Friday, May 8, 2015

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Cold Fusion Conference

In mid-April the 19th International Conference on Cold Fusion (ICCF-19) took place in Padua, Italy and was attended by some 470 scientists, cold fusion bloggers, entrepreneurs, and the merely interested.

The first of these conferences was held back in 1990 in the wake of the University of Utah announcement that two of its chemists had discovered a new way to release energy from the atom. The 1990 conference, however, was resoundingly ridiculed by the American Physical Association and was said to be nothing but a gathering for crackpots, pseudo-scientists, and fraudsters. However, over the decades, the conferees continued to gather in cities around the world, with some 100-300 usually in attendance. Many of those who came to the conferences were scientists who had been able to reproduce the "anomalous heat" that the University of Utah researchers had observed prior to their announcement in 1989. Most of the presentations were way down in the scientific weeds and were comprehensible only to those with considerable knowledge of particle physics, so the conferences drew little attention.

In the last couple of years, however, the tide has turned. Although Cold Fusion is still anathema to many in the U.S. and more importantly to the U.S. Department of Energy, scientists in several countries around the world are starting to see that the technology works, that it could be at least a partial solution to many of mankind’s problems, and are starting to talk about developments in the field to their local press. Most, however, continue to be unaware of recent progress in developing this new source of energy or are too wedded to their prejudices to even consider new evidence.

This year the most important development in cold fusion, unless overtaken by a competitive technology, is the acceptance test of the Rossi/Industrial heat, 1 megawatt, cold fusion reactor, which currently is underway at customer factory in the US. The engineer and entrepreneur, Andrea Rossi, who developed the first working commercial application of a cold fusion reactor, did not attend the ICCF-19 conference. However, his CEO Tom Darden of North Carolina based Cherokee Investment Partners and its subsidiary that is developing the cold fusion reactors, Industrial Heat, attended for the first time.

While many were hoping that Darden would give a progress report on Industrial Heat’s acceptance test of its first fusion reactor, they were disappointed. Darden talked only in generalities as to how he became involved with cold fusion, his dedication to the technology as a way of solving the carbon emissions problem, and his interest in financing similar projects. Two or three journalists who attended the conference however, reported being told by a "credible" source, possibly Darden, that the 400-day, 24/7, acceptance test of the one megawatt reactor is going well after several months. Rossi, who is spending full time monitoring the acceptance test, has been saying lately that the reactor has been running in the "self-sustained" mode a good piece of the time which means that it does not require any outside energy to stimulate the heat-producing reaction.

As has been the case for 25 years, mainstream media coverage of the conference was scarce to non-existent. In addition to his formal address to the conference, Darden who seems to be one of the more knowledgeable people around concerning what it going on in the field, gave a lengthy interview to a blogger. In the interview, Darden revealed that he was funding other cold fusion projects, but did not give any details.

During the interview Darden said primarily that he wants to use this technology to stop global warming and not just to make money from a new source of energy; that he invested millions of his own money in Rossi’s technology only after many tests and careful due diligence; and that he is convinced that Rossi’s or a similar technology will have major impact on the world. He notes that a cheap source of clean energy, which is exactly what cold fusion promises to be, is what mankind needs at this juncture.

Another star of the conference this year was the Russian physicist Parkhomov, who successfully reproduced Rossi’s cold fusion reaction earlier this year and has been sharing the details of his experiments with interested parties all over the world. This has made him a folk hero among those who are hard at work attempting to create still more replications of the reaction.

As could be expected many of the presentations were highly technical, and ranged from new ways of making the cold fusion reaction more reliable to aeronautical applications and even mutating radioactive waste into harmless substances. The Russians, with their ongoing Chernobyl problem, are particularly interest in this aspect of the science.

This conference was notable for it may be the last one to be ignored by the mainstream media. Should the Rossi/Industrial Heat year-long trial of a working commercial reactor be successfully completed by the time the next conference comes around, public and government perception of cold fusion could well have changed markedly. A working commercial scale reactor, which is open for public inspection, will be very difficult for skeptics to deny or ignore.

Next year’s conference will be held in Japan with a subsidiary conference in China. India was also a bidder for the honor. After 25 years, cold fusion looks like it is on a roll.

Tom Whipple is a retired government analyst and has been following the peak oil issue for several years.


     

     

    Wednesday, March 25, 2015

    Why has 'microhydro' been neglected as a solution to energy poverty?

    We live in a world of growing resource scarcity. The oft-quoted statistic is that by 2050 two thirds of the world’s population will live in areas of water stress or scarcity.

