Natural Gas Alternative For the Middle East

natural gas israel palestine gaza image map“If the Israeli government can ever formulate a binding peace accord with the Palestinians, both entities could have access to enough natural gas reserves to satisfy their energy needs for at least 100 years.” 

This statement was made a few years back by a representative of  British Gas, one of the world’s largest energy exploration and development companies specializing in finding and developing natural gas fields, including offshore ones in bodies of water such as the Mediterranean Sea.

Such a gas field has been discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean, with the major portion located about 50 kilometers off the coast of Gaza, Another smaller gas field is located a similar distance off Israel’s northern port city, Haifa; but it is much smaller than the Gaza gas field.

British Gas, usually known as BG, had offices based in Israel for several years, with the main purpose of working out an arrangement in which Israel would supply electricity, petroleum products and other needed energy supplies to the Palestinians in return for the right to produce natural gas from the main Gaza field. Although this barter arrangement sounded good in principle, political realities, especially following the take over of Gaza by Hamas in 2006, virtually shelved this idea, and the Israeli government wound up making another natural gas supply deal with Egypt, much to the chagrin of BG who saw their entire 5 year venture in Israel go down the drain.

While Israel could have had such an abundant energy supply available, especially to produce Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)  for use in automobiles and in industry, would this have been really desirable from an environmental standpoint?

The development of the off shore gas fields would require erecting scores of off shore drilling platforms similar to those currently in the North Sea and in the Gulf of Mexico, which have greatly contributed to global warming, according to many environmentalists. Natural gas is certainly much cleaner than petroleum; but in the end is still a fossil fuel, especially in its LNG form. The idea may some day become more attractive, however, especially with oil fetching more than $130 a barrel on world markets.

The two big obstacles preventing this from happening are Israel’s problems with the Palestinians and enough objection from environmental groups, including Greenpeace, who say that the Mediterranean is already so polluted that such an undertaking will literally “finish the Med off.”

Government economic policies, especially where huge profit rake offs are involved (and we all know how corrupt many Israeli government officials are) could push any and all environmental considerations aside, however.

This means that the only other obstacle remaining is the lack of any peace agreement with the Hamas-led Palestinians. From an environmental standpoint, perhaps being at loggerheads with Hamas and Co. is not a bad idea, if it will help save what’s left of Israel’s Mediterranean seacoast.

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