We have followed your Plastiki initiative with great interest, but now fear that your family’s involvement with the Adullam Oil Shale scheme recently announced by Globes will cancel out your good work, establishing a permanent blight on the Rothschild name. While it is understandable that Israel is eager to discover its oil, and to unlatch its energy supply from the generosity of its Arab neighbors, energy from oil shale – among the most destructive means of obtaining energy – is not the answer.
Your second cousin Lord Jacob Rothschild has been duped into believing that the project is environmentally sound – particularly since the billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch is also involved. This could not be further from the truth. Your family and Mr. Murdoch have enough money to live twelve lifetimes. The people who will be displaced if this ruinous project proceeds can barely afford this one. We urge the Rothschild family, and you as its eco-diplomat, to rescind its shares in what could be one of the most devastating projects to hit Israel’s soil.
According to Globes, the technology being proposed to extract bituminous-bearing rock (shale) in the Elah Valley has been used in Mongolia and Colorado. But that is not 100% forthcoming, at least not on a commercial scale. Part of the reason is the difficulty of justifying the method’s environmental impact.
The in-situ technology requires that 5km long trenches are dug in order to reach the underlying rock. This is then heated to 350 degrees Celsius and in part releases a gas that is converted to sulfur-rich fuel. Three hundred such trenches will be necessary to produce 300,000 barrels of oil (per day). Also, the safety of heating up the rock has yet to be established, and could release at least 15 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.
While our friends at 350.org pitch urgent appeals to citizens and governments around the world to reduce carbon emissions to 350 parts per million, Genie Oil and Gas Inc. – now backed by some of the most powerful people in the world including your own family – are pushing the opposite.
But that’s not all. As we noted in an earlier appeal, “up to 3 barrels of water per barrel of oil are required to exploit this energy resource, as well as 3-5 Gigawatts of electricity, which amounts to roughly half of Israel’s current electricity production,” according to a community spokesman, Rachel Jacobson.
As you know, Israel suffers from a chronic water shortage mitigated by energy-intensive desalination plants. The country simply can’t afford to throw what water it does have at oil shale.
All of this is set to occur on nearly 240 square kilometers of land that plays host to “national heritage sights and vistas, such as the Land of Bar-Kochba’s caves.” Once the pilot project is complete and oil shale exploration proceeds, vineyards, goat cheese farms, other agricultural facilities, and the tourist industry in the Adullam region will in essence go extinct.
Israel’s backbone – its community of hard-working agriculturalists – are being completely sidestepped in a move that is not even guaranteed to provide long term energy security.
Make no mistake, if the pilot project is commissioned in the next few days, sanctioned with Rothschild and Murdoch money, it will unleash a miserable chain of ecological and social reactions. Even the Ministry of Infrastructure has acknowledged that while “15% of the country is underlain by Oil Shale beds,” perhaps one hundred billion tons, the quality of the oil shale reserves is rated at poor to medium, and much of it is inaccessible.
The destruction that exploration will leave in its wake is simply not worth what could amount to a relative pittance of energy.
We urge you to call a meeting with Jacob in order to discourage his participation. At the very least, please insist on an independent environmental impact assessment which will no doubt reveal the folly of this blind pursuit.
The good folks at Green Prophet
UPDATE: When this article was first published on November 23, the late Paul Rothschild was erroneously stated as being a partner in the Israel shale oil deal. It is in fact Lord Jacob Rothschild.
More on oil shale and energy independence in Israel:
image via Moshe Moreno