What Experts Are Saying

Local and international experts have voiced grave concerns about Israel’s energy policies. Their arguments address two key topics – the local dangers of Israel’s petrochemical infrastructures and the critical implications of global warming to Israel, where temperatures might soar up to 50 degrees °C four months a year. 

DANGERS OF PETROCHEMICAL FACILITIES NEAR POPULATED AREAS

Mr. Nir Zarchi and Prof. Shaul Horev: Nearshore platforms threaten Israel’s national security

Excerpts from their report on the (then impending) Leviathan rig include: 

“An attack on the nearshore platform will endanger Israel’s national security, dumping hazardous materials into the sea and shutting down Israel’s desalination plants. The electric system will also be jeopardized since the power stations require seawater to operate.”

“An attack to a nearshore platform will pose serious concerns to human life, particularly if an FSO condensate-containing tanker is placed alongside the processing platform, as appearing in the (Tamah 37H) plan.”

Full report (in Hebrew).

Mr. Nir Zarchi, Research fellow, Haifa Maritime Center
Prof. Shaul Horev, Former Navy Chief and Head of Israel's Atomic Energy Committee

Dr. Israel Barzilai: Expolosion at the DVS receiving plant could envelop
all of nearby Dor and parts of Kibbutz Nachsholim

Excerpts from report on the (then impending) Leviathan rig by Dr. Israel Barzilai, former Head of the Ministry of Environment’s Hazardous substances Department: 

“In England, the standards for condensate piping apply the utmost precaution, requiring a distance of 180 meters (196 yards) between condensate and gas pipelines. The [Leviathan Project] plan calls for a scandalous distance of only 1.40 meters (1.53 yards) between the pipes for condensate, gas, an old gas pipe, and a future (additional) gas line.”

A gas explosion at the DVS receiving plant planned for Dor Beach will create a fiery fuel cloud of 547 to 1531 yards [equivalent to the length of 4 to nearly 13 football fields] that could envelop all of nearby Dor neighborhood and parts of Kibbutz Nachsholim.

“One can conclude that a rupture to the natural gas pipeline, which can cause devastating and entirely unacceptable damages to body and property, may also cause the condensate pipeline to rupture, severely polluting soil and groundwater sources.” Full Report (in Hebrew).

Fiery fuel cloud Israel Barzilai No Source
Source: Report by Dr. Israel Barzilai, former head of the Ministry of Environment’s Hazardous Materials Department

Letter by 250 scientists: Initiative to turn Israel into crude oil carrier
from the Persian Gulf to Europe presents huge danger

Letter to Israel’s government signed by nearly 250 local and international scientists regarding the petroleum initiative to connect the Persian Gulf, Eilat, and Ashkelon:

“This deal exposes the entire Gulf of Eilat / Aqaba, the Sinai coast and coral reefs, as well as the Mediterranean coast and the landmasses in between, to huge danger; be it from leaks, accidents or intentional sabotage, events which are just a matter of time in this volatile part of the world…One “minor” accident or sabotage on one tanker would be enough to cause a major ecological disaster, in the Mediterranean and especially in the Red Sea.” [Full letter.]

Source: Times of Israel, UAE deal will imperil Eilat's critical coral reefs, scientists warn

Prof. Einat Aharonov: spill from nearshore tanker would be a game-over scenario

“The pipes connecting the Tamar and Leviathan wells to their processing platforms are among the longest in the world and apply a problematic technology known as tie-back. Generally used for only highly specific cases, tie-back piping presents both engineering and environmental challenges. It requires an anti-freeze agent that causes pipe blockages and considerably increases air and sea pollution during gas processing and in case of a spill.”

“Many people don’t know that according to the Tamah [gas plan], the Leviathan can also feature a nearby floating tanker, permitted to contain 600,000 barrels of condensate. A spill, in this case, would be a game-over scenario.” Full Report (In Hebrew).

Prof. Einat Aharonov, Head of the Petroleum Geology Department, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Prof. Rick Steiner: there is no effective solution for offshore condensate or natural gas spills 

Formerly a marine conservation professor with the University of Alaska, Rick Steiner is the founder and CEO of Oasis Earth, an NGO working with governments, industry, and civil society to speed the transition to an environmentally sustainable society. 

Prof. Steiner played a leading role in the emergency response to the 1989 Exon Valdez Oil Spill and the billion-dollar legal settlement that later protected much of the damaged coastline. His work has taken him to Russia, the Middle East, China, the Americas, and other sites worldwide.

