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With BP’s spill in mind, Israel considers delivery of natural gas

TEL AVIV – More than a year after a massive natural gas find in the Mediterranean Sea off the Israeli coast sparked hopes in Israel of a new era of energy independence, the project is running into concerns about how the gas can be delivered safely.

The BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico has raised concerns in Israel about processing the gas and its delivery within the country.

“You don’t just open the valve and everyone’s happy,” said Zeev Aizenshtat, a fossil fuels expert who works as a chemistry professor at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. “In a country that has security problems, especially with the imminent threat of missiles coming in, you need to makes sure the pipes are well protected.”

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In early 2009, an energy exploration outfit in the Mediterranean Sea discovered a huge natural gas field about 50 miles off the Haifa coast. Creative Commons/Tsuda

The question is how to bring the gas, which was discovered in February 2009 one mile below the sea floor approximately 50 miles off the Haifa coast, to Israel, and then how to distribute it throughout the country. Natural gas is highly flammable, and Israel also lacks the infrastructure of piping needed to distribute the gas nationwide.

If Israel finds a way to deliver it safely and efficiently, the treasure trove of some 24 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could be Israel’s ticket to energy independence, providing the country with some 70 percent of its energy needs for the next 20 years, according to experts.

The trove is a combination of two major gas fields — called Leviathan and Tamar, named for the granddaughter of Israeli energy mogul Yitzhak Tshuva. It was Tshuva’s Delek Group and a U.S. partner that were responsible for the drilling that led to the finds.

Israel’s energy needs are now provided mostly by coal. Israel imports natural gas from Egypt via a pipeline, and it imports coal and oil from countries around the globe, including Russia, Mexico, and Norway.

“This discovery is nothing short of a geopolitical game-changer,” Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a Washington-based NGO that deals with energy and security issues, wrote last month in the Haaretz newspaper.

But several challenges come first. Lebanon claims it has rights to the Leviathan find because they say the northern part of the find is in Lebanese territorial waters. Israel dismisses the claim, saying it is firmly within its own maritime boundaries.

“We will not hesitate to use our force and strength to protect not only the rule of law but the international maritime law,” Minister of National Infrastructure Uzi Landau told the Bloomberg news agency last week, responding to the Lebanese claims.

Then there is the question of how to deliver the gas and avoid accidents like the BP spill especially if, as is now being considered, Israel builds a natural gas processing plant in the sea rather than on land.

The underwater plant has two potential benefits. It could offer the processing plant additional protection from attack by terrorists or enemy aircraft, and it could circumvent the not-in-my-backyard syndrome that stands as an obstacle to the construction of a processing plant near Israeli population centers along the coast. Local opponents already have emerged against each of six potential sites for the plant on land.

Israelis are concerned that the gas power plants could become military targets or turn into fireballs, said Amit Bracha, executive director of the advocacy group Adam Teva V’Din, The Israeli Union for Environmental Defense.

“The not-in-my-backyard syndrome takes on new meaning in Israel, which is so small,” Bracha said.

Adam Teva V’Din supports the alternative option of establishing the plant underwater.

“No one can bomb it,” Bracha said, “and it’s safer because it’s not near any neighborhoods.”

But safety concerns attend to that option, too.

A spill in the water would cause serious environmental damage, albeit less than a toxic oil spill. Even on land, Israel would have to build a network of pipes that would be secure and able to shut down automatically if there is a leak.

The government is conducting a survey to determine the best option for constructing the natural gas processing plant. In any case, the gas itself won’t be tapped until 2012 because it takes time to set up a distribution infrastructure.

In a statement to JTA, the National Infrastructure Ministry wrote that even if a decision is made to build an underwater plant, it does not preclude the possibility that one might also be built on land.

Aizenshtat said the natural gas find could help Israel achieve newfound independence.

“We were promised a land of milk and honey by God, but nothing was ever said about petroleum,” he said. “But the moment you do have it, people start looking at you differently.

“Energy today is a commodity that countries live and die by,” he said. “Whoever has control of the faucet can have a strong influence on the world. Politically this find is very important.”

JTA

 
 

Lockerbie bomber case not closed

 

Seeking forgiveness on Selichot with help from the pros

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What can we learn about repentance and forgiveness from the apologies of public figures? Edmon Rodman

What can Tiger and Toyoda teach us about teshuvah?

With Selichot, a service of repentance-centered prayers said in preparation for the High Holidays, coming on the night of Sept. 4, is there anything we can learn about saying “I’m sorry” from public figures?

