
“There’s no question that in looking at new markets in the
region that Israel will have to be creative in finding partners in distributing,
and going through Cyprus is just one of perhaps a few options that may be
available,” Brilliant said.
“There are only a few options so it makes
sense for the Israeli government to consider all options recognizing the