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每日跟讀#672: Israel’s Energy Dilemma: More Natural Gas Than It Can Use or Export

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· 每日跟讀單元 Daily English

每日跟讀#672: Israel’s Energy Dilemma: More Natural Gas Than It Can Use or Export

For decades, Israel was an energy-starved country surrounded by hostile, oil-rich neighbors.


Now it has a different problem. Thanks to major offshore discoveries over the past decade, it has more natural gas than it can use or readily export.


Having plenty of gas is hardly a burden, and it offers a cleaner-burning alternative to Israel’s longtime power sources. But it presents challenges for a country that wants to extract geopolitical and economic benefits from a rare energy windfall, including building better relations with its neighbors and Europe.


Part of the problem is timing. Just as Israel prepares to produce and export large amounts of gas, the United States, Australia, Qatar and Russia are flooding the market with cheap gas. The other is math: Israel’s 8.5 million people use in a year less than 1% of the gas that has been found in the country’s waters.


“We have a surplus of gas,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said in an interview. “Israeli waters are swimming in gas, and what we have discovered is only the beginning.”


Noble Energy, a Houston-based company that made its first discovery of gas in Israel in 1999, has found more than 30 trillion cubic feet of gas off the country’s coast over the past decade. Some experts say new discoveries could double that.


As a result, Israel is phasing out diesel and coal-fired electricity, replacing it mostly with gas-fired generation and some solar power. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet is considering banning the import of gasoline and diesel cars starting in 2030 and gradually switching to vehicles fueled by compressed natural gas or electricity.


Israel is also stepping up exports to neighbors like Jordan and Egypt. There are even plans to supply gas to a power plant in the West Bank for Palestinian customers.


Yet these efforts will make only a dent in the country’s reserves.


“We want to export,” said Jacob Nagel, former head of Israel’s National Security Council. “The question is: How much will it cost? Is it possible? How much time will it take?”


For decades, Israel depended on Russia and other sources for fuel, while its industries and homes relied on coal and oil power plants that blanketed its cities with smog.


The switch to gas has helped clear the air in cities like Tel Aviv and Haifa that have converted diesel-fueled plants.Israel’s biggest coal plant — in Hadera, a coastal city — will be converted over the next three years, cutting national coal consumption by 30%. Officials say they expect to eliminate coal use in 11 years.


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