You’d think with all the oil in the Middle East region, Israel would have at least a few million barrels of its own. An Evangelical Christian John Brown following clues in the Old Testament has been hunting for it for years. Taking John McCain’s lead: now YNet reports, Israel’s Nature and National Parks Protection Authority approved last Tuesday that experimental oil drilling in a nature reserve located in the Judean Desert could begin. Two drilling companies Ginko and Delek Energy Systems have been granted six months to try and strike it rich. Those involved stipulated terms and restrictions to counter possible environmental damage.
And if oil is discovered at the site, it will be pumped diagonally to minimize the damage done to the plants and wildlife. Well, as you can imagine, this doesn’t sit well with Israel’s environmentalists.
“The drilling and extraction of oil could harm whole populations of rare species,” the specialists wrote in their objecting statement. “We believe that the foreseen production does not justify the permit to severely and permanently harm plants and wildlife, as well as the landscape and tourists in an official nature reserve.”
Meanwhile the drilling companies (lo and behold!) believe that there is plenty of oil to be found at the site, and with the rising cost of oil say the enterprise could be extremely profitable. Still dependent on oil from other countries (such as Russia), they claimed drilling for oil was a strategic move.
Representatives from the company said the environmental damage would be miniscule: “I know the area well and it’s just another place in the desert,” said the companies’ spokesman Avraham Poraz, Israel’s former interior minister.
Just another place in the desert? Did he really he said that? The Judean Desert is small — only about 1,500 square kilometers and packed with nature reserves, plants, wildlife, and primeval panoramas.
He told Ynet that there could be about 6.5 million barrels down there, worth about $700 million. “Israel is not rich enough to allow itself to forgo such potential,” he said.
What did one of our favorite eco-orgs, the SPNI, say?
“The SPNI laments the fact that members of the Parks Authority assembly who voted in favor of the plan caved ub [sic] to pressure exerted by the entrepreneurs, did not accept the opinion of the professional committee, and approved an appeal that will cause needless harm to a nature reserve,” the statement said.
I think that the potential environmental damage outweighs the mere $700 million lying below ground, and that it’s high time these old-school companies started drilling for oil in algae (see post on Isaac Berzin), or investing more efforts in renewable energy. C’mon, even oil rich Gulf Countries are investing heavily in renewable energy.
Update: This is not the first time that the oil was drilled at the site. In 1995, about 120 thousand barrels were extracted from there. (YNet).