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Jewish Energy Guide – Renewable Energy Policy in Israel: Past and Present

By Naomi Lipstein and Dr. Alon Tal

The ability to harness energy has been essential to life since the start of humanity. This ability, of course, has come in many different forms and has gone through massive transformations over the centuries. In the 18th and 19th centuries, coal fired the steam engine — arguably the most vital technology of the Industrial Revolution. It was the discovery of oil that allowed the revolution to flourish even further in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in essence altering civilization. Today, there is little we do without using some form of energy. Energy is necessary for the production of food and water. Energy moves us from place to place — be it by car, train, airplane or other modes of transport. In the form of electricity it heats and cools our homes, it provides our light, it turns our machines on and it allows for instant communication between people on opposite ends of the globe with a push of a computer button. In short, it powers life as many people in the world know it. There is increasing evidence, however, that the era of cheap, easily available energy is coming to an end; it may be time for another transformation that will harness new forms of energy to power our lives.

Most of the energy the world consumes comes from non-renewable fossil fuels. Although we can never know the precise quantity of fossil fuel reserves that remain, and although estimates of available reserves of each type vary greatly, it is clear that it has become more difficult to locate and to access previously undiscovered reserves of oil, and it is generally believed that we are nearing or already have reached “peak oil” — when the global production of crude oil peaks. As resources are depleted, extraction costs will become higher, and production will gradually decline to zero. With demand for energy projected to increase significantly, it is vital that new sources of fuel be found.

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Naomi Lipstein recently completed her master’s degree in environmental studies at the Albert Katz International School for Desert Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where she wrote her thesis on energy security and renewable energy policy in Israel. Previously she worked as director of marketing and communications at the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey and as a producer, editor, and writer for television stations and networks, including ABC News and Fox News Channel.

Dr. Alon Tal co-founded the Green Zionist Alliance, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, EcoPeace / Friends of the Earth Middle East, and Israel’s Green Movement party, which he currently chairs. A winner of the Charles Bronfman Prize and the Henry Ford European Conservation Award, Tal also serves as one of the Green Zionist Alliance representatives on the board of directors of the Jewish National Fund in Israel. He served as chairman of Life and Environment and as a consultant to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A faculty member at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Tal also has taught at Harvard, Stanford, Tel Aviv University and University of Otago in New Zealand.

The Jewish Energy Guide presents a comprehensive Jewish approach to the challenges of energy security and climate change and offers a blueprint for the Jewish community to achieve a 14% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by September of 2014, which is the next Shmittah, or sabbatical, year in the Jewish calendar.

The Jewish Energy Guide is part of COEJL’s Jewish Energy Network, a collaborative effort with Jewcology’s Year of Action to engage Jews in energy action and advocacy. The Guide was created in partnership with the Green Zionist Alliance.

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