The faster we get rid of gas the better

If natural gas were reserved as a decent back-up to 333 days/year of massive solar production, I just might have hope for the future
Workers on the Israeli Tamar gas processing rig, 24 kilometers off the southern coast of Ashkelon, October 11, 2013. (Moshe Shai/Flash90/File)
Workers on the Israeli Tamar gas processing rig, 24 kilometers off the southern coast of Ashkelon, October 11, 2013. (Moshe Shai/Flash90/File)

Since the discovery of natural gas off the coast of Israel, the public has fought long and hard to defend its right to enjoy the fruits of these discoveries — “cleaner air,” energy independence and government income.

However, when an industrialist recently asked to hear my opinion on the continued use of natural gas here in Israel, I hesitated.

The answer, I discovered, was more complex than I had originally believed.

After a long hard think, I replied: natural gas is a necessary evil, but the faster we get rid of it, the better.

If Israel was not yet able (or willing) to replace coal with renewables and it needed to fill the growing demand for electricity it would do so with another fossil fuel — natural gas.

Natural gas is less polluting than coal, but still nowhere close to being a clean or renewable energy, we had always seen it as a transitional fuel to be used while Israel moved to clean and green energy. The debate became how long would we then be “stuck” burning this trendy fossil fuel.

However, over 10 years have passed since Israel discovered offshore natural gas and the “transition” has been much slower than expected and the more time passes the clearer it becomes that the window of opportunity natural gas was meant to afford us is closing. The billions of shekels the Israeli people would supposedly profit from these natural gas finds never came — despite the companies’ growing profits — and excuse my cynicism — I’m no longer convinced natural gas will really contribute to a green energy economy.

So when a colleague recently asked if it was worth giving up on gas and risk losing the predicted income, the question no longer gave me pause as it would have in the past.

Just recently, 11,000 scientists published a harsh warning to humanity. These scientists warned of untold human suffering due to the climate crisis and that urgent changes need to be made to halt the climate crisis that is already upon us. One of their main recommendations — leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

In addition, times have changed. Solar power has become more efficient and not only affordable it’s downright cheap. Moreover, with the integration of storage and electric vehicles into Israel’s energy grid it has become almost absurd that we haven’t put more gas into transitioning to renewables.

Furthermore, while climate change critics like to argue that Israel’s contribution to global climate change is small, they often ignore the fact that we will be one of the first countries to be affected by climate change and that we’ll be hit hard. Actually, we are already feeling the effects of climate change here in Israel.

A new report published by the Israel Meteorological Service on the effects of climate change in Israel showed that it is getting warmer here faster. The average temperature in Israel rose by 1.4 degrees Celsius in 1950-2017, with the past 30 years accounting for the bulk of the increase. An additional rise of between 0.9-1.2 degrees Celsius is expected by 2050. The average summer temperature in 2021-2050 is projected to be 1.9-2.2 degrees Celsius warmer.

Because it isn’t already hot enough here.

It’s also rained less and according to the Israel Meteorological Service ‘s prediction, Israel’s water sources are in danger of drying up. With 16,000 km2 of desert, dwindling water resources and desertification being one of the main effects of climate change, the future looks bleak with little ability to make the Negev bloom.

What arises clearly from the report is the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. While Israel’s Minister of Energy recently stated that Israel would increase its measly renewable targets from 17% to 30% in 2030 it has become clearer and clearer it simply isn’t enough.

Israel’s existing offshore finds — Tamar, Leviathan and Karish-Tanin contain enough natural gas to supply Israel’s market’s need for the next 25 years, even more so if Israel makes the switch from drunkenly pushing forward more and more gas-fired power stations and consider using gas as a back-up to more massive solar production. With 333 days of sunlight a year, anything else seems criminal.

It may not be too late to save our children’s future, but to do so drastic changes need to be made now and implemented quickly. It’s time to rid ourselves of ourselves of gas dependency, which is threatening both our present and our future, and flip the pyramid so that we all get to enjoy that future.

About the Author
Leehee Goldenberg is the director of the Economy, Environment and Natural Resources Department at Adam Teva V'Din.
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