ANALYSIS. While the European Union (EU)E strives to impose expensive energy, Israel and the rest of the world continue to believe in abundant and cheap energy. Giorgia Meloni’s Italy too. By Samuel Furfari (*), Professor of Energy Geopolitics, Retired Senior Official of the European Commission, Doctor of Applied Sciences, Polytechnic Engineer.
Originally published In La Tribune in French. Republished here with permission of the author.
© Samuel Furfari
01 Apr 2023, 7:25
The Leviathan field, the second largest field in the eastern Mediterranean after Zohr in Egypt’s exclusive economic zone, has been in official production since December 21, 2019. (Credits: Reuters)
The European Union (EU) is trying to impose, absent all common sense, the impossible energy transition, that is to say the rapid and almost total abandonment of fossil fuels. During the 2022 edition of Davos, in the midst of the war in Ukraine, the President of the Commission declared that we did not need oil and gas. Some Member States, led by France, have understood that the future of electricity production lies in nuclear power, but others, Germany, Austria and Luxembourg, whose minister is a notorious anti-nuclear , vehemently oppose it. The last rabbit in the hat of the Brussels-Strasbourg magician is electrofuel, which does not exist today and which will not exist until the EU has created an economic wall with the rest of the world. How did Brussels-Strasbourg come to this mess from which it is impossible to get out without losing face? We will have to wait for the European elections in May 2024 to see a possible turnaround, but the more time passes, the more the rest of the world is ahead of us.
Israel is part of the energy revolution
On April 1, 2023, it will be exactly ten years since Israel became a natural gas producer with the start of production from the Tamar offshore field, 80 km west of Haifa. Mid-size Texas-based Noble Energy was leading the project. At first, no major company wanted to venture into Israeli waters for fear of repercussions from Arab countries, but also because they did not believe that the hydrocarbon potential of the Levant Sea was going to be significant. from a geopolitical point of view.
Yet it was the US Geological Survey that signaled the potential of this region. At the time, they came to talk to me about it at the European Commission. It should be noted that this important change led Chevron to buy Noble Energy for 5 billion euros in July 2022. Moreover Chevron has just announced that it will build a third gas pipeline linking the Tamar site to the coast in order to to increase capacity. TotalEnergies, ExxonMobil, ENI and the other big players are getting into the race for hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean.
The Leviathan field, the second largest field in the Eastern Mediterranean after Zohr in Egypt’s exclusive economic zone, has been in official production since December 21, 2019. Thanks to the geopolitical know-how of Amos Hochstein, the geopolitical emissary energy of the Obama and Biden administrations, Karish, the Israeli field located near the maritime border with Lebanon, will also come into production. Hochstein was able to negotiate an agreement between Israel and Lebanon — with Hezbollah’s agreement — for Lebanon to manage the Qanah field, which straddles the two exclusive economic zones. Brussels-Strasbourg is missing when it comes to the geopolitics of energy.
This all sounds exciting, but you should know that Israel has been working on these projects for a quarter of a century. In the geopolitics of energy, the unit of time is the decade, the unit of account is the billion and the unit of space is the world. It is impossible in the field of energy, so crucial for economic life and life itself — energy is life — for anyone to be right on their own. Brussels-Strasbourg has unfortunately forgotten this.
One of the pioneers of Israeli investment in these projects is the Delek group. One of its subsidiaries became NewMed Energy in February 2022. It is no exaggeration to say that this company has helped change the course of history.
Arabs invest in gas production in Israel
Indeed, not only is Israel exporting its gas to Egypt and Jordan, but the Arabs are investing in energy in Israel. Since 2021, Mubadala Investment Co, an Abu Dhabi fund, has owned 22% of the Tamar field that Delek sold to it. This week, we learned that the Abu Dhabi National Oil Corporation (ADNOC), the national oil company of the United Arab Emirates, will also invest in Israel. The giant BP and ADNOC want to invest 2 billion dollars to develop the production of Leviathan. However, BP has been proclaiming its credo in renewable energies for years; remember that its former CEO Lord Brown said that BP stood for “Beyond Petroleum” (beyond oil). As for the president of ADNOC, he will be the president of COP28, which is supposed to fight against global CO2 emissions.
It is likely that further investments will be made by those who know that renewable energy has a limited future. NewMed Energy’s share price rose 37% on news of the Arabs joining the project.
Within the framework of the Abraham Accords normalizing the relations of the Arab countries of the Gulf with the Jewish State, the United Arab Emirates and Israel had already opened a collaboration in November 2020 around the existing pipeline between Eilat and Ashkelon in order to transport the products refined in the Gulf to the Mediterranean.
But this partnership concerns the entire Eastern Mediterranean, since NewMed Energy also includes Cyprus and Egypt in this strategy. Cyprus — an EU member state! — where Benjamin Netanyahu proposes to build a gas terminal to send gas to buyers who know that gas will remain the mainstay of thermal energy throughout the world for a long time to come (70% of natural gas is used for thermal purposes where wind turbines and photovoltaic solar panels cannot do much).
Italy is in the EU, but less and less in Brussels-Strasbourg
This is why the Israeli Prime Minister visited Giorgia Meloni, President of the Italian Council, on March 10. There is room to replace Russian gas and so Israel wants to export gas to Europe via Italy. Giorgia Meloni has understood, unlike her predecessors who had to remain cautious with their coalition on fossil fuels, that Italy, geographically immersed in the Mare Nostrum, can effectively become the central place for gas.
It is therefore no coincidence that the President of the Italian Council traveled to Abu Dhabi on March 3 to sponsor the signing of an agreement between ADNOC and the oil and gas company in which the Italian State is the shareholder. reference.
Sheikh bin Zayed recalled on this occasion that his emirate intended to play a role in the stabilization of Libya, a major concern of the Italian government to stop the migratory flow. So the circle is complete…
As I wrote in a book published in 2014 by the Royal Academy of Belgium, energy can become a source of cooperation and peace if we know how to handle it. Cooperation in the natural gas sector in the Levant Sea is already stabilizing good neighborly relations in the Middle East.
European diplomacy in the Middle East is today quite marginalized. The United States, Israel and the Gulf States are developing their energy geopolitics without worrying about the decarbonization of which the EU dreams. The EU is trapped, alone in the net it has woven over itself. We only have a year and a half left to patiently await the arrival of a new, less ideological team in Brussels-Strasbourg. It would be wise for candidates for these positions to already be trained in the geopolitics of energy .
(*) Samuele Furfari’s latest works are “ Energy everything will change tomorrow. Analyzing the past, understanding the future ” and “ The Hydrogen Utopia ”.