09/14/2012 05:31
By enabling high-volume exports, gov’t would effectively be “granting private consortiums astronomical profits,” party says

The Green Movement Party is calling upon government officials to reject the recommendations of the Zemach Commission to allow for export of over 50 percent of Israel’s natural gas.

Such a decision would “cause unprecedented damage for Israel’s future generations,” the party said.

The commission proposals would hurt the country if accepted, and any decision about how much gas to export can only be made after the country develops a comprehensive energy strategy, according to the party.

Two weeks ago, the commission, led by Energy and Water Ministry director-general Shaul Zemach, recommended in its report that the government limit natural gas exports to 500 billion cubic meters over 25 years, leaving a reserve of at least 450 billion cu. m. for domestic needs.

Although the Green Movement and other green organizations, such as advocacy group Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense), have come out strongly against large exports of gas, Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau has stressed that exporting portions of the gas will be a mechanism for strengthening regional ties and generating revenue – all the while preserving sufficient amounts for domestic needs.

On behalf of Green Movement co-chairs Prof. Alon Tal and Racheli Tedhar this week, attorney Gilead Barnea sent a letter to many senior government officials to signal the beginning of a party-sponsored legal intervention with reference to the proposed export and pricing policies.

The letter demands that the government define a maximum price for natural gas sold in Israel, to deal with what the Green Movement calls the Tamar field monopoly, referring to the offshore gas field 80 km. west of Haifa. In addition, the letter asks that the government delay all approvals for export permits until officials definitively determine the available reverses and the country’s domestic needs.

“Export of natural gas constitutes one of the most meaningful economic decisions that has been made in this country for many years, with implications for future citizens of Israel for decades to come,” Tal said. “The absence of a clear vision and a long-term strategy which seeks to utilize existing gas reserves for an optimal energy policy that preserves gas fields for future use in Israel for the next 50 years, is a folly that future generations may well come to regret.”

Twelve years ago, Britain decided to export so much of its North Sea natural gas that the country ended up needing to import 40 percent of its gas supplies from Russia at very expensive rates, Tal explained, adding that this proportion is only rising.

By enabling high-volume exports, the government would effectively be “granting private consortiums astronomical profits” while leaving Israel vulnerable, rather than secure in its energy supplies, Tal added.

In response to the Green Movement’s call for the government to reject the Zemach Commission’s recommendations, the Energy and Water Ministry had no comment.

Nadav Shemer contributed to this report.