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Great Israeli Oil Rush
Mon, 11/29/2010 - 19:00

Do we really aspire for Israel to be the next Saudi Arabia? Jonathan Mark seems to have drunk the Kool-Aid served up by Howard Jonas and other backers of oil shale exploration in Israel (“The Great Israeli Oil Rush,” Nov. 19). Mark devotes just one paragraph to the opposition, led by Israel’s environmental movement, which deserves extremely serious consideration.

Jonas argues that oil will strengthen Israel’s economy, military defense and energy independence. He is wrong. Around the world natural resource extraction has frequently resulted in stagnant economies and tremendous gaps between rich and poor. Just this week Rabbi Michael Melchior is visiting New York to raise the alarm about these problems in regard to the more immediate prospect of drilling for natural gas off the coast of Israel. Melchior’s focus will be on the distribution of billions of dollars in profits. The Israel Civic Action Forum is calling for a bigger share of the money to go to the government of Israel to be invested in narrowing the huge gap between Israel’s well-off and growing underclass.

Militarily, refineries and other installations become tempting targets in wartime. Just think about how Saddam Hussein set the oil fields of Kuwait on fire in 1991. The environmental destruction caused by mining and drilling can also contribute to civil unrest. With revenues from oil pouring in, governments sink into corruption and authoritarianism. Do we want Israel to be exposed to these kinds of risks?

Jonas thinks that extracting oil from shale in Israel is the perfect example of “doing well by doing good.” I beg to differ. Despite Jonas’ moving stories, the Christian “heroes” who are devoting themselves to the oil shale project are not helping the Jewish people. And Jonas, Steinhardt and Rothschild are not “giving Israel a gift beyond all their prior philanthropy combined.” To the contrary, they are likely saddling Israel with more poverty, more illness and more insecurity.

Energy independence does have the potential to increase Israel’s security. According to Marks, Jonas says that commercial production of oil is still 11 or 12 years away. Just imagine if the next decade was spent developing Israel’s capacity to generate energy from renewable sources. Once built, solar and wind energy installations require no fuel at all. Many more jobs are required to operate these technologies than to extract fossil fuels, widely distributing the benefits and strengthening the social fabric. Israel would be energy independent forever, not just for a few years until the oil runs out. If Jonas and his friends really want to help Israel, they will leave the oil in the ground and invest their money in clean energy for Israel instead.




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Why people don't complane about foul smell in lower Haifa, where outdated oil refineries pollute the air ? I used to live over 2 decades in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Edmonton refines more oil than Israel consumes. When I first came, the smell was there as well. But in decade or so it was gone. Many of us think that electronic gadgets constitute Hi Teck. Hovewer, the Advanced Chemical and Environmental Engineering is High Teck as well. And in the scorched land of Negev Desert we can find petroleum reserve, which can garantee the energy independence of this Nation. On the basis of Advanced methods of heavy oil recovery, developed in Alberta, the Negev deposits can be put to use without environmental harm. As FDR told once:"There is nothing to fear, but fear itself".
I haven't the faintest idea how you arrive at your conclusions about leftists or rightist Honsy . This is the land that we were given(or rather fought for ).As it is today is how we received it from our forefathers and this is how we want it to remain as green as clean as priestine as can be. As a local, I came to live in the area from the city because of the green and open land. The resource we were blessed with is this area filled with historic sites, unique vegetaion and animal wildlife. We all have a responsibility to guard this land not only as our inheritance but also as our legacy to our children. It may be difficult for you to comprehend but wildlife has a right here too. That too, is God's creation and we are all obliged to safekeep it. We are talking about a company that is here to make money and from what we see abroad they just don't care about the local residents nor about local flora or fauna.
After perusing these comments, I see no difference in this dispute from those between Leftists Jews who have little connection to authentic Judaism, and grasp onto environmentalism as their new faith - and more traditional Jews who accept that G-d has blessed Israel with certain resources that are meant to be used for the nation's benefit - albeit wisely.
To Jeremy Boak: In the interview linked above, you yourself said that these experimental processes, which have never been successful commercially, are being tried in Israel after American environmental regulations made it difficult to do them in the US. You said "In this country [America], an environmental assessment is required for granting such an RD&D lease." In Israel, because of an outdated oil law aimed at ordinary oil drilling rather than shale, the permit does not require environmental approval. The phenomenon of American companies doing dangerous experiments on foreigners, then taking the intellectual property home and leaving the damage behind, is a deeply frightening one. The emptiest parts of the Negev have one-seventh the population density of Colorado. And now, the America-backed oil company wants to do its pilot on one of the few green areas in central Israel
Honsy, this is not some generic environmentalism. This is the open park-land and vineyards where David fought Goliath, which will soon be turned into an industrial site/oil refinery.
I think it is a bit extreme to suggest that reporting potential benefits to Israel of oil shale development is nothing more than sharing a propopents hallucination. The author provides no evidence for the assertion that wind or solar energy employ more people in their operation than oil & gas development. Nor does she acknowledge that solar thermal and biofuel energy are likely to use more water than oil shale (per unit energy). Nor does she acknowledge that wind turbines are dependent upon rare-earth element magnets produced from another external monopoly source, the Chinese, and have a finite design lifetime. Oil development has caused trouble when it dominates the economy of undeveloped nations. But it has not clearly caused the same trouble in developed countries like the U. S., Norway, Great Britain, etc. Oil shale, like every other major potential energy source, must overcome important challenges to demonstrate its feasibility. It should probably not be relied upon as the sole element of the energy future. But it does deserve the opportunity to demonstrate, within the framework of environmental regulations of a modern, advanced nation, that it can be done safely and efficiently. Jeremy Boak, Director Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research Colorado School of Mines
Israel should not be the place to test new, dangerous technologies by powerful American companies, or by powerful American Jews. Howard Jonas, Michael Steinhardt, and Dick Cheiny should not turn Israeli Citizens into their lab-rabbits. American Shale Oil (AMSO) should develop its technology in the United States, under strict American environmental regulations, rather than testing unripe, controversial technologies in Israel. IDT is using the land of David and the caves of Bar-Cochva as waste-land for dangerous technology development. Their start-up will eventually risk the health and livelihood of many many Israeli citizens in villages and towns around Emek Haellah.
Thank you for your intelligent insights! Israel is an extremely small and densely populated country. Jonas's initiative will ruin the health and livelihood of thousands of Israeli citizens. The Israeli case is very different that the American. Colorado has huge areas of unpopulated open landscapes - and still the local communities and the authorities do not allow energy companies to easily develop dangerous oil shale industries on public land. Developing experimental oil shale technology in densely populated areas in the heart of Israel will have devastating results for the quality of life in Israel. This is definitely not the way to help Israel.
The environmental movement has been exposed as the grand hoax that it is with the release of those Hadley emails in Britain. Last week, a U.N. official openly admitted that it's all about redistribution of wealth from the rich countries to the poorer ones. Gee - where have I heard about redistribution of wealth before?
Thank you Mirele. This sort of extraction has never made a profit. But the experimental projects got into trouble in US because of the pollution they were causing. So the project was moved to Eretz Yisrael where there are fewer environmental controls. (This is from the director of a research institute funded by the shale-oil companies )
‘Naiveté’ is the first word that comes along. This writer needs to grow up.