Silvan Shalom at Tamar natural gas rig 370.
(photo credit: Moshe Binyamin)
As natural gas from the Tamar reservoir continues to flow into the Ashdod
reception facility, representatives of green groups are calling for Energy and
Water Minister Silvan Shalom to ensure that Israel maintains a domestic supply
of the resource sufficient for 50 years.
Green Course, a volunteer
environmental organization with chapters in university and college campuses all
over the country, sent a letter to Shalom on Wednesday making these
By fulfilling this vision, the minister would be able to ensure
Israel’s energy independence for half a century, as well as improve both the
environment and public health, wrote the letter’s author Udi Hen, a campaigner
for Green Course.
“We have no intention of closing the State of Israel,
not in another 10 or 20 years, but to stay here much longer, and therefore, you
need to ensure that gas reserves will cover market needs for at least 50 years,”
the letter says.
The gas from the 250 billion-cubic-meter Tamar reservoir
began to flow from a rig 90 kilometers off the shore of Haifa on Saturday, first
arriving at the Ashdod reception facility on Sunday. The supply from Tamar alone
could last approximately 25 years according to experts, and a second adjacent
reservoir with about double the supply is also expected to come online in a few
While agreeing that the new resource will contribute significantly
to energy independence, government officials have yet to agree on the exact
quantity to be exported.
The government will need to vote on the
conclusions of the Zemach Committee, a team headed by Energy and Water Ministry
director-general Shaul Zemach, which recommended at the end of last summer the
export of no more than 500 billion cu.m. of the gas in total.
officials have argued that allowing for such export will bring in sizable
profits as well as encourage further Mediterranean exploration. Environmental
activists and leaders, however, including Environmental Protection Minister Amir
Peretz and his predecessor, Gilad Erdan, have warned that Israel must be
cautious with its exports to ensure a stable supply at home.
Environment Ministry officials, Hen argues in the Green Course letter that the
conclusions of the Zemach Committee were based on erroneous data, without taking
into consideration the future needs of the Israeli economy beyond 25 years from
now – including a government push for more reliance on gas based transportation
“We support the desire to attract foreign investors interesting in
investing in Israeli gas – and indeed, it is possible to direct them to invest
in local industries and thereby enjoy investments in gas as well as
strengthening local industry,” the letter says.
Accompanying the letter
is a video of Hen addressing Shalom from outside the Ashdod reception facility,
with a message nearly identical to his written version. Behind Hen, two other
activists hold a banner that reads: “Silvan, promise gas for 50+
“We want the gas that arrives here to Ashdod to stay with us for
a long time and fulfill all of our needs – economical, industrial,
transportation, electricity production – for both my children and the children
of the people [standing] here,” Hen says in the video.
Natural gas for
domestic needs should be a priority in the new energy and water minister's
administration, he continues.
“Silvan Shalom, many people value your
willingness to check things and act in a way that most benefits the Israeli
public, and this is your opportunity to do this – to slow down export permits
and stand by the promise of an energy outlook of at least 50 years for the State
of Israel,” the Green Course letter concludes.
In response to the letter,
the Energy and Water Ministry said that the topic will be discussed in the near
future, when the office will make recommendations toward the government
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