Trump's energy secretary pick would deepen US-Israel ties in sector

Under the new administration the US stands to become a global leader in the natural gas sector, particularly in liquefied natural gas.

January 27, 2017 06:30
3 minute read.
US Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry leaves after the Presidential Inauguration of Donald Trump on

US Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry leaves after the Presidential Inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, 2017, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (photo credit: REUTERS)

If former Texas governor Rick Perry becomes energy secretary, American-Israeli relations in the sector stand the chance to become stronger than ever, industry stakeholders told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

“Rick Perry is a friend of Israel and has visited Israel,” said Zvi Rome, chairman of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce’s energy committee.

“What we have learned – we the energy committee here in Israel – is that this administration will take a fresh look at all energy issues in the US, where the lead concern is to allow energy companies to take their natural leadership position in the world.”

Rome spoke on the sidelines of the Chamber of Commerce event in Tel Aviv, during which the CEOs of 34 Israeli energy companies met to discuss the country’s energy future, alongside Shaul Meridor, director-general of the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry. As Israel pushes forward in the race to develop its own energy sector, and its natural gas industry in particular, the Chamber of Commerce is looking to promote relevant collaborations among American and Israeli companies partners.

If Perry receives confirmation as US energy secretary, this relationship is only likely to grow, according to Rome, who is also the co-founder of PetcoEnergy, an American energy development and consulting firm with operations in Israel.

“We may see growing participation of US companies in the Israeli energy business, if it is in the power plants or natural gas offshore development – so to speak, the support of the US administration,” Rome said.

Such support, he explained, could enable the companies to participate more freely in joint ventures and projects, he explained.

While the former Lone Star State governor is expected to take on the role of energy secretary, his confirmation still remains uncertain. On Monday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee delayed his confirmation “until further notice.” Perry’s appointment has been particularly controversial due to his call to eliminate the Department of Energy in 2011 as well as his previous denial of climate change. However, during his confirmation hearing last week, Perry expressed his regret for his statements about the department and also acknowledged the existence of climate change.

From the perspective of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce, President Donald Trump’s administration is expected to have a positive impact on both energy and business partnerships between the two countries.

Although stressing that “the uncertainty is so huge,” Oded Rose, CEO of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce, said he felt the new administration seems “very pro-business.”

“I’m not saying the previous one wasn’t, but the new one is even more,” he said, expressing his hopes that trade agreements between the two countries would stay strong.

While speaking largely optimistically, Rose did voice concern about Trump’s controversial comments on climate change.

“I’m concerned also about the world and global warming and I hope this is not going to be at risk,” he said.

Under the new administration, Rome pointed out how the US stands to become a global leader in the natural gas sector, particularly in liquefied natural gas.

Imported LNG still plays a critical role in the Israeli energy economy, serving as a backup source to its natural gas supply, from a buoy off the country’s Mediterranean coast. Due to the fact that only one pipeline connects Israel’s only operational gas reservoir, Tamar, to the country’s shore, Rome said he has recommended that the Energy Ministry consider acquiring an additional buoy for the time being.

“It’s unheard of and unthinkable to have a country that experiences war every three or four years relying on one pipeline from Tamar for the entire energy market, which is today consuming 60% of electricity based on that,” he said.

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