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      The Threat to Adullam

 

The Adullam region, the heartland of the Jewish state, is in danger of destruction from oil-shale extraction.

The exploration company IEI, owned by a foreign holding company, is set to build an extraction plant at the Biblical site where David battled Goliath, in the Valley of Elah. After the experimental first stage of oil extraction assesses economic feasibility (estimating damage to water, parkland, air, and antiquities is out-of-scope), full production will begin, turning Israel's historic landscapes into a giant industrial site.

IEI is an inexperienced new company with no successful technology, but as a subsidiary of the America-based Genie Energy (part-owned by IDC), with Dick Cheney and Rupert Murdoch on its board, they have the clout needed to push the project through, even if it makes no money before going bankrupt and leaving behind nothing but destruction.

The project had its start in near-total secrecy. The first that local residents learned about the project was on Dec. 28, 2009, when exploratory digs on park land were begun under a veil of secrecy. Machines tore up the soil in the park: The smoke could be smelled and the noise heard from half a mile away. Semi-trailer trucks, sometimes four at a time, clogged the narrow park lanes. In July, 2010, IEI moved the exploratory drilling rig near historic Lachish.

Those were just the exploratory phase. The extraction technique will involve giant on-site production  facilities heating a thousand-foot-thick section of underground shale to 650°F. Heating elements will snake underground across 250 acres per facility to bake the ground for three years. Hundreds of wells will be needed to channel the oil leaking through the shale into the production facility. The extraction will consume huge amounts of scarce water: One to three barrels of water per barrel of oil. (More at the information page.)  The machinery will need a massive amounts of electricity, which will come at first from coal-fired plants and later from natural gas from the digs themselves, burned on-site, in its unrefined state. Park roads will be widened to support a flow of trucks to and from the extraction site.

This will cause destruction of the landscape, the antiquities, the wildlife, the air, and the groundwater.

This is the area where David found refuge in the Cave of Adullam. It was the most fertile region of the Biblical Kingdom of Judah and the heart of Judea in the first centuries CE. Beautiful and valuable antiquities from the time of the Talmud will be in danger. Most of these hidden national treasures remain buried safely underground. But now, the underground soil will be heated, crumbling the antiquities under continual heat.

The process has never before been used profitably. The new technique may cross the profitability threshold, and then multiple extraction facilities will scar the landscape so that foreign oil barons can register a minor profit--or perhaps just sell the intellectual property back to the holding company in the US, where environmental regulations prohibit such destructive experimentation.

The oil extraction permit was pushed through the legal system by means of the Oil Extraction Law, bypassing the needs for the usual environmental permits from various agencies. Instead, the Infrastructure Ministry has complete authority to give permits. The environmental protection agencies can at most supervise, not permit or forbid the digs.

The Oil Extraction Law was designed for ordinary oil wells--ironically, a cleaner extraction technique than oil-shale strip-mining or heat-extraction. According to this law, the concessionaire (IEI) has all rights to the underground oil: The farmers who work this land get nothing. By law, the oil company may freely enter any lands, even if private, to conduct digs. Though farmers may be paid small amounts at the first stages for their cooperation, the farmers will get nothing from any potential profits. (Currently, IEI is paying a local moshav 200000 NIS/$50,000 for this potentially multibillion dollar project.) Meanwhile, local bed-and-breakfast, operators and vineyard owners suffer devastation of their livelihoods.

Along with them, the Israeli and foreign tourists who come to bicycle and hike, to see the antiquities or the wildlife, will pay the price. A scenic park near the middle of a crowded country is an insane place to dig for oil.

At the battlefield where David wielded his sling, those who love Adullam find themselves facing a Goliath political-industrial alliance. We must act now. Let's not allow our beloved Israel to become another failed oil state. Let's not let David's Adullam, which has come to mean a "safe place of refuge," turn into a mining site.