    Currently, agriculture is the largest user of water, but as the World Bank’s Thirsty Energyinitiative points out, increasing demands for energy will also require increasing use of freshwater. And as populations rise, so will the need for more water and energy for food production.

    Many say we need greater efficiency in order to help manage some of these difficult trade-offs between water, energy and food. Much of this debate is focused on macro-level solutions. However, the International Energy Agency has calculated that 55% of all new electricity supply will need to come from decentralised systems if we are to reach the goal of universal energy access by 2030.

    So could decentralised, off-grid solutions hold the key? For many years, influencers have debated whether community-based, off-grid schemes can deliver energy sustainably. But this battle has not yet been won. Recently new lines have been drawn by Bill Gates, who called for centralised, fossil-fuel based electrification to solve energy poverty and SunEdison founder Jigar Shah who responded by putting forward the case for distributed renewable solutions.

    While this debates goes on at the policy level, what do experiences on the ground tell us? At Practical Action, we have found that micro hydropower (or microhydro) systems, which produce power from streams and small rivers, provide huge potential for sustainable energy.

    For example in Peru, microhydro systems installed in the mid- to late-1990s are still running today. Not only do they provide electricity for light bulbs and other small appliances, they can also supply continuous power for local clinics, allow people to use fridges and run small businesses. We found they reduced household energy expenditure by more than half, and 60% of families said their incomes had increased.

    However, there is still unexplored potential for decentralised hydropower. In both Peru and Nepal (where micro-hydro schemes are widespread), there was rarely any deliberate attempt to connect the electricity generated to agricultural systems, or to make use of the channelled water for irrigation. This means missing out on a set of potentially transformational opportunities. Decentralised energy systems can not only improve energy access, but also help to maximise the relationships between water, energy and food, both now and in the future.

    More recently, and learning from our experiences, we have been making the connection between agriculture and energy more directly. Together with Oxfam we have been working in Zimbabwe, for example in the Himalaya scheme which uses the electricity generated by the microhydro plant, as well as the channelled water, for much-needed irrigation.

    The approach does of course have it’s challenges. Across the schemes we’ve developed in Zimbabwe familiar challenges and trade-offs emerge, particularly with a recent severe two-year drought followed by heavy rains. For example, in Chipendeke in Zimbabwe, initial planning for hydropower failed to fully accommodate existing irrigation needs. As a result during the dry season, there was insufficient water to run both the irrigation and the hydro simultaneously. Eventually the villagers reached a compromise where the microhydro plant was switched off for short periods to allow more water for irrigation.

    In Ngarura, there were delays in construction of the microhydro project and farmers lost trust. They continued cultivating the steep river banks, and when the rains came there was heavy siltation of the system. The lesson there was that farmers have to be convinced of the benefit of the scheme in order to preserve the river banks.

    Despite these problems, in both cases solutions were reached through dialogue and the community balancing their priorities. It is important not only to focus on the infrastructure for hydropower but also the institutions to support it and that is as much part of increasing resilience as the energy or water itself.

    Development organisations can sometimes be rightly accused of being starry-eyed about the potential of community ownership and management. In the case of a microhydro plant this can impose unrealistic burdens, and in the absence of support structures from local technicians, spare parts, and a clear sense of ownership infrastructure can quickly fall into disuse. But the sector has been learning, as research shows. The right systems for decentralised energy production can be created and it can provide a sustainable solution to energy poverty. More

     

    Saturday, March 14, 2015

    The Palestinian dimension of the regional energy landscape

    "The dynamic regional context creates opportunities for synergies between Palestinians, Israelis and other regional actors in the field of energy," Ariel Ezrahi, Energy Advisor at the Office of the Quartet Representative told the International Oil and Gas Conference on Thursday (20 November 2014).

    Ariel Ezrahi

    In his presentation to the conference at the Dead Sea in Israel, Ezrahi gave an overview of the Palestinian energy sector including the current capacities, future demand, and potential opportunities for investment and development. He said that development of the Gaza Marine offshore gas field would constitute an important source of revenue for the Palestinian Authority, and fuel Palestinian power generation projects for years to come. The Gaza Marine field would not only be a cost-efficient solution for domestic power generation, but also a more environmentally friendly solution than the present sources of fuel, said Ezrahi.

