On January 15, GMF hosted a panel discussion on the occasion of the release of the 20th policy publication from GMF’s Eastern Mediterranean Energy project. The panel discussed recent energy developments in the Eastern Mediterranean region and the outlook for 2016.
Nikos Tsafos, president of enalytica, called for straight talk and realism on what is needed to develop Israel’s offshore resources. Mobilizing the necessary investment funds is particularly challenging at a time of low gas prices. Only a stable business climate and a concerted effort to address the concerns of potential investors will enable Israel to realize the full potential of its offshore resource wealth.
Brenda Shaffer, visiting professor at Georgetown University, discussed the interest of Russia, Turkey, the United States, and the EU in energy developments in the region. She referred to the improvement in air quality following transition from heavy fuel oil and coal to natural gas for power generation in Israel and the prospect for exports to Jordan. She also drew attention to the use of natural gas in desalinization, which has largely solved Israel’s water problems and which reduces the potential for regional conflict over water resources.
Michael Leigh, senior fellow at GMF, pointed out the importance of a Cyprus settlement for the development of the country’s gas resources and for possible future exports from Cyprus and Israel to Turkey and the EU. He noted that the Zohr discovery in Egypt had encouraged Total and ENI to continue exploration in nearby blocks offshore Cyprus.
Overall, the panelists agreed that energy trade can reinforce political cooperation between countries in the region once a modicum of trust has been established between them. Energy cannot, however, be a substitute for conflict resolution.