Energy expert at ministry conference: Gas discovery belongs to “every single” Israeli citizen.

To ensure that citizens are getting the optimal value for their nation’s offshore resource reserves, governments should mandate independent analyses of their reserve inventory, an American energy expert said on Thursday.

“Energy and environment ministries are the stewards of your land,” said Thierry De Cort, chief of the Geological and Geophysical Section at the Office of Resource Evaluation, in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management at the US Department of the Interior.

“You’re giving them the responsibility to ensure that everything that is done out there is done correctly.”

De Cort was speaking at a conference titled “Environmental Impacts of Offshore Natural Gas and Oil Exploration and Production Activities in the Mediterranean (EIGOA),” held at Bar-Ilan University by the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Energy and Water Ministry.

It is crucial to conduct all geophysical mapping and surveys in an independent, consistent matter, rather than simply relying on whatever the oil companies report, according to De Cort. This type of data is what the US government collects for the Gulf of Mexico, he explained.

Using this data, experts can forecast potential future outcomes.

“If you have an independent method you apply consistently, then you are able to aggregate those reserves together,” he said.

Likewise, with such a thorough, independent inventory, the government can perform proper appraisals of property, know its true worth before leasing it to private companies and provide accurate information to relevant banks, De Cort explained. In the US, the government must abide by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act when dealing with its offshore resources – which mandates that officials cannot lease anything unless they are receiving a fair market value for the American people.

“The gas that’s out there in the Mediterranean belongs to every single one of you,” he said. “They have to make sure they’re giving you a fair value for that.”

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said the gas might belong to every citizen, but not every citizen wants to have the apparatuses involved with its transmission on their personal property.

“With all due respect to the ‘Not in my backyard’ interests, nobody wants to disturb their backyard, but this is a national environmental and economical interest,” he said at the conference.

Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau added, “We have to bring it in a way that the environment won’t be damaged.”

Referring to the natural gas discoveries as a “treasure,” Erdan said that the Environmental Protection Ministry will support any decision of the National Planning and Building Council as to its point of entry. “We need a safe, reliable transmission system.

Natural gas will not fall upon us from the sky. Unfortunately it needs to be transmitted to the shore,” he said.

“We need more than one port of entry and this I leave to the professional discretion for the Energy and Water Ministry.”

While leaving that decision to the ministry, Erdan said that he felt the decision as to how much gas to export should be postponed for several years in order to make a more informed decision.

The export quantity question is currently being debated by a committee led by Energy and Water Ministry directorgeneral Shaul Zemach. The ministry’s leader, Landau, supports the idea of export, particularly to Israel’s neighbors Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

“Getting the natural gas to Israel and afterwards realizing the potential of export within it, these are the keys – if not the main key – for removing Israel from the economic crisis,” Landau said. “The need to keep the gas in the country is important, for environmental and strategic reasons, but export is an important incentive for developers.

This will cause them to come and explore.”

However, all the speakers agreed that no matter how much of the gas ends up being exported, it is crucial to extract the Israeli citizens’ new resource in a way that is as environmentally friendly as possible.

“Citizens and the private sector have central roles in building the energy future,” agreed Robert Forden, head of the economics section at the US Embassy. “We stand ready to partner with you as Israel develops regulatory standards for the many divergent aspects of its energy future.”