Tensions stirred in the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee on Monday, as MK’s and gas industry capitalists sparred over the increasingly hot-button issue of exporting the country’s natural gas. The offshore Tamar reservoir is already flowing into the country’s transmission pipelines, with the 282 billion cubic meters found there dedicated to domestic use only. Tamar’s roughly double-sized neighbor, Leviathan, which should be developed within the next few years, is expected to supply both export and domestic needs.
While the Zemach Committee – headed by Energy and Water Ministry director-general Shaul Zemach – recommended in the early fall that a maximum of 50 percent, or 500 billion cubic meters, be allowed for export, environmentalists have slammed these figures as too generous.
Protesters hold a banner with the estimated value of natural gas during demonstration against exports of natural gas found in the Mediterranean Sea. Protesters marched to the house of energy minster Silvan Shalom on May 11, 2013 (Photo: Activestills)
At Monday’s meeting, Economic Affairs Committee chairman Avishay Braverman (Labor) and many of his colleagues demanded that the subject of gas export be transferred from the cabinet’s hands to those of the Knesset. As the issue impacts the public today and in future generations, a comprehensive discussion in the Knesset must occur, he said. The committee meeting erupted, when MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) said that the Tzemach Committee had allowed for the export of more than half the gas. Tzemach replied that the committee had never said that, and Khenin then cited the report.
They he asked Zemach: “Once the country puts aside 450 billion cubic meters for at-home use, if there was hypothetically an additional 450 billion cubic meters discovered, would that second quantity go entirely to export, or is it split evenly between domestic and foreign use?” Zemach did not answer the question immediately, and shouts continued across the room as to whether the hypothetical domestic supply would then be 450 billion cubic meters or 675 billion cubic meters. After a series of unclear responses, Braverman accused Zemach of failing to give the public a truthful answer. “How can a person with your professional experience and education not answer a question for an hour?” he asked.
MK Khenin meanwhile, accused the Zemach Committee of being too optimistic about the quantities of gas found in the Leviathan reservoir and too pessimistic about the demand for the gas that will occur in the Israeli energy sector and said that the discussion on exports should be opened ten years from now, after Israeli consumers know they will have what they need.
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