09/30/2012 03:03
Extraction firm accuses Greenpeace of scare tactics to deny Israel’s right to develop resources.

Throughout Succot, Greenpeace will lead other environmental groups in hosting a Climate Camp in the Elah Valley, southwest of Beit Shemesh, next to the site proposed for oil shale extraction.

Activities at the camp will consist of five days of social activism for environmentalists and local residents. Participants will attend free lectures and workshops focusing on the problems the groups have with unconventional oil development as well as the green energy alternatives they feel the country should explore instead.

The camp, according to Greenpeace, aims to stop what the organization calls a “dangerous oil shale experiment by an American-owned company backed by Rupert Murdoch and Dick Cheney.”

At the head of the proposed oil shale extraction is Israel Energy Initiatives, founded by its chief scientist Dr. Harold Vinegar, who was formerly chief scientist at Shell Oil in the US.

Vinegar, along with other IEI executives, argues that the project will bring Israel energy independence, allowing for the annual extraction of an estimated 40 billion barrels of usable oil in the Shfela basin’s shale rock, some 300 meters under the earth’s surface in the Adullam- Elah Valley region.

IEI is a subsidiary of American company Genie Energy, whose advisory board includes Cheney, Murdoch and Birthright Israel mega-donor Michael Steinhardt.

“Oil shale is not only a disaster for Israel but also globally. This technology will lead to significantly higher carbon emissions and pollution in the production of energy,” Greenpeace campaign director Hila Krupsky said. “[It] will take the world out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

Greenpeace argues that extracting oil shale from the Elah Valley is one of the most dangerous methods of generating petroleum, and could cause contamination to the country’s water supplies and the release of deadly gases.

Meanwhile, the government has established new rules that allow for an easy approval process for those involved with extracting shale, circumventing the right of public opposition, Greenpeace said.

“The Netanyahu government is attempting to silence the 24,000 people who have already signed up for the Greenpeace campaign to stop this reckless and underhanded experiment,” Krupsky said. “We are calling on all Israelis to make our voice heard by joining us at the camp.”

The Green Course organization will also be delivering a performance on the matter at the camp on October 4, featuring a giant oil monster attacking the region’s residents and covering them in petroleum, the group said.

On the same day, activists and local residents will form a giant human banner, and musicians as well as politicians will join the protesters.

Environmental advocacy group Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) will also offer a lecture, delivered by Keren Halperine- Museri, head of its environmental justice program.

“We are steadfastly against the advancement of the oil shale project, in principle and in practice,” Adam Teva V’Din executive director Amit Bracha told The Jerusalem Post.

“We have been involved since the beginning of 2011 when the local community turned to us for legal advice on how to stop a pilot project,” he said.

Bracha stressed that the technology slated to be used in the extraction process was more controversial than traditional hydraulic fracturing methods.

The NGO challenged the program in the High Court of Justice – the petition is to be heard in November – on the grounds that IEI had been granted the license improperly, but the Energy and Water Ministry secured quick amendments to the Planning and Building Law to be able to approve such projects, Bracha said.

“The potential for environmental damage to the Adullam area, for toxic pollution of natural resources, for increased greenhouse gas emissions, for accidents and catastrophes is enormous,” he said.

“Moreover, the question must be asked: Why is the Energy and Water Ministry pushing for quick approval of this project when it contradicts the ministry’s obligation to favor cleaner, renewable energies development?” Bracha asked.

Representatives and scientists at IEI have repeatedly stressed that no harm will be done to the aquifer during the extraction process, as there is an impermeable layer of rock between the shale and the aquifer.

Because the pressure of the production mechanism is only half of that of the natural surface at 300 meters below the earth, where the shale is located, the impermeable layer will not be able to fracture from the sheer pressure of the operation above, IEI representatives explained.

Meanwhile, the company has promised that its drilling will be as environmentally friendly as possible, entailing in situ, underground oil heating through horizontal pipes and revitalization of the land plots used afterwards. IEI has already finished work at six experimental drilling sites in the region and hopes to begin its official pilot phase soon.

In response to the Climate Camp campaign scheduled to take place next week, a statement from IEI stressed that “the Shfela oil shale deposit can liberate Israel from its dependency on foreign oil, generate billions of tax payments and guarantee secure supply and control of its costs.”

The statement stressed that the process is environmentally friendly and that the pilot demonstration is of “vital national interest” and one of the government’s official goals for 2012.

While similar projects in Jordan and the US receive approvals for pilot projects, the program in Israel remains “continuously delayed,” the IEI said.

“Greenpeace Israel, directed by its Turkey-based regional headquarters, is against any development of Israel’s fossil resources, using scare tactics and disinformation in order to stop a project which will help reduce fuel prices and secure its supply,” the IEI said.

“This is not an environmental campaign, it is a campaign against Israel’s right to develop its natural resources,” it concluded.