Money and Oil

The Valley of Elah has recently been seen as the place that can potentially secure the future of modern Israel. The valley gets its name from the Elah tree, a type of oak or terebinth tree. Also known as “the valley of the oak or terebinth” this unspoiled area is commonly known as the place where David defeated Goliath as reported in the Book of Samuel in the Bible. It is located near Azekah and Socho, in a fertile region of oak forests and fields with limestone hills. Soon this lush landscape will be interrupted with goliath intentions. In the coming months there will be several wells drilled into the bedrock, probing down 1,000 feet into a huge reserve of fossil fuels. Despite early discovery of oil in the Valley of Elah, the findings were largely ignored until now. In the early 1980’s a geographical survey completed on the landscape found that Israel was sitting on one of the world’s largest deposits of kerogen-rich oil shale. Over the past years scientists have discovered that by heating kerogen-rich oil shale to very high temperatures the kerogen can be converted into oil. Known as the biblical site where David battled Goliath there is now another battle brewing between Israel Energy Initiative (IEI) and environmentalists.

Israel Energy Initiative is a Jerusalem-based company that is carrying out the drilling. They have obtained a license to explore 92 miles of this rural landscape in Israel. An article titled, “Israel may be the worlds’ next energy superpower. But is this good for the Jews?”, states that rock samples at the site of one of seven exploratory drills were examined and according to IEI chemists could produce 500 million barrels of oil. This could supply Israel’s oil needs for five years from one wheat field. The total amount that could potentially be produced from this area might be as much as 250 billion barrels of crude oil, which makes it roughly equal to the total reserves of Saudi Arabia.

“Energy independence could mitigate the existential dread that Israelis suffer as citizens of a small nation threatened repeatedly”. This drilling will have monumental effects both internally and internationally. The United States and Europe have been seeking an alternative to Arab-world crude oil. Drilling in Israel could in turn affect the balance of power within the Middle East. New technology could heat Israel’s shale deposits essentially making Israel an energy independent state. The strategic value of these deposits cannot be underestimated. Currently Israel imports all of its coal and oil and most of its gas. Tapping into these oil shale deposits could be a game changer for Israel.

Legitimate environmental concerns linger, however. Environmental activists charge that the drilling of the natural-gas fields is being performed under less stringent regulations than American sites and assert that if an environmental disaster should occur there will be grave consequences for the environment in this archaeologically significant area, potentially turning it into an industrial wasteland. Many citizens also feel that IEI is not being completely honest with them about the environmental impact. Some believe that pollutants will be expelled into the atmosphere during the refining process, and oxygen might leak into fissures below the surface that could ignite and explode. Another issue concerning many is that the drilling is located not too far from a Rift Valley fault zone which has caused earthquakes in the past.

According to one environmentalist, “We are a county where everybody knows everybody, where environmentalists can talk to ministers, to members of parliament, and express out views. That’s the good thing. On the other hand, the economic forces here are very powerful and I wouldn’t gamble on the final results, it’s going to be a hard battle”. The debate in Israel continues.

Hammer, Joshua. “Israel: IEI’s Land Of Oil And Money.” Fast Company . Fast Company , 08 Aug 2011. Web. 10 Oct 2012. .


One thought on “Money and Oil

  1. As a casual news consumer, it’s been interesting to observe the change in tone of the “energy” vs “environment” debate. Two (?) years ago, “gloom and doom” environmentalists’ shrieking would have totally drowned out any talk of “energy independence.” I just read in The Economist that only 12% of Americans list the “environment” as one of their top 3 concerns. Personally, I welcome this more balanced discussion.

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