    He also noted that the West Bank currently has no power generation capacity whatsoever. Electricity usage is currently around 860 megawatts, but demand in the West Bank alone is expected to reach around 1,300 megawatts in 2020. Gaza currently receives between 150 to 210 megawatts, while demand is closer to 410 megawatts. By 2020, Ezrahi said, demand will hit 855 megawatts.

    "There is a lot of room for cooperation in the energy sphere between Palestinian actors and Israel and other regional counterparts. I think it's a very exciting time and that the energy sector can hopefully act as a bridge to overcome some of the political constraints. And that would be in everyone's interest," he told participants.

    "Israel needs to see the Palestinians as an asset as they strive to join the regional power grid, and as a bridge to the Arab world." Ezrahi emphasised that the Gaza Marine field should not be seen as a competitor to Israel’s fields, but rather, it provides a potential additional source of gas and opportunities for cooperation between the neighbouring countries. More

    Related Links

    • Presentation on the Palestinian dimension of the regional energy landscape
    • 'Israel’s bridge to the Arab world: Palestinian natural gas?' article in Haaretz English Edition
    • 'Gaza marine development could help deliver Israeli security,' article in Rigzone
    • Ariel Ezrahi interivew with TheMarker (Hebrew)

    One has to question why Gaza and Palestine would want to give their energy generation to Israel, the occupying power, or in fact help Israel sell their gas through Egypt. Using the gas from the Gazan fields would at least give both Gaza and Palestine energy independance and insulate them from the withholding by Israel of their tax receipts, see http://is.gd/FPWOWr Editor

     

    Saturday, March 7, 2015

    New York’s new solar plan sets a high bar

    New York wants to get serious about solar power. The state has a goal to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, and it’s already among the nation’s solar leaders. New York ranks ninth overall for total installed solar, and in 2013 alone it added enough to power more than 10,000 homes.

    While that’s great news for solar companies and environmentalists, it’s a bit of a problem for electric utilities. Until recently, the business model of electric companies hadn’t changed much since it was created a century ago. (The country’s first electric grid was strung up by Thomas Edison in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 1880s, and some parts of it continued to operate into the 2000s.) Utilities have depended on a steady growth in demand to stay ahead of the massive investments required to build power plants and the electric grid. But now, that tradition is crumbling — thanks to the crazy growth of rooftop solar and other alternative energy sources and some big advances in energy efficiency that have caused the overall demand for electricity to stop growing. Meanwhile, utilities in New York are also required to buy the excess power from solar buildings that produce more than they need — a policy called "net metering".

    But here’s the thing: Even the most ardent climate hawks agree that we can’t afford for utilities to go out of business altogether. Someone needs to maintain and manage the grid. Hardly any solar homes are actually "off the grid," since they still depend on power lines to soak up their excess electricity during sunny afternoons and deliver power at night. In fact, net metering is a key factor in making solar economically viable to homeowners.

    The question of how to aggressively slash carbon emissions without completely undermining the power sector (and simultaneously raising the risk of blackouts and skyrocketing electric bills) is one of the big existential questions that climate-savvy lawmakers are now trying to figure out. And last week in New York, they took a huge step forward.

    Under a new order from the state’s Public Service Commission, utility companies will soon be barred from owning "distributed" power systems — that means rooftop solar, small wind turbines, and basically anything else that isn’t a big power plant. (There are some rare exceptions built into the order, notably for giant low-income apartment buildings in New York City that small solar companies aren’t well-equipped to serve.)

    "By restricting utilities from owning local power generation and other energy resources, customers will benefit from a more competitive market, with utilities working and partnering with other companies and service providers," the commission said in a statement.

    The move is part of a larger package of energy reforms in the state, aimed at setting up the kind of futuristic power system that experts think will be needed to combat global warming. The first step came in 2007, when the state adopted "decoupling," a market design in which a utility’s revenue is based not on how much power it sells, but on how many customers it serves. (Remember that in most states utilities have their income stream heavily regulated by the state in exchange for having a monopoly.) That change removed the incentive for utilities to actively block rooftop solar and energy-saving technology, because lost sales no longer translate to lost income. But because utilities could still make money by recouping the cost of big infrastructure projects through increases to their customers’ bills, they had an incentive to build expensive stuff like power plants and big transmission hubs even if demand could be better met with efficiency and renewables.

    Now, under New York’s most recent reform, a utility’s revenue will instead be based on how efficiently and effectively it distributes power, so-called "performance-based rates." This, finally, provides the incentive utilities need to make decisions that jibe with the state’s climate goals, because it will be to their advantage to make use of distributed energy systems.

