Al Gore accepting the prestigious $1 million Dan David Prize in Tel Aviv last week.A star-studded cast of environment academics, policy makers and clean technology experts graced the campus of Tel Aviv University last week to kick off the country’s first conference on renewable energy.
Renewable Energy and Beyond, was the title of the conference, but its benign name more closely resembled a call to arms: The conference’s most eminent guest, climate change evangelist Al Gore stood up on the podium last Tuesday night and warned the Israeli and international audience about the life-threatening dangers of climate change.
Painting a bleak future — if we don’t act within the next 10 years it might be too late, said Gore, who was also in town to collect a prestigious $1 million Dan David Prize, housed at the Tel Aviv University campus, for his work on educating the world about the dangers of global warming.
However, Israel with its cleantech know-how and geographical position, he encouraged, could lead the way by developing effective cleantech and solar energy solutions, he said: “What we need is sufficient political will. But as the people of Israel know, sufficient political will is a renewable resource,” said Gore.
Last Wednesday, prominent guests from around the world met for nuts and bolts seminars on renewable energy under topics such as geopolitics, opportunities in the business sector, R&D challenges, and lastly on Israel’s road to energy independence.
Opening the conference the previous night, Gore said: “Why should not Israel play the leading role in this historic shift to renewable energy? Israel can, and Israel should. The people of Israel stand in my moral imagination as guardians of the proposition that we as human beings are answerable to moral duties, that there are ethical laws that should guide our decisions and choices.
“At this moment in history when, for the first time, all of the people of this earth have to make a clear, seemingly difficult but really quite simple moral judgment about our future, the people of Israel can lead the way to a renewable future,” he said.
On Wednesday, international guests at Tel Aviv University included Harvard’s climate change expert Michael B. McElroy, who spoke about the potential of solar and wind energy as an opportunity for alternative energy. There was Michael Idelchik, the VP for advanced technologies at General Electric, who talked about energy technologies of the future, and Prof. Yogi Goswami from the University of South Florida, who explored solar energy opportunities, and feasibility around the world.
Also mixing in the crowd was Israeli Isaac Berzin, a super-star in the US for his work with algae for biofuel. As one of Time Magazine’s most influential people of 2008, Berzin was recently recognized for his work in the US company GreenFuel which he founded, and his leadership role in the global movement to end the world’s dependence on oil.
Now back in Israel to live, Berzin will remain consulting GreenFuel, and told ISRAEL21c that he plans on building a GreenFuel-type project in Israel, but 10 times larger. “The center of excellence is already here,” said Berzin, who is now a senior fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzylia, where he is establishing an Institute for Alternative Energy Policy. He currently lives in Jerusalem with his wife and three children.
And Tel Aviv University, playing host to the event, had some of its own Israeli research news to report. Prof. Avi Kribus, from the School of Mechanical Engineering, showcased some of Israel’s best solar, fuel conservation and biofuel projects.
“Israel for a long time has been a leader in solar energy,” said Kribus. “Clearly we do not have resources like the United States or Spain, but we do have renewable resources like motivation, energy and brainpower which we will continue to use to create renewable energy,” concluded Kribus.