The Happy Arab News Service

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

The Ultimate Weapon

The last IDF's incursion in Gaza failed to stop Kassam attacks. Immediately after the army pulled out of Gaza the Palestinians lobed four Kassams into Ashkelon with one falling near the city school. The analysts agree that unless Hamas and Fatah create a joint government, nobody can stop the militants from shooting rockets into Southern Israel. There is simply nobody in control of Gaza today. In fact calls are made for rapidly improvising a solution against Kassams in the form of a missile defense system since chances that such short term incursions would stop Kassams are zero and no normal person in Israel has guts even to think about reoccupying Gaza on a permanent basis just a year since we got out of there.

While the analysts and IDF consider the options in the face of the new ballistic challenges, on another front a new weapon is being prepared for action . . . --> Continue Reading

A few months ago the BusinessWeek published an article about Israel unfreezing into action a technology that was here available for maybe a decade - converting a shale into oil. This home grown Israeli technique allows extracting liquid oil from shale sand which is abundant in Israel and even more in Jordan. The BusinessWeek was reporting on July 5:

. . .

Now, the tables have turned. A Russian-born Israeli immigrant named Moshe Gvirtz developed a technique in the 1990s to squeeze oil from shale by mixing the rock with a residue from conventional oil refining and putting it through a catalytic process. The dramatically improved results, coupled with soaring crude prices, have inverted the economics of oil shale. That could help not just Israel but dozens of other countries, including the U.S., that are rich in shale reserves.

. . .

"The technology could reduce dependence on imports and substantially reduce Israel's overall energy bill," says Israel Feldman, the company's co-founder and managing director. A.F.S.K. Hom Tov has proposed building a plant that could produce up to 3 million tons of oil annually, or roughly 30% of Israel's current oil imports.

How does it work? Older technologies squeezed oil out of shale by putting the crushed rock under enormous pressure at high temperatures. But the process developed by Gvirtz costs far less. The shale is mixed and coated with bitumen, a remnant of normal oil refining, then put through a catalytic converter under relatively low pressure. The output is synthetic oil that can be refined into gasoline and other products.

. . .

"The cost of producing a barrel of oil using the process would be around $17 a barrel," estimates Amit Mor, managing director of Eco-Energy. At that price, the proposed plant would be a veritable gold mine, with annual profits between $188 million to $317 million. Mor notes that the projections are based on the U.S. Energy Dept.'s forecasts of an average oil price of $45 to $50 a barrel in the coming 25 years.


Now the gloves are off and Ofer Glazer starts constructing the first plant of this kind in Negev. It would take three years and at its full capacity the plant would allow to cut 1/3 of Israel's oil imports. And this is just the beginning. The cost of producing a barrel would be around 20 something dollars.

Shale is readily available in many countries and if the technology proves itself, the consequences for the energy market may be profound. Given that this technology is still competitive at less than $20 per barrel, this is basically the lowest point we can drive the price of oil to with this technique.

But the common sense suggests that if Israel is serious about using such economic weapons against Arabs, it should set its eyes not on becoming another Middle Eastern oil emirate, but on developing technology that will cut right under the very foundations upon which the entire Arab nation and the world of Islam stand today. And this means to develop a technology that would dispense with oil altogether by extracting oil from algae or whatever.

Surprisingly none of the analysts or even investors ever mentioned huge repercussions the shale processing technology may have on the future of the Middle East and the Israeli Arab conflict. No wonder nobody in this country ever seriously thought about throwing state money into developing real oil substituting technologies. This is very unfortunate since if there is something, that Israelis excel at, (apart from eating babies of course) it is at developing technology. Israel holds the worlds first place on the ratio of hi-tech exports to the rest of the economy. The potential is there. Only the decision is missing.


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