U.S.-Israel Business Initiative August Executive Update
Israel’s recent discovery of world-class natural gas reserves off its coast, presents a range of new possibilities for the country – economic, strategic, and political. This news presents the nation with an opportunity to strengthen its energy sector while introducing a new revenue stream. Since Israel does not have the infrastructure in place yet to access and refine its natural gas resources, it has turned to U.S. private sector expertise.
This month, the U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Israel Business Initiative announced the launch of a new program to enhance U.S.-Israel energy cooperation. Chaired by Noble Energy, the largest investor in Israel’s growing natural gas sector, the program aims to enhance the Israeli government’s understanding of the global energy sector while establishing robust and mutually rewarding commercial ties between Israel’s hydrocarbon sector and U.S. businesses.
At a series of events this month, the U.S.-Israel Business Initiative facilitated robust conversation with a range of key policymakers and stakeholders related to Israel’s energy sector:
- The U.S. Chamber hosted a forum with Shaul Tzemach, Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Energy and Water Resources for a discussion with leading oil/gas companies about the offshore regulatory environment related to the recent gas finds. Tzemach, who was appointed in October 2011 by Prime Minister Netanyahu to head the Inter-ministerial Committee to Examine the Government’s Policy Regarding Natural Gas in Israel, briefed corporate leaders about the policies instigating the development of the natural gas sector. Tzemach discussed the committee’s work to review natural gas policies across the world and balance Israel’s energy security, domestic competition, and attract foreign investment and expertise. The committee’s interim report, which recommended gas exports at certin levels, was submitted in April and the final recommendations are expected to be released this month. (See Shaul Tzemach in his own words discuss opportunities in the eastern Mediterranean)
- The U.S. Chamber hosted a dinner with a delegation of senior Israeli officials from the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Energy and Water, Ministry of Finance, National Economic Council, Ministry of Environmental Protection, and Public Utility Authority to discuss the challenges and opportunities in developing Israel’s new energy portfolio and ways in which energy cooperation could be a new vista for broader U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation. The group’s mission also included meetings with government officials in both Washington, D.C. and Louisiana in an effort to gain a deeper understanding of U.S. federal and state offshore regulation, standards, and best practices in developing this natural resource. While in New Orleans, the delegation had the opportunity to observe the lease sale of 7,276 blocks of approximately 3806 million acres of offshore rights in the Central Gulf of Mexico.
- The Chamber also co-hosted an event on Capitol Hill with Major General (Ret.) Danny Rothschild, Director of the Institute for Policy and Strategy at IDC Herzliya, who discussed the importance of greater U.S.-Israel cooperation on energy security in light of a volatile and ever-changing Middle East.
The timing for this partnership could not be better. While American companies are establishing themselves to lead the way in developing Israel’s natural gas sector and other sectors that accompany growth of the industry, policymakers are establishing the regulatory regime that will shape the sector for future generations. Reflecting the range of potential areas for collaboration, discussions at the dinner included ways that the United States and Israel could cooperate on the implementation of regulations, export policy, environmental policies, and industry standards.
Louisiana’s senior Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) spoke to the Chamber and discussed opportunities for states like Louisiana and Texas to share best practices and lessons learned in developing a natural gas industry. She said, “Israel’s historic gas discovery of more than over 27 trillion cubic feet is a game changer, both economically, and geo-politically – the U.S. is eager to share our expertise to help this critical ally successfully develop these resources.” By bolstering these strategic relationships, we can promote long-term strategic relationships in the Middle East, while enhancing our economies and creating new employment opportunities for Americans and Israelis alike.