Excerpts from Steiner’s 2018 report on the (then impending) Leviathan rig include: 

Prof. Rick Steiner, oil and gas spill expert

The [Leviathan project] documents fail to account for the many ways in which a complex system such as a deep-water gas project can fail, causing a low probability/high consequence event such as a major gas/condensate well blowout or pipeline release. In the post Deepwater Horizon understanding of deep-water drilling risks, this is unacceptable.” 

“A considerable amount of systems-critical information is simply redacted from the documents. This is highly unusual, and for a project with such potential consequence and public interest, is unacceptable.”

“The Leviathan documents overstate the capability to respond to (contain/recover) an offshore condensate release. It is generally accepted in the international spill response community that there exists no containment/recovery methodology that would be effective for offshore condensate (or natural gas) releases.” Full report.

Yossi Bar, hydrogeologist: Even a small-scale condensate spill
can pollute millions of meter-cubes of water

Excerpts from Bar’s report on (then impending) Leviathan rig: 

“The [Leviathan rig] pipelines will pass through critical hydrological and environmental hotspots, and above and near springs, riverbeds, well pumps, desalination plants, and nature reserves of worldwide caliber. 

“The annual fresh-water accumulation in the Southern Carmel Region is estimated at 50 million cubic meters. Even a small-scale condensate spill of a few meters-cubed [1mc = 264 gallons] can pollute millions of cubic meters of water… forcing the shutdown of the water system and causing significant damage to the soil, desalination plants, nature reserves, fish farms, and farmlands.” 

“Extensive experience abroad has demonstrated the significant difficulties of locating pipe leaks, fixing them promptly, and effectively cleaning their damages. In America, for instance, reports cite an average of 40 leaks annually, from 2010 – 2017.”

 Full Report(In Hebrew).

Yossi Bar, Hydrogeologist
One of Israel's five desalination plants

Dr. Michael Graber: Gas rigs could increase pollution hotspots

Excerpts from report on (then impending) Leviathan rig by Dr. Michael Graber, Former Director of Air Quality Division, Ministry of the Environment: 

“In the event of a malfunction and even during routine operation, Dor Beach, Ramot Menashe, and Mount Carmel might become an air pollution-affected area, as defined in Section 11A of the Clean Air Law.”

[The Leviathan platform] “will result in deviation from normal daily benzene environmental values…Benzene is on the list of substances that cause cancer in humans. The application for the emission permit does not present reliable and up-to-date information on the benzene contents.”

 “The Leviathan platform is expected to emit large amounts of VOCs into the air, which cause the formation of high concentrations of ozone, known to harm the environment and human health. NBL’s emissions application lacks any information about ozone concentrations.”

Full Report (in Hebrew).

Source: Ministry of Environment
Credit: Published in 'No Camels'. A young fin whale washed ashore in Israel in February 2021, likely because of an oil spill that devastated Israel's coastline

ISRAEL AS A GLOBAL WARMING HOTSPOT

"Our region is highly unstable in geopolitical terms, and if you add on top of it that it’s a hotspot for climate change, it becomes a threat multiplier."

Brigadier General Michael Herzog, former head of IDF Strategic Planning Division (Source: Times of Israel)

Dr. Shira Efron: Climate changes in the Middle East will directly affect Israel’s national security

Excepts from report by Dr. Shira Efron, Senior resercher, Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)

Within less than 30 years, models predict that Israel could experience up to 120 days annually of almost 50 degrees Celsius. There will be water shortages and the coastal area will be at risk of flooding due to rising sea levels. The pentagon defines climate change as a threat multiplier. The combination of extreme temperatures and water and food shortages will exacerbate socioeconomic disparities. This could lead to mass migration and create ideal conditions for terrorist organizations to flourish.

The IDF, Ministry of Defense, and National Security Council currently do not employ climate experts, deal with the climate in-depth, or address this topic in strategic assessments and budgeting.

State Comptroller: The failure to lower emissions has lost Israel’s economy a potential 67 billion dollars

A stinging 659-page report by Israel’s State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman warns that Israel is woefully unprepared for the climate crisis. Published in October 2021, the report notes that:

  • Israel’s emission rates have risen 103% since 1990 and 12% since 2005.
  • The failure to lower emissions has lost Israel’s economy a potential 67 billion dollars. 
  • Israel has yet to internalize the risks posed by climate change to the economy and financial system. 
  • Israel’s targeted 30% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 is the lowest in the OECD.
  • Despite its enhanced vulnerability as a ‘global warming hotspot,’ Israel is one of the few countries currently lacking a budgeted and approved national adaptation plan. Additionally, climate change is not part of its national threat map. 
  • Disagreements among government ministries have delayed Israel’s ability to meet its obligations and targets for emissions reduction and are likely to cause further delays. (Full report)
State Comptroler Matanyahu Englman

Photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem, The Jerusalem Post

MK & environmental lawyer, Prof. Alon Tal:
It’s time to put the job of reducing emissions into the prime minister’s hands  

Prof. Alon Tal is a veteran environmental activist, member of parliament, environmental lawyer, founder of the Israel Union of Environmental Defense, and chair of Tel Aviv University’s Dept. of Public Policy. 

