Since the mid-1970s most of the world has been held hostage by the oil-rich nations, many of which do not share their political world view. In order to maintain energy security most of these oil-dependent nations have capitulated for decades to the whims and wills of the oil-rich ones.
Most of these oil-rich nations have not used their wealth to really benefit their people. It has instead aided their families and tribes to stay in power, usually against the will of their own people. The global political power of these nations far outweighs their real contribution to humanity; indeed, it is solely based on their ability to control the flow of oil, and its price.
Israel of course stands firmly in the category of the oil-dependent nations; but more importantly, most of the nations of Europe, Japan and even the United States have also allowed themselves to cater to the regimes of the oil-wealthy nations, even at times when this has seemed to go against their direct political interests, or even national security.
It is time for this state of affairs to end.
THE 1970S brought about the first major effort by the oil-poorer nations to conserve oil and use alternative forms of energy. But this effort was short-lived and widely controlled by the overwhelming power and interests of oil producers, companies and countries. Many alternative fuels were tried and tested and conservation was widely practiced until the entry of the 4x-drive jeeps, vans and other fuel-eating monsters of the late 1990s.
Coal was one of the alternatives, but coal, while perhaps in great supply in many parts of the world, is a dirty and inefficient source of fuel.
The 1990s brought a surge in the use of natural gas, and great strides have taken place in the development of gas-benzene hybrid vehicles which, in the new century, will become even more commonplace when natural gas supplies are available at gas stations around the world. This too is a great stride forward.
Ethanol is the latest alternative to gain more attention. Certainly-tax related incentives could be used to significantly boost the development of cheap hybrid possibilities for the Israeli market.
Israel recently signed a deal for natural gas with Egypt, and there is also a large quantity of natural gas available from the Palestinians, were Israel to decide to purchase it from them. Israel is interested in bringing more natural gas from places as far away as Russia.
NEW DEVELOPMENTS are also on the horizons, such as improving the production of cheap and clean electricity from wind power and from the sun, both of which are readily available in Israel. Hydrogen cells are also being developed in laboratories throughout the world; the advocates of this technology place high hopes in developing a limitless supply of efficient and cheap energy from this source.
Nuclear energy is used widely in many parts of the world, but with the Iran crisis looming above us it would probably not be wise for Israel to move into wider nuclear energy production at this time.
The world needs more energy; development requires that electric companies throughout the developed and developing world provide limitless quantities of cheap and efficient energy. Fossil fuels will one day in the not too distant future be depleted at the current level of exploitation.
The depletion of the ozone layer, global warming and its further effects on the environment are additional real cause to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
Israel is a relatively small consumer of energy and an even smaller source of energy production globally. The limits of the Israeli Electricity Company were quite apparent this past summer when the heat waves created demands for power beyond the capacity of production.
What Israel has in high supply is ingenuity and initiative. For political reasons such as the need to limit the global power of the oil-rich world, for reasons of protecting our frail environment in our small land, and for economic and development reasons, Israel could take the lead globally inventing and creating new sources of energy. There is perhaps nothing more important to our national strategic agenda, yet this subject is almost completely ignored by policy makers.
WHAT COULD be done? Israel could announce that it was launching a global energy effort. A sort of Manhattan Project for energy, bringing together the top expertise and genius in the world to dedicate themselves full-time for the next five years, unfettered by the interests of the oil producers and oil companies, in order to find the solutions for limitless, clean energy that would replace the world's dependency on oil.
The government of Israel would, under this proposal, allocate $1 billion a year for the next five years and invite tens of other oil poor nations and the United States to join the effort. Each one of these nations committing $1 billion a year for the next five years would be included in the effort. With a multi-billion international fund available, coordinated by Israel, the reasonably expected result could be cost-effective, efficient and sustainable new sources of energy to effectively change the nature of international relations and global economics and have a huge impact on the environment of the planet.
Cheap and efficient energy also means cheap and available water - another natural resource in short supply. Unlimited cheap and efficient energy would have a huge impact on the ability of nations like Israel to have access to virtually unlimited quantities of fresh water.
Desalination has already come down in price to "reasonable" costs, yet even the current prices make desalinated water too expensive for most of the water-poor countries of the world. New, cheaper energy would resolve that problem as well, and hunger around the world could become a distant memory.
ENERGY EXPERTS around the world claim that they are on the verge of new technologies. Required is a global, coordinated effort to synergize those efforts into a concentrated, focused combined push forward.
Israel could lead the way. The benefits to Israel would be far beyond anything Israel has ever done before. This is a global problem that can be resolved. In addition to the obvious important benefits to Israel, the reduction of the world's dependence on oil would also have a great impact on regional and global politics.
The writer is the Co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. The ideas presented here were inspired by Dr. Kobi Michael. www.ipcri.org
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