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Victory Against Fracking in Israel: David Beats Goliath

By David Krantz

NEW YORK (Sept. 2, 2014) — Tonight the Jerusalem District Committee for Planning and Building nixed a plan to exploit the oil shale of the Elah Valley, where David fought Goliath. The plan’s rejection serves to protect the water, land and air shared by Israelis and Palestinians.

 

“This is an important day for the environment and for the citizens of Israel, who won one of the most beautiful and toured parts of Israel,” Environmental Minister Amir Peretz told Israeli media.

 

The Jerusalem committee was the last bureaucratic hurdle before the oil shale could be drilled. After 10 hours of deliberation, the Jerusalem planning committee voted against the plan 13 to 1 with two abstentions. The only vote in support of the plan came from the Energy and Water Resources Ministry’s representative.

 

The Green Zionist Alliance and its allies in Israel have been working against exploitation of the oil shale for the past four years. Partners led scores of protests. Leaders of the Green Zionist Alliance convened a committee within Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael (KKL-JNF) and issued an investigative report, which was approved unanimously by KKL-JNF in spite of significant pressure from the pro-oil lobby. Together we educated the public about the issue and spoke with lawmakers and government ministries.

 

Israel Energy Initiatives — backed by an all-star cast including mega-philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, news-magnate Rupert Murdoch, former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Rothschild family-heir Lord Jacob Rothschild — was pursuing the project, which would have involved two controversial processes to extract shale oil from oil shale. Hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, involves shooting water and chemicals at high velocities into rock to crack it open. In the United States and elsewhere it is done to reach pockets of natural gas and crude oil that otherwise wouldn’t be feasible to extract. In Israel, fracking would have been used along with horizontal drilling to prime wells for in-situ retorting — heating the ground hundreds of degrees Celsius in order to melt the otherwise-solid shale, in the form of kerogen, oil out of shale rock.

 

Israel Energy Initiatives is a subsidiary of Genie Energy, a spinoff of telecommunications-giant IDT Corporation, which in turn is controlled by billionaire Howard Jonas.

 

The project was sold as promoting energy independence; yet the project actually would have done the opposite, because the processes to extract the shale oil from the oil shale would have consumed more energy than the amount energy in the shale oil itself. In other words, the process would have been an energy net loss. Aside from increasing Israel’s dependence on fossil fuels and further contributing to climate change, the project also threatened the air quality of the area and the aquifer that’s under the Judean Hills in both Israel and the West Bank.

 

The victory is significant for the Green Zionist Alliance, Israel’s environmental movement, and all who care about clean air, water and land for Israelis and Palestinians. Yet our fight is not yet over. Israel Energy Initiatives sister corporation Afek Oil and Gas — which is run by Effie Eitam, a former minister of national infrastructures, and is another subsidiary of Genie Energy — is planning on drilling for crude oil in the Golan Heights. In late July the Northern District Committee for Planning and Building approved Afek’s request to drill 10 exploratory wells in the Golan. Fracking will likely be used to extract the oil because it is likely in tight pockets in shale rock.

 

Yesterday, Green Zionist Alliance sister organization Adam Teva V’Din, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to repeal the drilling approval, which threatens the safety of drinking water in the Sea of Galilee.

 

We have won the battle against fracking in the Elah Valley but our fight may only be beginning.

 

 


 

David Krantz is the president and chairperson of the Green Zionist Alliance.

 

 

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