Netanyahu awards biofuel prize 370.
(photo credit: Avi Hayoun)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu awarded the first annual Samson prize for
alternative fuel innovation on Tuesday, which at $1 million is the largest such
prize in the world. It went to Prof. George A. Olah and Prof. G.K. Surya
Prakash from the University of Southern California for their work on methanol
“We’re determined to end the monopoly of oil on transportation,”
Netanyahu said at the presentation, which took place during the Bloomberg
Alternative Fuels Conference in Tel Aviv.
“Both of these great
researchers and thinkers have made a significant contribution to our efforts.
The goal is to attract the finest minds in the world to address this global
challenge,” Netanyahu said.
Borrowing from his recent rhetoric on Iran –
a problem he noted was related to the world’s addiction to petroleum – Netanyahu
said the prize was “a big thing. A very, very big thing.”
research focused on how to cheaply convert natural gas to methanol using
recycled carbon dioxide.
Philanthropists Eric and Sheila Samson donated
half the money for the prize, which will be awarded every year for the next
The government has set a target of reducing the use of fuel in
transportation by 60 percent by 2025, a goal that would add 1% to national economic growth, Eyal Rosner, head of the Alternative
Fuels Administration in the Prime Minister’s Office, said
According to Rosner, the economic advantage comes mostly from
savings to consumers, but also from environmental savings, tax revenues and the
creation of a new industry around biofuels.
Alternate fuels would also
stabilize fuel prices, helping businesses, Rosner said.
theme of the summit was that a variety of fuel options competing with one
another was the path forward.
Fuels, such as methanol and ethanol, can be
safely mixed with gasoline and are sometimes cheaper and more efficient than
gasoline on its own. However, only cars built or retrofitted with special
engines can use the fuel.
Wesley Clark, a former US Army general who now
cochairs the ethanol lobbying group Growth Energy, said the issue carried
strategic, economic and environmental importance, not just for Israel but for
the world as a whole, and the United States in particular.
The US, he
noted, uses 19 billion barrels a day of petroleum, meaning it must spend $300
billion a year to import oil despite being the world’s largest producer. “That’s
2% of US GDP,” he said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, a sum that is
greater than that of government spending on college education, infrastructure
“It solves all the budget arguments if you think about
that huge amount of money year after year, and then you look at the policy
implications,” he said.