The airwaves have been full of apologies this year. But unlike soon-to-be former BP Chairman Tony Hayward or South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, we usually don’t say “selach li,” “forgive me,” on TV in front of a world audience.

The community that does hear our Ashamnus is more immediate, even intimate, as we often rise to say these words of confession among family and friends, even the people we may have wronged.

Why compare ourselves to public persons? After all, we didn’t wreck the Gulf of Mexico, create poorly engineered automobiles, or destroy our relationships by seeking additional sexual partners.

At least mostly.

Most of us discover that even though the wrongs we commit never come with front-page headlines, in our mind’s eye they can read just as large.

So what can we learn from these staged and scripted, spin-doctored apologies? That for shul on Yom Kippur we should toss the traditional white and instead don apologetic blue? Or perhaps learn to pull an easily readable “I’m sorry” face?

Behind all the staging and showmanship, there still seems to me a kernel of kavanah, of right intention, in these apologies. Some attempts, like Sanford’s, often fall short, seemingly compiling a public “al chait” of how not to say you’re sorry. But we can find insight in the attempts and learn from their mistakes.

“I have been unfaithful to my wife,” Sanford declared before delving into the detailed how and why of his indiscretions.

In contrast to this public confession, Selichot prayers are not much interested in specifics; in fact they are TMI (Too Much Information) sensitive. Standing in synagogue, thankfully, we are not asked to offer up personal details.

Since Judaism has no word for “sin,” the declarations in Ashamnu recited late on a Selichot night, in comparison to the governor’s specifics, ask us to acknowledge collectively where we have missed the mark. We say instead, “We have been perverse. We have been wicked.... We have used sex exploitatively.”

Furthermore, in his book “Living Judaism,” Rabbi Wayne Dosick relates that according to the Talmud, “God forgives transgressions committed against him, but offenses against another human being must first be forgiven by the injured party.”

We don’t know what Sanford said to his family before going on the air. Perhaps he sought forgiveness from his wife and family. Regardless, I know that when I screw up, independent of TV coverage, I have real work to do.

Tiger Woods’ admission of a life of philandering and deception, even if you think golf is a total snooze, probably stirred you awake this year.

“I know I have bitterly disappointed all of you,” he said in a televised apology.

“For all that I have done, I am sorry,” he said in an attempt of teshuvah, which literally means “return,” and in Judaism describes the concept of repentance.

Further into the apology, Woods even sounded Ashamnu-esque: “I was unfaithful. I never thought about who I was hurting. I felt I was entitled. I was wrong. I was foolish. I brought this down on myself.”

Liturgically, what I found lacking was the key summation of humility that is said following Ashamnu: “We have abandoned excellent commandments and judgments, and it has not turned out well with us.”

For its apology, British Petroleum chose a 60-second commercial to say sorry for environmentally ravaging the Gulf of Mexico. What was it about Hayward’s voice that didn’t sound apologetic? I don’t think it was just his accent or stiff demeanor.

On Selichot, which means forgiveness, when we rise to say “Shema Kolenu,” “hear our cry,” the tenor of our voice or even our fumbling with the words is not supposed to matter.

So forgetting about his tone, what I found missing from Hayward’s words was a sentiment akin to the prayer’s directedness, in which we ask God to “help us to return” and the promise that we “shall indeed return.”

Yes, Hayward and BP took responsibility and promised “we will make things right.” But where was the teshuvah? Are they going to change? Will this ever happen again? The nasty online parodies of this commercial seem to indicate that many just didn’t buy it.

This winter, appearing at a hearing before the U.S. Congress, the grandson of Toyota’s founder apologized for his cars that would not stop.

“I am deeply sorry for any accident that Toyota drivers have experienced,” Akio Toyoda said.

In an almost High Holy Dayish tone, he asked his customers for forgiveness and faith.

“I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again,” he said.

Was Toyoda preparing us for the Thirteen Attributes of Corolla?

To make amends, he offered that Toyota is dedicated to “continuous slow improvement” — the “change for the better” concept of “Kaizen” upon which Toyota has successfully built itself.

If applied to human relationships, it is this idea of gradual improvement — of continuous teshuvah, if you will — that among all the apologies I find the most useful for Selichot and the season’s Days of Repentance.

Beginning with Selichot, it’s a long, hard haul down an often curvy teshuvah highway, and steering toward “continuous slow improvement” sounds like a plan.

JTA

 
 

The father of a victim takes another look at Lockerbie

 

A year after the BP spill, inspiration in an uphill battle

_JStandardOp-Ed
Published: 29 April 2011
 
 
 
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