Several months ago, the freshman Republican from Wheeling, W.Va. — fresh from his first visit to Israel, courtesy of AIPAC — discussed openly the idea of selling coal to the Jewish state during a talk he gave at Temple Shalom in Wheeling.
Well, coal may not be in the cards, but Israel may soon need another fossil fuel that West Virginia and Pennsylvania have in abundance — natural gas.
Egypt’s national gas company announced Sunday that it will cancel its supply deal with Israel, claiming Israel has not paid for its gas in four months, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has denied that claim. Israel imports 40 percent of its natural gas.
While Egyptian officials took pains to put the termination in business terms unrelated to the peace treaty, we say it is just another example of how the radical Islamist elements that are fast taking control of Egyptian politics plan to break all existing ties with Israel.
But Egypt’s loss could be West Virginia and Pennsylvania’s gain.
A natural gas glut is developing in the United States — a direct result of new extraction methods such as hydraulic fracturing.
In time, new uses for natural gas — most likely for new cars and trucks that run on the fuel — will be developed, but for now, the price of natural gas is plummeting — less than $2 per million British thermal units for the week ending April 18, which is down from $4.85 in June of last year.
The price of gas, of course, can fluctuate from day to day depending upon market conditions, and gas producers are cutting production in order to stabilize prices.
Nevertheless, as long as the price of gas remains low, producers can be expected to seek new markets.
Israel is one such market.
Despite an ocean and sea separating the two countries, an energy agreement between Israel and the United States may not be so far fetched. Transporting natural gas across the Atlantic to Israel is possible. Natural gas can be liquefied for purposes of storage and transport, and can be shipped by seagoing vessels, called LNG (liquefied natural gas) carriers. Such ships have been cruising the high seas since 1959.
Shipping natural gas to Israel is likely more expensive than sending it across a border via a pipeline. For example, simply loading LNG on a carrier is a tricky process in order to avoid the product coming in contact with oxygen and risking an explosion.
But considering that the pipeline from Egypt to Israel has been sabotaged several times since the fall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, importing gas from the United States might still be worthwhile. The gas pipeline to Israel has been blown up 14 times since the uprising more than a year ago, according to The Washington Post.
Relying on Egypt as an energy supplier simply shouldn’t make sense to Israel anymore. New sources are necessary. The United States could be that source, and that would be good news for our region.