Shalom Offers Compromise on Gas Export Cap

YERUSHALAYIM -

As the natural gas companies press for exports of Israel’s newfound energy supply and environmental groups lobby against it, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom is trying to navigate a middle course.

Shalom told Israeli media on Wednesday night that he intends to set the maximum natural gas export allocation at 40 percent rather than 53 percent, as some had forecast.

The minister’s statement came just a day after Chamber of Commerce executive vice president Myron Brilliant urged Israel to set a robust policy of gas exports, hailing it as instrumental in creating more jobs and a stronger economy.

However, a 40-percent export cap left environmentalists unmollified.

“The export of 40 percent of our natural gas … does not meet the real needs of the citizens of Israel,” said Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz.

Ministry studies indicate that at least 600 bcm (billion cubic meters) of natural gas will be required for the energy, transportation and chemicals industry at home, Peretz added.

MK Dov Henin (Hadash) called on the Energy and Water Ministry to “stop playing with numbers and return to talk about principles.” Such a decision needs to be discussed in the Knesset and must be a transparent matter with public input, Henin asserted.

Shalom’s proposal also drew fire from Amit Bracha, executive director of Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense), who argued that presenting this reduction of percentages as a “social” decision is misleading since export percentage is only relevant once Israel knows exactly how much gas it has.