Energy-Dependent Israel Finds Natural Gas
A: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports on what it means for Israel and for the region.
LOURDES GARCIA: This is a story of decades of thankless toil, an amazing discovery and the problems that too much of a good thing bring to a region as contentious as the Middle East. It's a story about how Israel - a famously energy-dependent country - found gas.
M: The sweet taste of success, finally reaching the goal.
GARCIA: That's Yigal Landau the CEO of Ratio Oil Exploration. The announcement late last month of the Leviathan field caps a stunning two years here. In 2009, the Tamar field was discovered, also a huge find. U.S. based Noble Energy and a group of Israeli companies like Ratio Oil toiled for decades here without success. They struck dry well after dry well.
M: Israel is known to be the land of milk and honey, never before gas and oil in these magnitudes have ever been found.
GARCIA: It's kicked off a craze and companies like Ratio Oil are finally reaping the benefits.
M: People like these Cinderella stories of companies such as my own company, Ratio Oil, that went up 1,000 times its original price per share; it became the most popular stock in Israel and everybody are talking about that and this is natural.
GARCIA: Booming energy sector aside - and make no mistake it is booming - the energy index of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange went up over 1,500 percent last year, there are broader benefits to the bonanza.
GARCIA: In five to seven years time, according to our estimates, about 70 percent of Israel's electricity will be produced from natural gas, which is much cheaper than oil and much more environmentally friendly.
GARCIA: Mor, the energy analyst, says Israel currently has one of the lowest taxes on energy companies in the world.
M: It is a legitimate dispute over the right of the public to enjoy from the profits of natural resources, since the prevailing petroleum law was legislated in 1952 about 60 years ago, and it was not changed since then. So it's about time.
GARCIA: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News.
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Correction May 4, 2011
This piece incorrectly said the gas discovery was the world's largest in a decade. It was actually the world's largest deep-water gas discovery in a decade.