David fights Goliath again in Israel’s Elah Valley: Union for Environmental Defense takes on Genie Oil & Gas Inc., now backed by some of the world’s most powerful banking, media, and oil barons intent on destructive oil shale exploration.
In 2008, Israel’s Ministry of Infrastructure granted Israel Energy Initiatives (IEI) the right to produce gas and liquid fuel from oil shale in the Elah Valley, where David fought Goliath, without requiring an environmental impact assessment or master plan. (Al Gore calls oil shale “utter insanity”). On 15 August, 2010, the Union for Environmental Defense challenged the legality of those rights, and requested a revocation of IEI’s mining license from the Israeli High Court. A court date is still pending.
The Ministry of Environment pledged it would insist the company produce an environmental impact study prior to proceeding with their pilot project. But last week Globes announced that Lord Jacob Rothschild (2nd cousin to eco-ambassador David de Rothschild) and Rupert Murdoch purchased shares worth $11 million in Genie Oil and Gas Inc., the company that owns 89% of IEI, adding formidable power to the program.
The media mogul told Globes “If Genie’s effort to develop shale oil is successful, as I believe it will be, then the news we’ll report in the coming decades will reflect a more prosperous, more democratic, and more secure world.” No mention has been made of the pending court case. Save Adullam has worked tirelessly with a posse of environmental and legal experts to protect what is not only a pristine home environment, but an international tourist attraction, from an experimental extraction technology that has not been previously sanctioned.
“The license allows the IEI company to drill down several hundred meters, heat the ground to 300-350° C
(560-660° F), and pump the released gases and organic materials to the surface for refinement into fuel products,” according to Save Adullam spokesperson Rachel Jacobson.
Atmospheric scientist Dr. Arye Vanger told the group that the oil shale under consideration is
approximately six percent sulfur, three times the sulfur concentration found in rich fuel, itself a major pollutant.
It is also possible that corrosive and toxic chemicals, organic materials, and chemical by-products would be leaked into the ground and water supply if correct procedures are not followed.
The non-government organization’s court plea argues that the project undermines the government’s plan to reduce greenhouse gases and develop renewable energy sources, and challenges the legality of proceeding without due public process, a master plan, and an environmental feasibility study.
“The Ministry of Infrastructure is leading us toward environmental disaster… In essence, the Ministry is allowing a private company to use the Adullam region as a ‘guinea pig’ for testing new and aggressive technology,” according to Mr. Amit Bracha, Executive Director of the Union for Environmental Defense.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment has promised to “do everything it its power to preserve the region’s landscape,” and has insisted that IEI/Genie produce an environmental impact study and comply with local planning and building codes before any pilot tests proceed.
:: Save Adullam
More on the oil-shale exploration in Adullam District:
image via brett.wagner