Energy Smarting J Street?

To say that the Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Arab conflict has been an intractable element of international politics is an understatement along the lines of saying that George the W’s Administration hasn’t been weak on Global Warming. It is hard to state these sad truths wrongly enough.

Sadly, the United States’ ability to be a positive player in seeking to achieve a more positive set of relationships within the Middle East has been distorted through a defining of “pro-Israeli” too often in a way that represents only a very narrow spectrum of Israeli opinion and in a way that too often is likely to be undercutting long-term Israeli & US interests. Just formed/announced, J-Street seeks to change this equation.

“For too long, the loudest ‘pro-Israel’ voices in this country have been those on the far-right,” says Jeremy Ben Ami, who today announced the launch of J Street—the first PAC with a corresponding lobby to give pro-peace, pro-Israel Americans a voice in American politics and in the policy process.

Now, rather than filling one in on the policy agenda items and getting into the “I-P” conflict in some detail, let us talk about an arena that is not explicitly one of the ten “policy issues” but perhaps should be: how Energy Smart concepts could fit into fostering a more secure and more peaceful Middle East: for Israelis, Palestinians, other Arabs, and America(ns).

This discussion will only touch the tip of the iceberg of potential. And, to be clear, the concept that sustainable energy could transform the prospect for Middle Eastern peace is far from original with this author. (Not even a start of a taste … Re-Thinking the Mediterranean; Environmental NGOs & Palestinian-Israeli Cooperation; etc …) In the face of Peak Oil, amid Global Warming, and the reality of ever heightened tensions, the ‘sustainability’ path might be core to finding a path toward sustainable peace in the region.

Let us postulate a few things.  Whether state creation myth or otherwise, Israel has:

  • Successfully “greened” the desert and conducted significant reforestration;
  • Developed advances in desert agricultural techniques that, at times and in places, they have ‘exported’, with technical assistance, to other nations/societies;’
  • Have deployed renewable energy (especially solar hot water) and have companies that are leading edge in some renewable energy domains.

And, much like the Jewish Diaspora, a good number of Palestinians (in diaspora and otherwise) have found solace and opportunity in the pursuit of education, including technical and engineering education.  If Israel/Israelis have been leading edge in some technical domains and in desert agriculture, if the bridges can be made, Palestinians could be strong partners for strengthening that technology and ‘exporting’ technology/techniques through a large swath of the world.

But, what are some of these visions and techniques. Why should they matter?

Let’s take a look, for a moment, at Desertrec/TREC, a European vision for a renewable energy project that would link from Iceland to Saudi Arabia.  One of the core technologies to be used would be concentrated solar thermal power (CSTP) for generating electricity. CSTP, which is getting a bit of attention (for reason), has the potential for quite serious benefits beyond just the cleanly generated electricity:

  • Desalinization of water as a ‘by-product’ of electrical power generation
  • Shaded areas under the mirrors of CSP plants are protected from the full glare of harsh tropical sunlight and may be used for many purposes, including horticulture using desalinated sea water.

Now, by the way, a number of Israeli companies have leadership positions in CSTP, such as Zenith and Brightsource.  Hmmmm …

Rather relying on oil or other polluting sources for electricity, from Saudi Arabia through Morocco (including Israel), imagine CSTP providing the electrical power.  Imagine the jobs that would be created to build and operate the systems. Imagine, the farmland that could be created with the water coming from these plants. Imagine this as a path toward reduced tensions.

Imagine, if … Imagine if a leadership stepped forward within Israel (prompted by friends of Israel, like J-Street) to foster CSTP electrical power generation in the Gaza strip, providing not just reliable non-polluting energy but also a source for fresh water and good jobs.  To provide not just electricity, but also a building block toward sustainability, including toward sustainable piece.

Will Israeli security be better served through an ever greater impoverishment of Palestinian populations or through fostering a path toward economic betterment among those with whom Israelis (eventually?) want to have peace? 

