The Golan Heights, that disputed piece of real estate that Israel captured from Syria in 1967 is returning to world attention due to the possibility that there are oil and natural gas reserves in its southern sector. Until now, energy ideas dealing with the Golan have mainly evolved around renewable energy projects like a 155 megawatt wind farm which Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu once referred to as a “national project.” The “Heights” have also been considered a good location for solar energy projects. Proposed solar energy projects there even raised the question of whether wind turbines might be “taking a back seat to solar power” on the Golan. A Golan Heights natural beauty spot: Saar stream waterfall
Anyone who has had the opportunity and pleasure to drive through the Golan Heights has surely been attracted to the various natural beauty sites found there which are especially lovely in the spring. These sites, such as natural streams and water falls, the majestic splendor of Mt. Hermon, and the unique hot springs and alligator farm at Hamat Gader may be jeopardized if proposed oil and natural gas exploration is undertaken.
New geological findings suggest that commercial quantities of oil might be present in the southern sector, and the Israeli government subsequently awarded the first license to drill. The license “covers half the area of the Golan from the latitude of Katzrin in the north to Tzemach in the south,” according to a recent article in Globes.
Oil and gas production could replace wind energy projects on the Golan; photo by Karin Kloosterman
According to the Globes article, Israel’s Ministry of Energy and Water Resources petroleum council awarded the license to Genie Energy Ltd. , a company headed by former minister and National Religious Party leader Effie Eitam.
Shareholders in Genie Energy include such notables as Lord Jacob Rothschild and newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoc. And Former US Vice President Dick Cheney is an advisor to the company. Mr. Eitam lives in Moshav Nov in the southern Golan Heights, which is located not far from the hot springs at Hamat Gader.
While the main objections to Israeli oil and gas explorations in the Golan are mostly political, the potential environmental impact of oil and gas production in this area cannot be ignored.
This especially pertains to natural sites such as Hamat Gader, which is part of the Yarmouk River ecosystem and an important water supply source for Syria, Israel and neighboring Jordan.
It might be more plausible for large scale energy projects conducted by Israel to be confined to those now being conducted in the eastern Mediterranean; though they have their own environmental issues.
Image Crocodiles from Hamat Gader by Shutterstock
Read more on the Golan Heights and energy projects there:
How to Road Trip in the Galilee and the Golan Heights in the Spring
Israeli PM Declares a 155 MW Wind Farm on the Golan Heights a “National Project
Are Golan Heights Wind Turbines Taking a Back Seat to Solar Power?