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Modai Demands Speed Up of Energy Savings Plan

July 18, 1979
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While the President of the United States stakes his political future on an energy savings plan, Israel deals with the energy crisis as if she has all the time in the world, the Minister of Energy and infrastructure, Yitzhak Modai, charged before the Knesset Security and Foreign Affairs Committee. Modai said, that as far as gasoline is concerned, time is running out fast.

He spoke in reference to the Cabinet’s failure this week to agree to new hikes in the pride of oil and its failure to adopt an energy saving plan. He said the Ministerial Energy Committee is discussing an energy savings plan which should be adopted immediately, otherwise Israel will have to adopt even more extreme measures to conserve energy.

A proposal to close down gasoline stations on Saturdays and holidays was rejected by the committee because of objections by Finance Minister Simcha Ehrlich and Industry Minister Gideon Patt.


The committee similarly turned down a proposal to require each motorist not to use his car one day a week. A proposal which would allow residents of condominiums to detach themselves from the central heating system in order to purchase solar heating units was dropped after justice Minister Shmuel Tamir explained that it was difficult to carry this change out because of the legal status of condominiums. A proposal to introduce daylight savings time was dropped at the objection of the religious ministers who claimed that it would inconvenience worshippers, especially during the High Holidays.

The only measure in sight at present is a substantial rise in the price of fuel. It is expected that by the end of the week, prices will rise by 25-30 percent. The Energy Ministry claims that given the recent hikes in world oil prices and the continuing devaluation of the Pound, the real increase in oil prices here should be 55-60 percent.

Five months ago, Modai presented to the Cabinet an II-point plan to conserve energy. The plan called for a savings of eight percent in the consumption of energy, later modified to five percent. Israel planned to spend about $1.1 billion on oil this year. A five percent savings would amount to about $55 million. But with the recent Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries price hike, the expenditure for oil is estimated at $1.5 billion, neutralizing the planned savings.

In a speech to the Knesset last week, Modai said hardly a day passed that Israel did not receive “almost ultimative” notices on cuts in oil sales or on price hikes even in deals already signed. Israel consumes eight million tons of oil annually. About 20 percent of it will come from the Sinai oil fields which will be returned to Egypt at the end of November.


Premier Menachem Begin said last week, on his return from Alexandria, that President Anwar Sadat had promised him to sell Israel oil from the Sinai fields at “market price.”

But Modai told the Knesset committee that the promise was “only a vague and generalized oral commitment” and therefore was not enough. He warned that after the Alma oil fields in Sinai are handed back to Egypt, 98 percent of the country’s fuel will be coming from foreign sources.

With the cut-off of oil supplies from Iran, Israel has increased her purchases from Mexico which now covers a great part of its energy needs. But a third of Israel’s fuel comes from” changing and temporary” sources, which may be closed any day. Modai also complained that the country was short of fuel storage capacity. He said no progress was being made on the proposal for a nuclear electric power station.

Committee chairman Moshe Arens called for an immediate decision to build the first nuclear power station. Israel possesses all the manpower and the technologies required, he said.

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