Israel, Electric Cars, and Existential Threats

Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi has launched an Israeli electric car, and also arranged for four recharging stations. Israel is a perfect place for this experiment, since it is a relatively small and compact country, so the present lack of range of most electric cars (70-150 miles) may not be an issue for a lot of Israelis. The commuters between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, e.g., could use it, especially if it was easy to charge the car while one is at work. If the recharging stations could be solar or receive their power from solar or wind electricity plants, this development could be significant. (Portugal is another good candidate for this sort of arrangement).

Agassi stresses that as long as petroleum reigns, Israel will remain hostage to oil producers hostile to his country. (The natural gas fields in the Mediterranean extend into neighbors’ territory and are more a war waiting to happen than salvation, not to mention that natural gas puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere). Thus, a move to wind and solar would help make Israel energy-independent and make it more secure.

In this light, the Likud government’s hope of getting 10% of its electricity from renewables by 2020 is laughably unambitious. Why isn’t Alon Tal’s Green Party more popular? Why do Israelis put up with an energy policy so beholden to petroleum producers such as Iran and Saudi Arabia?

Meanwhile, Arava Power is investing $200 million in 8 medium-sized solar power generating fields, in conjunction with Siemens, the German energy firm that owns 40% of Arava, and which is a major player in renewable energy.

Israel is a natural for solar power generation, with expanses of sunny desert and a large pool of engineers, scientists and inventors who are creating innovative solar technology such as reflector dishes

The China Bank is offering to fund such projects (China is another big solar player, and may be seeking access to Israeli solar technological breakthroughs).

Some of Israel’s Mediterranean coast is sufficiently low-lying, including the city of Tel Aviv, that the rising ocean levels that will be caused by global warming will submerge them over time. In past eras, an increase of 1 degree celsius translated into 10 to 20 meters increase in sea level. Even if we can hold our present increase to 3 degrees celsius through a crash global green energy program, that would be an increase of as much as 60 meters or 180 feet. Tel Aviv will certainly end up under water if humanity goes on spewing carbon dioxide into the air at this rate–not in this century, but over time. A majority of Israeli Jews live in and around Tel Aviv. Climate change is the real existential threat, not bluster from Iran.

8 Responses

  1. Why no wise, long-view policies in Israel (or hardly anywhere else in the Mideast Bazaar)? Maybe it has to do with the nature of humans, and the reality that there will always be oligarchies (oiligarchies, while the oil lasts) running any organization. And maybe it’s what happens to “tribes with flags,” who have traditions and shibboleths that force the advancement, over time, of a certain kind of “leader.”

    Maybe it’s just the “odor” of both, but it sure smells to me like there are massive parallels between the Likudnik rulers, like that knowing face on TIME magazine’s cover last week, and guys like Yasser Arafat. About whom there is a truly illuminating piece that I keep going back to: link to Which points out so very clearly the cynical, grasping, faux-patriotic-actual-traitorous nature of not only Arafat but so many others. People who know how to project a great “patriotic” Potemkin front, seemingly just being “all about ‘their’ people,” while compulsively salting away the big bucks, engaging in vigorous and humorous corruption, and laughing with their play-date buddies on the other side of various Green Lines and Walls and Death Zones and Frontiers.

    “Things just the way they are, getting slightly worse all the time to keep the peasants in line” are the fallow ground where these vigorously toxic seeds fortuitously fall, to prosper and suck all the nutrients out of shallow soil. That others prosper or survive is just fortuity: the rhizomes of the noxious weeds just happen to miss their little patches of dirt, or in the case of the war-and-oil business, cross-fertilize.

    Too bad we don’t seem to be able to do any better – just a series of negative-sum games masked as zero-sum.

  2. Be interesting if Israel goes with Chinese panels at an artificially low cost, in lieu of supporting it’s largest supporter the US. Since money is fungible, the US defense largess to Israel would end up paying for Chinese over US solar panels. Great.

  3. Why do Israelis put up with an energy policy so beholden to petroleum producers? Maybe because its not really possible to do otherwise at this time, something which seems to escape many people; if Israel can’t avoid dependence on oil, who can? It does not make sense for a tiny country like Israel to try for research breakthroughs on alternate energy sources, or even to experiment on a large scale with known alternatives. Smaller countries are smarter to leave this up to the US, and we aren’t doing it.

  4. Less energy vulnerability = less paranoia

    Less paranoia = less hunger for military and territorial power

    Bad for the entire existing Israeli political establishment.

    Maybe the crazies looking for an excuse to extend Greater Israel to the Euphrates (and its oil) have gotten as deeply into government as the Tea Party crazies on the House Armed Services Committee who recently voted to ban the Pentagon from paying a premium for biofuels that it’s been testing in its vehicles in order to help develop alternative sources of oil. How dare the Pentagon define security as anything other than expansionism.

  5. Even though I am not a Likud fan (put it in an understatement), I have to admit that Bibi, Peres and some of his ministers have taken huge steps towards sustainable future her in Israel (bigger than ever). To name a few:
    1. Shimon Peres gives the Shai Agasi project huge PR.
    2. One year ago the government has allocated 1.2 B$ for fuel substitutes (I work in a company who vastly sponsored by this fund).
    3. The electrical company (a state owned) is force to increase the share of electricity it buys from sun-powered panels.
    4. Lots of subsides to start-up compnaies and moving goverment-red tape to accelerate the implementation of new technologies.
    More step are on the way.

    And one more thing, in Israel it is the law to build on every house a solar water heating system, (not PV panel). So if you calculate the amount of energy this systems save, Israel is one of the leaders in sustainable energy.

    And although we are only hold a small share in global warming, if other counties could adopt some of the idea we develop – we can make a huge impact

    • Per a recent presentation for Israel Bonds, the investments in those instruments do help with infrastructure and stuff that seems generally beneficial, but also allow the rulers to “invest” in a huge and growing military-industrial establishment. Almost all the start-ups touted at that presentation, which was based on a nationally distributed multi-media pitch piece, were companies making ever-more-sneaky-and-“sophisticated” weapons and related systems.

      What’s abundantly clear from that presentation is that not only are US taxpayers dumping billions into the Israeli coffers every year (earning the label “Uncle Sucker” for their trouble), people all over the US are adding $600 million in bond purchases, bonds which are paid off presumably out of, in part, that taxpayer money from the rest of us. All supporting an important but increasingly ugly state, with all its offshoots and odd activities.

      Nothing particularly new about the reality of a World Military-Industrial “thing,” where all the players are attached to all the other players, right straight across the imaginary lines that divide one “people” from another, all just buying and selling war crap to one anothers’ oligarchs, and cross-pollinating their fevered brains with dreams of ever-more-efficient and sneaky death-dealing, and selling points labeled “security” and “hegemony” and (sub silentio) “futility,” and the goal of the game is extracting wealth from the “real economies” and converting it to careers and dachas and still more deadly rounds of still more deadlier weapons and still more stupid tactics and repeatedly idiotic strategies and doctrines. Like this Really Cool Toy: link to

      Yeah, I know — it’s complicated, and I don’t understand all the implications and facets… even Super390 doesn’t, probably… and I bet, really, that NObody does. Except for maybe a very few, who want to keep it that way. Behind a carefully assembled and artfully maintained shrubbery.

      • Wow, I could not understand a single sentence in your replay !
        What are you talking about ?

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