Greener ties for Jordan and Israel

A cooperative triangle involving Jordan, Israel and the US turns its attention to producing alternative fuels for the two Mideast neighbors.

In wealthy Western countries, renewable energy developments are a source of progress, pride and smart business. For Israel and Jordan, two Middle Eastern countries severely lacking in water and energy resources, renewable energy is a matter of survival.

That’s why there’s been a new green twist to the Trilateral Industrial Development Foundation (TRIDE), founded in 1996 as a pilot project under the wing of the BIRD Foundation – the Israel-US Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation — to create joint ventures between Israeli, Jordanian and American companies.

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The latest iteration of the cooperative project will support water, agritech and renewable energy companies in the two neighboring nations, which have a peace treaty but only limited dealings.

BIRD executive director Eitan Yudilevich explains that Jordan is supported heavily by USAID because US State Department considers it important to contribute to a stable and prospering Jordan for the sake of peace and economic development. TRIDE, run out of BIRD’s Israel office, gives matching grants of up to half a million dollars to three partners with mutual goals.

Biofuel from organic waste

TRIDE has already funded a handful of partnerships, most recently a research project started in 2009 to produce a second-generation synthetic diesel biofuel from organic raw materials.

The Israeli company MME IL, the National Energy Research Center in Jordan and the Florida-based Nibor Enterprises set out to “map the existence of raw materials in Jordan and in Israel and to build a model to see if the process can be financially viable,” Yudilevich tells ISRAEL21c.

“I think in this type of project it is important to mention that there were a great many visits from both the Jordanians into Israel and the Israelis into Jordan,” he stresses. “There were thousands of emails between them, and Skype calls every week.”

The next stage is to use the results to set up a plant close to the raw material sources, whether in Jordan, Israel or on the southern border between the two.

The biofuel can be produced from forest residues, olive-processing waste, digester sludge, chicken manure and all types of organic raw materials, says Yudilevich. Right now the companies involved are looking for financing to build the pilot plant.

“We are now in touch with both an Israeli and Jordanian company on energy efficiency. They already have a relationship and we are waiting for their proposal. It’s a very promising project in agricultural technologies to improve the quality of seed plants.”

Business can lead to peace

The so-called Arab Spring hasn’t made any difference in how Israeli and Jordanian partners do business, says Yudilevich, who frequently makes the trip over the border.

He also notes that looking at the trends, trade has actually improved between Israel and Jordan over the last year. He believes that investing in, and participating in, projects like TRIDE can further advance the peace process in ways that government negotiations cannot achieve.

“There are two aspects to this,” says Yudilevich, a Chilean-born Israeli Jew. “The clear aspect is that we have neighbors and if we have trade with our neighbors it is good for our economy. Now, it won’t be a huge amount of trade in economic value because other markets are larger, like China. [However,] clearly economic value is no less important than creating this relationship which makes the peace treaty [between Israel and Jordan], still relatively cold, into a peace treaty among the people.”

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About Karin Kloosterman

Karin Kloosterman lives in Jaffa, Israel. She is a journalist, writer and blogger who focuses on the environment and clean technology from Israel and the Middle East. Published in hundreds of newspapers around the world, Karin also writes for the Huffington Post and Green Prophet.