Saudi Turns to Solar, Israel Stuck on Shale

shale oil, fossil fuels, global warming, climate change, CO2 emissions, Golan Heights Incredulously, despite everything that we know about climate change and its inevitable consequences of drought, food insecurity, rising sea levels and widespread ecological change, certain sectors of society stand steadfast by the suicidal notion that developing increasingly dangerous fossil fuels is “good” for us.

Led by ruler-backed organizations such as King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE) and confident with its 18 percent share of the world’s proven crude oil reserves, Saudi Arabia has taken decisive steps towards incorporating clean, renewable energy into its mix. Israel, meanwhile, obsessed with its former fossil inferiority and under the spell of such power mongers as Rupert Murdoch, is dead set on ecological self-destruction.  

Rupert Murdoch is corralling support for maniacal ecological moves disguised as “energy security.”

Along with former US Vice President Dick Cheney and Lord Jacob Rothschild, Murdoch has a huge stake in Israel since he sits on the board of Genie Energy Ltd., a local subsidiary of which recently received a license to explore for fossil fuels in the disputed Golan Heights territory.

Basically the Cheney-Murdoch-Rothschild triad is kicking the Syrians while they are caught up in a bloody civil war – with the Israeli government’s blessing. Or it’s just plain opportunism. I’m not sure which is worse, but this is the subject of a former post.

For now we’re focusing on shale oil –  IEI/Genie’s other insanity.

Responding to a fishy Op Ed in the New York Postwhich recently issued a soaring review of the benefits of oil shale in Israel right around the time that another Murdoch-owned rag, Fox News, did the same, David Krantz, President and Chairperson of the Green Zionist Alliance, excoriated the NY Post journalist’s obfuscation of shale oil’s dark side 

Each right-leaning paper proclaimed that Israel has as much oil as Saudi Arabia, and that fracking in the tiny country would bring independence – that long sought-after dream for Jews everywhere, a golden carrot dangling in stardust.

But there was little mention of how fracking has been associated with increased earthquake frequency in areas, nor did the Murdoch-owned papers mention how much energy (in Israel’s case coal) will be required to exploit shale oil – something that currently comes in low supply and at a staggering environmental cost.

“Fracking for oil is an energy net loss, and one that may make Israel more dependent on foreign fuel than it is today,” writes Krantz, who also reminds us that in the Middle East, water is more important than oil.

“It is widely thought that the next war in the region will not be over oil, but over water,” says Krantz.

“And fracking for oil threatens to poison the region’s limited fresh-water supply, further escalating tensions and making new peace agreements between Israel and its neighbors harder to achieve, since such agreements will include division of water rights.”

I’m not sure who Murdoch is trying to impress with his campaign to sing oil shale’s praises regardless of its environmental cost to the Israelis, Palestinians and other residents, but in a country where water conservation is as much a part of the local ethos as resting on the sabbath, and where the sun shines absurdly bright, he will have a hard time convincing environmentally and socially aware Israelis that fracking is better than solar.

“[Arthur] Herman was right in pointing out that the oil shale is in Israel’s Elah Valley, where David fought Goliath, but he got the roles wrong,” writes Krantz.

“The fossil-fuel companies are Goliath. The Green Zionist Alliance and its allies in Israel — such as the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the Citizens’ Committee to Save Adullam — are working against Goliath to protect and safeguard Israel.”

“If you love Israel — if you want clean air, land and water for its citizens, if you want to support energy independence in Israel, if you want to support peace in Israel — then join the fight against fracking. Goliath fell once before in the Elah Valley, and together we can fell him again,” he concludes.

Everywhere the fight between ordinary citizens and energy giants feels just like this historic battle – be it in Canada, Egypt or Israel, yet grass roots organizations across the globe continue their fight to ensure that powerful lobbies don’t deprive the rest of humanity their inalienable right to enjoy clean water, breath fresh air, and live in peace.

Image of dirty coal plant, Shutterstock

9 thoughts on “Saudi Turns to Solar, Israel Stuck on Shale

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  2. Tom

    This article seems to imply that the IEI process uses fracking. It does not. Such an extravagent technical error not only removes all credibility from the article, but also makes it harder for more technically aware groups who share the basic sentiment of this article to make their case.

    Appalling and irresponsible journalism.

    Reply
  3. Jason

    Yes they do use coal, they are trying to ween themselves from it though. And the shale production project stipulates plainly that it will use gas not coal. But the article states coal, not sure were that came from. If the writer didn’t know they shouldn’t just guess and state as fact. No it does make a difference in regard to the Saudis project, as it will just have them use more energy. They are among the most wasteful consumers in the world. And if the goal is not to reduce production then it really is not helpful since it will be used to power more wasteful urban sprawl.

    Reply
  4. Jeremy Boak

    As a scientist, I am wary of providing assurance beyond a shadow of a doubt. Indeed, when I realized that Dick Cheney was applying the Precautionary Principal as justification for infringing the rights of Americans, I became cautious about all overly zealous applications of the Principal.

