November 02, 2009

Netanyahu to hawk alternative energy at Copenhagen

Giving gas the boot
By Aluf Benn - Haaretz - October 29, 2009
Emphasis - Aletho News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to be remembered as the leader of a small nation who warned the great countries about the dangers lurking for Western democracy, and showed them how to protect themselves. The prime minister takes pride in having been the first to sound the alarm about Islamic terror and the Iranian nuclear project, when all the others were dozing off.

Now Netanyahu has found a new goal: ending the world's dependence on oil. In his speech at the Israeli Presidential Conference last week, Netanyahu surprised participants by announcing a national project for developing an alternative to oil within 10 years. [...]

At the cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu repeated his tripartite vision of dealing with alternative energy, water resources and environmental preservation, and announced the appointment of a team led by Prof. Eugene Kandel, head of the National Economic Council, to spearhead the project.

It was a worthy platform for unveiling the initiative. The Presidential Conference participants are supporters of Israel and include many media representatives, and Netanyahu also enjoyed the sponsorship of the man of vision, President Shimon Peres. However, the Prime Minister's Bureau did not prepare even a basic information sheet on Israel's alternative energy capabilities, or on the direction of research and development, and did not invite the technology reporters to hear about the project. As a result, Netanyahu presented a half-baked idea that came across as a pretentious card pulled out of his sleeve rather than as a serious plan of action. [...]

The logic is simple: Replacing oil with clean energy will crush the political power of the petroleum-producing countries. "Dependence on fossil fuels strengthens the dark regimes that encourage instability and fund terror with their petrodollars," said Netanyahu.

The conclusion is obvious: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will not be able to wreak damage and will ferment if they lose their fountain of cash. [...]

Oil means trouble

For years, Israeli researcher Gal Luft has been preaching about "energy security" in Washington, and warning that the oil addiction is making the West a captive to threatening and unstable regimes. In his lectures, he reminds Americans that in their land of suburbia, it is impossible even to buy bread without driving a petroleum-fueled car. He relates that much of the world's oil reserves lie under the Sunni-Shiite rift - that is, in regions prone to Islamic extremism and religious wars. In short, oil means trouble.

Netanyahu shares this view, but adds two new dimensions. He believes alternative energy will create a more equal distribution of global wealth, and will not enrich only countries blessed with subterranean oil reserves. This is especially important for developing countries like China, India and the African states, which depend on oil from the Middle East and whose industrial revolution is restricted by concerns about greenhouse gas emissions.

Israel can benefit from alternative energy in several ways: by building a new high-tech industry in an in-demand field; by cooperating with the rising powers in Asia, which are less interested in the Palestinians and the occupation; and by transforming itself into a site for clean-energy experiments that improve air quality here. If Netanyahu attends the upcoming world climate conference in Copenhagen, as has been proposed, it will be to present the idea to the international community.

This week, Prof. Kandel presented the preliminary outline of the project to the government. Two steering committees will be established: one of leading scientists, who will decide which aspects of alternative energy development must be addressed, and will identify where Israel has relative advantages in that realm; and another of industrialists and government officials, who will formulate a practical plan of action. Israel also will propose cooperative ventures with foreign countries and international companies.

A preliminary Israeli-American agreement on alternative energy development was signed in the twilight of former U.S. president George W. Bush's term, but Netanyahu's bureau is planning much more extensive endeavors. Israeli companies have been making advances in solar energy, water technology, chemical industries and information systems for managing the energy economy. However, in the meantime, there has been no breakthrough invention that would free cars, ships and planes from their dependence on petroleum, and provide a clean alternative to coal-based electricity.

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