Open Letter To David de Rothschild: Stop Your Family’s Oil Shale Exploration

adullam-murdoch-rothschild-oil-shaleIn the next few days, a pilot project to test destructive oil shale extraction, backed with money from the Rothschilds and billionaire Robert Murdoch (who owns Fox News), is slated to begin. We call on David Rothschild to intervene on Adullam’s behalf.

Dear David:

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 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.

Kind regards,

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.

:: Globes

More on oil shale and energy independence in Israel:

Israeli Citizen Group “Save Adullam” To Fight Oil Shale Plans

Givot’s Premature Oil Production Near Rosh Ha’Ayin, Israel

image via Moshe Moreno

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8 thoughts on “Open Letter To David de Rothschild: Stop Your Family’s Oil Shale Exploration”

  1. George LoBuono says:

    Jacob’s interest in oil shale requires background. A Rothschild family branch, that of the Earl of Rosebery who married Nathan Mayer Rotschild’s granddaughter Hannah (now called the “Primrose” family) has huge land holdings in that Falkirk Triangle area of Scotland, which, in the past, mined oil shale (before liquid petroleum eclipsed such methods).

  2. Darrell Saffell says:

    suggest contacting Chevron Oil Corporation for possible partnership.
    In 1983 conducted a pilot project in Utah for processing OIL SHALE. it worked. Oil at the time would have had to be $40.00 to be feasible.

    The proposed oil recovery process will be very damaging and dangerous.

  3. Unfortunately, in cases like this, the most persuasive arguments are economic. Has anyone run an independent set of calculations on the costs of development vs the expected returns? And have these been compared to a similar amount invested in intensive solar and the profits from electricity?

    Europe is all abuzz over creating energy grids which would link massive solar arrays in northern Africa to the European energy grid. Why not start with an undersea cable from Israeli solar installations?

    I know it’s expecting a lot to get such historically calculating and greedy parties (David and Plastiki notwithstanding)to take a longer view, but if anyone can afford to take the time certainly they could.

  4. Dear Green Prophet team

    Thank you for bringing issues such as these to my own and the public’s attention and for working tirelessly towards a better future.

    As you can appreciate, I am part of a large family with many diverse opinions but I, as an individual actively discourage environmentally harmful activities. However I have previously, and as is in this case, will continue to write to not only family members but also other individuals and business about how their actions influence the world environmentally in the hope that they will place a greater significance on this area and seek clean alternatives that can help us tread more lightly. I do consider the ‘Oil Shale Exploration’ to be a very serious and pressing matter and something that I will look into further as a priority , however, as mentioned while I implore everyone, to make sustainable choices for the planet, I cannot be held responsible for other people’s actions despite my best efforts, even family members.

    Once again I am grateful for you bringing this matter to my attention and promise to explore this matter further.


  5. Jeremy Boak says:

    As Director of a leading research center on oil shale and co-chair of the premier technical conference on oil shale, I cannot read this editorial without shock and dismay at its startling misrepresentation of in situ extraction of oil from shale. I am aware of no oil shale extraction method that proposes three hundred five kilometer trenches to extract a mere 300,000 barrels of oil. The very term in situ method refers to a system that does not require exposing the oil shale. I do not see any indication that the method proposed by Genie Energy will fail to comply with environmental regulations in Israel. There is plenty of doubt about the assertion that it “will unleash a miserable chain of ecological and social reactions.” There are important environmental concerns that must be addressed, water being one of them. But until Genie puts forward its technology description, there is no information available about its actual water use, and the three barrels per barrel of oil is the high end of a range that extends downward to near zero. The CO2 released will come almost entirely from the power source used to heat the rock, not from the rock itself. The author offers no explanation for the assertion that the safety of heating up the rock has not been established. Shell has already conducted several experiments of this kind, and it is fairly clear that the first test in Israel will be small enough to have very limited impact even underground. Shale oil production will likely proceed very slowly until economic and technical feasibility (including environmental feasibility) have been demonstrated. The Gree. Prophet is unfortunately engaging in scare tactics of the most arbitrary and capricious sort.

    1. Thank you Jeremy. Please note that the goal is to produce 300,000 barrels of oil per day. This was erroneously omitted from my original post.

  6. Stephanie Loudon says:

    There’s that, and there’s also empowering yourself:

    In The Emergence of Norms Ullmann- Margalit states that norms are the logical result of a certain situational structure. In this theory, norms that emerge from the following three situations have the best chance of survival and a long term of use;

    1. the prisoners dilemma, which translates itself to civil law; there is a need for security that it pays to hold ones own end of a bargain (individual short term gains v. collective long term gains).

    2. co- ordination situations: it doesn’t matter which option is chosen, what matters is that one is chosen; translates to traffic law.

    3. inequality situations; a strong party against a weaker party, the norm is the outcome of a power struggle, but not all law is the codification of the interest of the party in power: the weaker party can make use of the exit- option or the Samson- strategy. In most cases the law will be the outcome of a subtle game of negotiation with no clear or decided winner.

    I hope that there will be laws already in place that will protect and aid your cause.

  7. The Elah Valley is one of the most beautiful places in Israel. It is also “home” to the story of David and Goliath.

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