    However, I object to the portrayal of IEI as the plaything of Cheney, Rothschild, and Murdoch. I know the people in IEI, and their credentials as scientists, engineers, and as people who place the future of Israel at the center of their work are unassailable. Shell spent millions of dollars testing a system intended simply to avoid release of the oil shale product into the ground water. And Harold Vinegar was a driver for that effort.

    I think the likelihood that development of oil shale will have the kind of polluting effect you mention is relatively small. I further think that environmental groups have suffered in their credibility when they put forward dubious or outright erroneous data and assertions, in much the same way that governments and corporations have done in the past. And it takes a very long time to recover that credibility. So I am particularly disturbed by the easy translation of “potential environmental impacts” into “certain environmental catastrophe.”

    I believe that we will continue to use fossil fuels for some time to come because we cannot build the alternatives fast enough. And they have their own impacts. For example, as a mineralogist and geochemist, I know that the rare earth elements used to make high tech magnets and other parts for our hybrid cars and wind turbines occur in minerals that also take up uranium and radium, and hence have inherent environmental issues of their own. The choice is not, as far as I can tell, between an existing path degrading to the environment and a new path with no such effects. It is a complex choice with many pathways, each of which has significant pros and cons.

    An honest effort to provide a feasible path forward to a fully renewable future is an exceedingly complex challenge. It is not a problem to which the Arab proverb applies, “If you think the problem will be solved in your lifetime, you haven’t taken on a big enough challenge.” Balance is the only way I see to not alienate those who are not inherently with you. I am always wary of those who claim to represent the less powerful until they have demonstrated their dedication without misrepresentation.

    How can anyone lend credibility to someone who talks about fracking as if the IEI process used hydraulic fracturing when it does not? This is either ignorance or deceit, neither of which is a good basis for policy. Whether oil shale can demonstrate economic and environmental feasibility will take time to determine, and it should not be shut down on the basis of assertions that distort the process with erroneous claims of certain impact?

    Israel should be evaluating how much of its energy needs can be met with solar (and other renewable resources, if they can meet the same economic and environmental standards), but unless it can readily replace all automobiles with electric cars, this will still not solve the problem of a need for liquid or gaseous fuels.

    Reply
  5. Tafline Laylin Post author

    Nice to hear from you again Jeremy.

    Can you say, without a shadow of doubt, that shale oil is good for Israelis – real people who depend on the land for their livelihood? Sometimes I think “balance” is a cop out. It allows certain people to hide behind a veil of “respectability” while less powerful people have to deal with polluted water and all of the effects of climate change that are becoming more real by the day.

    I want you to tell me, plainly, that shale oil is good for Israel. That exploring for or burning any kind of fossil fuel is good for anyone, especially in a country that has as much solar potential as Israel.

    You long for balance. I long for good minds like yours to be used for a healthier purpose.

    Viewpoints are all mine, etc.

    Reply
  6. Jeremy Boak

    There was a time when this column appeared to be interested in balance. But this article is an ardent misrepresentation of the plan for development of oil shale. IEI’s process does not use hydraulic fracturing to generate oil. Nor are hydraulically fractured wells net energy negative, as David Krantz asserts. Nor is there any truth to the assertion that hydraulic fracturing is associated with increased earthquake frequency. In one location, a very small earthquake occurred near a hydraulically fractured well. And earthquake activity was connected to a water disposal well that had disposed of many wells worth of frac fluid. The vehemence if this diatribe strongly suggests that the author is no longer interested in serious technical information, and mainly focused on a politically predetermined outcome.
    Jeremy Boak, Director
    Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research
    Colorado School of Mines
    Golden CO
    Viewpoints are mine, not those of the Colorado School of Mines

    Reply
  7. Tafline Laylin Post author

    Thanks for your comments Jason. I think it’s unfair to say anyone is being dishonest. Given that Israel pioneered solar energy decades ago, the percentage they use is far lower than it could be. In 2009, 99.7% of Israel’s total installed energy capacity was powered by fossil fuels. And regardless of Saudi’s reasoning for using solar, the fact remains they are pursuing an aggressive program while Israel stays focused on its new natural gas fields and shale oil. Lastly, Israel does still use coal (13.909 million tons in 2011), although since Egypt cut off its natural gas supply, I’m not sure what the exact mix looks like at the moment.

    Reply
  8. Jason

    I’m not in favor of Israel’s shale project but this is really skewed. They already use far more as a percent than Saudi Arabia. And the Saudis are only doing this so that they can pump out more oil for export, thier per capita oil consumption is destroying them. And the linked article about Israel using coal to power shale production is bogus, they are using the natural gas. And shale production is a net loss, wtf is that why the US will be a huge producer in the coming years. I’m an environmentalist, but if you’re not honest the message gets lost.

    Reply

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