Excerpts from his articles include:

Ready or not, the climate crisis is upon us. This means that energy systems are changing around the world…  For the beleaguered residents of Haifa, change cannot come soon enough. Epidemiological studies confirm that every year thousands of residents are sick due to air pollution, children are more than twice as likely to be asthmatic and at least a hundred residents die early each year.

See full article

Prof. Alon Tal, MK & environmental activist

The problem is that natural gas is not pollution free. Indeed, scientists tell us that we are looking at the critical window of the coming 20 years when the world has to make a heroic transition from a fossil fuel economy to a renewable one. During this period, natural gas is anything but a panacea. That’s because of the methane released during the production and distribution of natural gas. Over a 20-year period, a methane molecule natural gas has roughly 80 to 90 times the global warming potential of a carbon dioxide molecule. 

But the scientists are very clear: the planet will continue to heat up if we perpetuate our reliance on natural gas. Israel is already complacent. By prioritizing natural gas infrastructure and exploration rather than renewables, Israel is essentially saying that we prefer the comfort and convenience of the present generation over our grandchildren’s future.

See full article

Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, Government Decision 171 only commits to reducing Israel’s collective emissions by 27% in 2030. This constitutes an extremely modest emissions target relative to other developed countries, most of which expect to cut their emissions by more than half over the next eight years. Indeed, it is the lowest commitment of any OECD nation.
 

Moreover, Israel’s proposed climate law is woefully short on specifics and creativity. Why shouldn’t we require that any new parking lot paved in the country be covered by a solar roof? Such a law (for facilities with 35 or more spaces) can be found in Germany. Carbon taxes are increasingly appearing in climate legislation. Why don’t we tax the import of meat, with its prodigious carbon footprint, like they have started to do in Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, and Spain? The phaseout of fossil-fueled cars; mandatory photovoltaic infrastructure on the roofs of new residential buildings, perks for not-motorized commuters… the list goes on and on.

See full article

Prof. Adi Wolfson: The transition from coal to gas will increase Israel's greenhouse emissions

Prof Adi Wolfson is an expert in sustainability and head of the Chemical Engineering Department at Beer-Sheva’s Shamoon College of Engineering. He works with national and local authorities to promote Israel’s sustainable industry and development and is a prolific writer and speaker, frequently featured in Israeli media.

Excerpts from one of Prof. Wolfson’s articles: 

Over the years, the State of Israel has ignored climate change and the mortality and morbidity resulting from the country’s air pollution. Israel set only meager emissions-reduction targets in the Paris Climate Accord. Moreover, with the discovery of natural gas off its coast, senior officials from the energy and environmental protection ministries adopted a clear approach: Israel must transition from coal to natural gas. 

This strategy is wrong! The transition from coal to gas will increase Israel’s greenhouse gas emissions since natural gas is actually methane. This potent greenhouse gas is far more aggressive than carbon dioxide at warming the planet. Processing gas (from its crude to usable state) also leaks large amounts of methane during extraction, piping, and processing – emissions that are not currently considered. 

The window of opportunity presented by the global climate crisis is narrow and requires forward-thinking and courageous decisions today! The main problem, which citizens must understand, is that…. if Israel invests in gas infrastructures – including plans for power plants nearby and even within residential neighborhoods, gas pipelines to Ashkelon, Eilat, and more – it will not be possible to step back. We will have far-reaching economic implications for another 30-40 years.” Full article (in Hebrew).

Prof. Adi Wolfson, Shamoon College of Engineering
How can we flatten our greenhouse emissions? Link to Prof. Adi Wolfson's article (in Hebrew)

Letter by 100 scientists: Current gas policies anchor Israel to past technologies

Letter to former Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz signed by 100 scientists, including Nobel Prize winners Yisrael Aumann and Dan Shectman, and Israel Prize winners Dan Yakir and Gideon Dagan. 

“The government’s decision to build a new network of private natural gas-fired power plants is inconsistent with the economic trends in the energy market … and does not match Israel’s international commitments on climate change and sustainable development. This decision anchors [Israel] to past technologies for decades … at the expense of creating a cleaner, cheaper, and more distributed energy sector. Gas also produces a more vulnerable energy sector in the face of security risks.” 

Full letter (in Hebrew)

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