Government to vote on Zemach Committee conclusions that recommended limiting gas exports to under 500 billion cubic meters.

As natural gas from the Tamar reservoir continues to flow into the Ashdod reception facility, representatives of green groups are calling for Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom to ensure that Israel maintains a domestic supply of the resource sufficient for 50 years.

Green Course, a volunteer environmental organization with chapters in university and college campuses all over the country, sent a letter to Shalom on Wednesday making these demands.

By fulfilling this vision, the minister would be able to ensure Israel’s energy independence for half a century, as well as improve both the environment and public health, wrote the letter’s author Udi Hen, a campaigner for Green Course.

“We have no intention of closing the State of Israel, not in another 10 or 20 years, but to stay here much longer, and therefore, you need to ensure that gas reserves will cover market needs for at least 50 years,” the letter says.

The gas from the 250 billion-cubic-meter Tamar reservoir began to flow from a rig 90 kilometers off the shore of Haifa on Saturday, first arriving at the Ashdod reception facility on Sunday. The supply from Tamar alone could last approximately 25 years according to experts, and a second adjacent reservoir with about double the supply is also expected to come online in a few years.

While agreeing that the new resource will contribute significantly to energy independence, government officials have yet to agree on the exact quantity to be exported.

The government will need to vote on the conclusions of the Zemach Committee, a team headed by Energy and Water Ministry director-general Shaul Zemach, which recommended at the end of last summer the export of no more than 500 billion cu.m. of the gas in total.

Energy officials have argued that allowing for such export will bring in sizable profits as well as encourage further Mediterranean exploration. Environmental activists and leaders, however, including Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz and his predecessor, Gilad Erdan, have warned that Israel must be cautious with its exports to ensure a stable supply at home.

Similar to Environment Ministry officials, Hen argues in the Green Course letter that the conclusions of the Zemach Committee were based on erroneous data, without taking into consideration the future needs of the Israeli economy beyond 25 years from now – including a government push for more reliance on gas based transportation fuels.

“We support the desire to attract foreign investors interesting in investing in Israeli gas – and indeed, it is possible to direct them to invest in local industries and thereby enjoy investments in gas as well as strengthening local industry,” the letter says.

Accompanying the letter is a video of Hen addressing Shalom from outside the Ashdod reception facility, with a message nearly identical to his written version. Behind Hen, two other activists hold a banner that reads: “Silvan, promise gas for 50+ years.”

“We want the gas that arrives here to Ashdod to stay with us for a long time and fulfill all of our needs – economical, industrial, transportation, electricity production – for both my children and the children of the people [standing] here,” Hen says in the video.

Natural gas for domestic needs should be a priority in the new energy and water minister’s administration, he continues.

“Silvan Shalom, many people value your willingness to check things and act in a way that most benefits the Israeli public, and this is your opportunity to do this – to slow down export permits and stand by the promise of an energy outlook of at least 50 years for the State of Israel,” the Green Course letter concludes.

In response to the letter, the Energy and Water Ministry said that the topic will be discussed in the near future, when the office will make recommendations toward the government decision.