100 local government officials call for more renewable energy

Days before Israel’s biggest natural gas field starts commercial operation, environment committee heads join 112 scientists calling on energy minister to rethink natural gas use

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

An aerial view of solar panels near the southern resort city of Eilat. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
An aerial view of solar panels near the southern resort city of Eilat. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Around 100 elected officials who chair local government environment committees throughout the country on Monday joined 112 leading scientists by calling on Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz to rethink expanding the use of natural gas and instead set far more ambitious goals for renewable energy.

The signatories belong to the Forum for Heads of Environmental Committees in Local Government.

“In our role as heads of environmental committees and holders of portfolios dealing with the environment and sustainability in local government, we will act within the mandate given to us by the public to encourage the use of renewable energy for the sake of a cleaner, cheaper and more dispersed energy economy,” they wrote.

Last month, a letter to Steinitz signed by 112 scientists quoted research indicating that natural gas is similar to coal in terms of its effect on global warming.

A government decision two years ago to construct 16 gas-fired power stations “locks in for decades old technologies and assumptions that are no longer valid regarding the economic benefits of natural gas relative to a cleaner, less expensive and more dispersed energy system,” they said.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Signatories to the scientists’ letter included Nobel laureate Yisrael Robert Aumann of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University; Israel Prize winners Dan Yakir of the Weizmann Institute and Tel Aviv University’s Gedeon Dagan; leading solar energy expert Abraham Kribus of Tel Aviv University; Ofira Ayalon of Haifa University, coordinator and project manager of the Israeli Climate Change Information Center set up by the Environmental Protection Ministry; and Alon Tal, chair of Tel Aviv University’s Public Policy Department and a veteran environmental activist.

With commercial production about to start at the massive Leviathan natural gas field, Steinitz envisages that more than 80 percent of the country’s energy will come from natural gas by 2030.

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