And, for the globe, in the face of Peak Oil and Global Warming and conflict, would not paths for renewable power through this part of the globe, renewable power that means more than just electricity, be a fruitful path to pursue.

CSTP is not the only thing to consider.   Sustainable agricultural (see Greening the Desert)practices to reclaim desert land. The adoption of biochar to foster ever-healthier (and productive) soil while sequestering carbon.  The creation of a region-wide smart grid (a la TREC) to foster ever-greater efficiency in use of energy and the ability to move energy efficiently across the region to help cover intermittency of power. 

J-Street offers a vision for a more productive American Jewish community engagement when it comes to the Arab-Israel conflict.  Adopted some additional concepts could make this an Energy Smart vision that would help foster reduced Arab-Israeli tensions while also helping the globe navigate through the perfect the perfect storm of Peak Oil and Global Warming.

 PS:  J-Street is getting some attention. See, for example, this thoughtful post at Scholars and Rogues.


2 responses to “Energy Smarting J Street?

  1. Erich J. Knight

    I hope you become as passionate as I have to spreading the news of the multiple solutions Terra Preta (TP)soils provides and post it to your cite.
    I’m sort of a TP cub reporter for the list, most of my post are on news and collaborative efforts caught in my Google filters., my lobbying efforts with writers, companies, academics, journals or governments.

    If you have any other questions please feel free to call me or visit the TP web site I’ve been drafted to co-administer.

    It has been immensely gratifying to see all the major players join the mail list , Cornell folks, T. Beer of Kings Ford Charcoal (Clorox), Novozyne the M-Roots guys(fungus), chemical engineers, Dr. Danny Day of EPRIDA , Dr. Antal of U. of H., Virginia Tech folks and many others

    Below is my current TP posting of News & Links which I promiscuously post to anyone who has an iron in this fire .


    This technology represents the most comprehensive, low cost, and productive approach to long term stewardship and sustainability.Terra Preta Soils a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration, 10X Lower CH4 & N2O soil GHG emissions, and 3X Fertility Too.

    UN Climate Change Conference: Biochar present at the Bali Conference

    SCIAM Article May 15 07;

    After many years of reviewing solutions to anthropogenic global warming (AGW) I believe this technology can manage Carbon for the greatest collective benefit at the lowest economic price, on vast scales.

    S.1884 – The Salazar Harvesting Energy Act of 2007

    A Summary of Biochar Provisions in S.1884:

    Carbon-Negative Biomass Energy and Soil Quality Initiative

    for the 2007 Farm Bill

    BIG Terra Preta Soil news;

    Biopact, a leading bioenergy web site, has announced the creation of a “Biochar Fund” to help poor farmers improve their quality of life without hurting the environment.

    Glomalin, the recently discovered soil protien, may be the secret to to TP soils productivity;

    The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) conference held at Terrigal, NSW, Australia in 2007. The papers from this conference are posted at their home page;

    All the Biochar Companies and equipment manufactures I’ve found:

    Carbon Diversion

    Eprida: Sustainable Solutions for Global Concerns

    BEST Pyrolysis, Inc. | Slow Pyrolysis – Biomass – Clean Energy – Renewable Ene

    Dynamotive Energy Systems | The Evolution of Energy

    Ensyn – Environmentally Friendly Energy and Chemicals

    Agri-Therm, developing bio oils from agricultural waste

    Advanced BioRefinery Inc.

    Technology Review: Turning Slash into Cash

    Genesis Industries, licensee of Eprida technology, provides carbon-negative EPRIDA energy machines at the same cost as going direct to Eprida. Our technical support staff also provide information to obtain the best use of biochar produced by the machine. Recent research has shown that EPRIDA charcoal (biochar) increases plant productivity as it sequesters carbon in soil, thus reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide.

  2. Erich

    Perhaps not as impassioned but Terra Preta & biochar look to be the among the most positive win-win-win strategies for dealing with CO2 levels in the atmosphere and provide paths for Global Warming action that will have benefits (far) beyond simply reducing CO2 levels.

    Thus, beyond intrigued to supportive and advocating …

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