Gov't seeking to reduce oil dependency [pg. 7]

The government's Committee for Sustainable Development met in Jerusalem this week to discuss how to reduce the country's dependence on oil. Attendees included representatives of the National Infrastructures, Environment and Transportation ministries, and NGOs. Omer Sela of the Ministry of National Infrastructures presented a report on options for reducing the dependence which divided initiatives into three time frames, near- (2006-2008), medium- (2009-2015), and long-term (2015-2025). Sela focused on public ground transportation because it uses the most fuel and presents the greatest opportunity for change, he said. The near-term projects include improving vehicle efficiency (and prohibiting the import of wasteful cars), raising taxes on gasoline and reducing those on diesel fuel, and improving traffic flow to reduce congestion. Longer-term initiatives included converting public buses to electric power and introducing vehicles that use alternative sources of energy. "The meeting was productive and positive. I stressed the linkage between ecological, economic, and strategic dimensions that stem from our dependence on oil. I believe the committee got the message," said Sela. Sela said there was a clear sense that all the ministries wanted to do "everything necessary" to reduce dependence on oil. "The ideas were not new, but what was important was the forum itself, that representatives from many ministries were present. The representatives want to do more and work together," he said. Working in parallel is the Green Taxation Committee, of which Sela is also a member. This panel is studying the effects of raising taxes on fuel inefficient vehicles and granting tax benefits for 'green,' fuel efficient vehicles. Monday's meeting coincided with the visit of a World Bank energy fact finding mission, here to advise the Palestinian Authority Energy Authority on its oil imports. The Energy Authority has been buying all its oil from Israeli sources, but it is now looking to diversify its sources. However, limited infrastructure and its inability to refine crude oil limit its ability to import oil directly. The World Bank mission is also scheduled to meet with Israeli energy companies and officials at the Ministry of National Infrastructures.