The plan to build an onshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant is a fantasy that messed up the thinking of the Tzemach Committee, which advised the government on gas exports, says former Ministry of Environmental Protection director general Alona Sheffer-Karo, who left the post two months ago, and served on the committee. She was the sole dissenter from the committee's final report.
"All the discussions about natural gas exports were over this megalomaniacal idea of building an LNG plant," Sheffer-Karo told "Globes". "Some committee members even travelled abroad to see these plants; I don’t know who paid for it. We were given aerial photographs of the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company's sites in Ashkelon and Eilat, and we were told where the facilities would be built. I saw grown men as enthusiastic as children about something the consequences of which they did not understand. I see this as a case of temporary insanity."
"Globes": In retrospect, do you think that the Tzemach Committee was too strongly influenced by business interests?
Sheffer-Karo: "I think, and I said it for the record, that the committee tried too hard to make Yitzhak Tshuva's calculations. I also had the feeling that some members wanted to compensate the developers for the financial damage caused by the Sheshinski Committee."
Last week, "Globes" reported that East Asian customers have frozen long-term plans for the purchase of LNG in expectation of lower prices from the US's entry into the global natural gas market. On this point, too, Sheffer-Karo says that the Tzemach Committee members erred.
"There was pressure, and we were constantly told that there was a window of opportunity, and we should sell the gas to Asia fast. They mentioned Japan, South Korea, and China too, but the fall in prices came as a surprise. Here too, reality has brought things back into proportion and pulled us out of the fantasy world."
The Tzemach Committee recommendations were changed by the government, at the initiative of Minister National Infrastructures Silvan Shalom, who demanded reducing gas exports from 50% of gas fields to 40%. "In the end, I am very satisfied with the decision, and I am very pleased," says Sheffer-Karo. "I regret the mess over the establishment of an onshore gas terminal. I think that the government should take a courageous decision against the public, as it did against the developers, and approve more gas terminals."
Are politicians not showing enough determination in the face of public opposition?
"You have to know when to be brave against the developers and against the public. You don’t have to panic from either party, so long as you act in good faith and reasonably."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 3, 2013
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