A man pumping gasoline at a gas station 370 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters)
What if the Middle East suddenly became irrelevant? What if the Palestinians
and Israelis could sit down and bargain over peace terms without meddling by the
great powers or hostile Islamic nations? It could happen and, in fact, to some
degree it is. The reason: A radical change in the geopolitical map of the world
due to massive discoveries of natural gas, through the process known as
‘fracking’ (hydraulic fracturing of rock layers by pressurized liquid to release
natural gas), developed first in America.
The world consumes about 2.4
trillion cubic meters of natural gas yearly.
The estimated annual supply
of natural gas through fracking is: US 24.4 (trillion cu. meters), Argentina,
21.9; Europe, 18.1; Australia, 11.2; and China, 36.1. Total: 111.7 trillion
cubic meters. In other words, about 50 years’ worth of consumption.
if you assume that some of the natural gas will be converted to fuel to run cars
and trucks, there is still at least 25 years’ worth of annual
One estimate suggests that there is as much as 900 trillion
cubic meters of natural gas reserves in the world.
What this means is
that the world can now liberate itself from the tyranny of Mideast
It is true that crude oil is still vital to produce gasoline for
cars and trucks; some 70 percent of proven world crude oil reserves are in the
Mideast. But technology exists both to run cars and trucks on natural gas and to
convert natural gas into gasoline. Qatar, for instance, has already built a
massive plant that makes gasoline from natural gas. Israel and America should do
the same. Israel’s Better Place already enables cars to run on electric power,
used to recharge electric car batteries at night when electricity is cheap. With
natural gas-driven cars, Israel could run its cars and trucks without refining
crude oil at all. So could every country.
The massive new supplies of gas
have already reduced the price of a unit of energy from gas from rough equality
with crude oil in 2009 to only one-fifth today. With the right infrastructure,
the cost of fuel for cars and trucks can fall by half using natural gas as
The impending decline of the strategic importance of Mideast oil is
a blessing. Despotic governments in Saudi Arabia, Iran and elsewhere are kept
afloat solely by petrodollars.
Leaders of oil-rich Mideast and North
African countries have utterly failed to build any semblance of a modern
economy; Libya is the ultimate poster boy. They did not have to upgrade their
economies – oil money lubricated their pockets and those of their cronies and
kept them in power. Now there will be no choice. Either modernize or be swept
away by hungry masses.
This is highly positive for Israel.
crude oil is no longer important, Iran will have to join the 21st century, and
build a real economy − today, Iran cannot even refine its own crude oil and has
to import gasoline − the ayatollahs’ reign could end and Saudi money will no
longer fund Islamic extremists all over the world.
Since the discovery of
the Noa North gas field in 1999, Israel has discovered offshore gas amounting to
1.23 trillion cubic meters, worth almost a whole year’s Gross Domestic Product.
A great debate now rages over what to do with this resource. I think it should
be used to make Israel a showcase for an oil-free nation. Let’s show the world
why oil is, and should be, irrelevant. And natural gas emits a fifth less
environment-unfriendly CO 2 than gasoline.
Not all experts agree the
future is rosy.
There is evidence that hydraulic fracking pollutes
groundwater and even causes minor earthquakes. Bulgaria and France have banned
it and Britain has suspended fracking temporarily. US experts believe the
downside of fracking can be overcome.
In his new book, The Gulf States in
a Changing Strategic Environment, Institute for National Securities Studies
expert Yoel Guzansky notes the rising power of Iran and the weakening influence
of America. The question is will the decline of oil or the decline of America
dominate? Mideast peace, perhaps, lies in the balance.