December 2, 2007

Forced to look for alternatives to oil, Israel is now a leading player in the green energy revolution.

This month, Israel will change its entire US fleet of diplomatic cars to hybrids. This small gesture is an effort to promote clean energy and the notion that human innovation will generate new energy solutions for our high-tech age. And the solutions will need to come soon, since the division between energy and security has all but disappeared.

Being green is part of Israel’s culture. It is part of Israelis’ daily lives. In our country, there is a solar panel on almost every rooftop, supplying our energy and heating our water. Our solar power company, Solel Boneh, is at the head of its class, having upgraded power plants in Southern California. And the use of solar energy is being expanded. Now the sun powers our payphones and street lights.

Israel has taken the lead in clean automotive technology. The Israel Corporation has invested $100 million to build the infrastructure for electric car recharge stations throughout the entire country. Israeli scientists are creating fuel from the most unlikely sources such as grass clippings and cow waste. The country now has hundreds of start-up companies in the energy sector. Banana peel and beer-can powered cars, such as the Delorean from the film Back to the Future, may not be that far away.

Despite its success, Israel’s focus on alternative energy was not originally by choice. The country lacks any significant fossil fuel resources and is surrounded by hostile states wielding their oil wealth like a fierce weapon.

These harsh conditions are no longer unique to Israel. Today we live in a volatile oil market where the price is set by a cartel of unstable and despotic regimes. So while the debate on the politics and causes of the global oil dilemma continue, the facts remain clear: Oil is only getting more expensive and less abundant. We cannot afford to invest in $100 barrels of unfriendly energy.

Developing new energy sources must be the mission of our generation. After all, we live in a global community where people are only a click away. It no longer makes sense to use energy technology that is a century old. The rest of the world should look to Israel as an example, as a beacon of innovation in energy technology.

While it is likely that the next major energy breakthrough will come from Israel, until that breakthrough arrives we need to focus on conservation. On this front, companies from around the world are developing new high-tech methods to better manage energy consumption.

Simple methods can also be used to conserve energy. In the 1970s the oil producing Arab states cut off Israel’s resources, hoping to force the country into submission. Israelis fought back by cutting back. Israel reduced its use of gasoline by seven percent, assigning each citizen a day of the week during which they could not drive. People carpooled, used public transportation, or walked to get by and took one-seventh of all cars off the road.

The 21st century has begun with oil as a major barrier to global freedom. As democratic and open societies, we must rebuke the inflated influence of corrupt oil-rich countries. To stay faithful to our values of liberty and advancement, we must not shy away from this challenge: taking humanity to the next level of prosperity, security and peace.

Reprinted with permission from the Atlanta Journal Constitution

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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