    But there’s a catch, one that had clean energy advocates in the state worried. If utilities were allowed to buy their own solar systems, they would be able to leverage their government-granted monopoly to muscle-out smaller companies. This could limit consumer options, drive up prices, and stifle innovation. That, in turn, could put a freeze on consumers’ interest in solar and ultimately slow down the rate at which it is adopted. But if small companies are allowed in, then the energy market starts to look more like markets for normal goods, where customer choice drives technological advances and pushes down prices.

    "New York’s approach to limit utility ownership balances the desire for more solar with the desire to have competitive markets that we expect to continue to bring down the costs of solar," said Anne Reynolds, director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York.

    The upshot is that solar in New York will be allowed to thrive without being squeezed out by incumbent giants like Con Edison and National Grid.

    "This is as exciting as the Public Service Commission gets," said Raya Salter, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York who worked with state regulators on the plan. "These are bold, aggressive changes."

    The policy puts New York on track for a new way of doing business that many energy wonks now see as inevitable. In the past, the role of electric utilities was to generate power at a few central hubs and bring it to your house; in the near future, their role will be to facilitate the flow of power between countless independent systems.

    "We need to plan for a primarily renewable system," said John Farrell, director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which advocates for breaking up the old utility model as a key solution to climate change. "We want to pay [utilities] for doing things we want, rather than paying for their return on investment for the things they build."

    So far, the response from utilities has been receptive; a spokesperson for Con Ed said the company looks forward to developing details for how the order will move forward.

    The change in New York could become a model for other states, Reynolds said. Regulators in Hawaii are already considering a similar policy.

    "Everyone is watching to see what’s happening here," she said. "It’s really a model of what a utility could be in the future." More

     

    Tuesday, March 3, 2015

    ECLAC, IDB, UNDP Partner to Accelerate SE4ALL in Latin America and Caribbean

    23 February 2015: The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and UN Development Programme (UNDP) have formed a partnership in support of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative in the Americas.

    The partners intend to create a joint work plan, capitalizing on the unique strengths of each organization to enable on-the-ground implementation of the SE4ALL goals.


    Meeting in Washington DC, US, on 23 February 2015, the three institutions discussed undertaking cooperative activities such as: creating knowledge products; helping to plan for universal energy access; coordinating with national and international partners; monitoring progress in the region; policy analysis; and improved project preparation and finance access. According to the partners, increasing their coordination will provide attractive investment opportunities to further speed the transition to universal sustainable energy access.


    The stated potential objectives of the partnership are: providing resources that support policy and institutional reforms and regulatory frameworks that encourage the development of sustainable energy production and use; the comprehensive mapping of regional energy programs run by regional stakeholders; and determining indicators and data that will be collected from all countries. [ECLAC Press Release] [IDB Press Release] [SE4ALL Press Release] [UNDP Website]



    read more: http://larc.iisd.org/news/eclac-idb-undp-partner-to-accelerate-se4all-in-latin-america-and-caribbean/


     

     

    Earth Policy News - The Great Transition: Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy

    PRE-PUBLICATION ANNOUNCEMENT

    THE GREAT TRANSITION: SHIFTING FROM FOSSIL FUELS
    TO SOLAR AND WIND ENERGY

    by Lester R. Brown with Janet Larsen, J. Matthew Roney,
    and Emily E. Adams


    The Great Transition
    Buy book button
    “The energy transition will change not only how we view the world but also how we view ourselves,” say the authors of The Great Transition. “With rooftop solar panels to both power homes and recharge car batteries, there will be a personal degree of energy independence not known for generations.”

    As fossil fuel reserves shrink, as air pollution worsens, and as concerns about climate instability cast a shadow over the future of coal, oil, and natural gas, a new world energy economy is emerging. The old economy, fueled largely by coal and oil, is being replaced with one powered by solar and wind energy.

    We can see the transition unfolding. In the U.S. Midwest, Iowa and South Dakota are generating 26 percent of their electricity from wind farms. Denmark generates 34 percent of its electricity from wind. Portugal and Spain are above 20 percent. In China, electricity from wind farms now exceeds that from nuclear power plants. And in Australia, 15 percent of homes draw energy from the sun. With solar and wind costs falling fast, their spread is accelerating.

    In The Great Transition, Lester R. Brown and his colleagues explain the environmental and economic wisdom of moving to solar and wind energy and shows how fast change is coming.

    PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY.

    For a sneak peek, check out Chapter 1. Changing Direction, up now on our website. More

    Thursday, February 26, 2015

    The Great Game in the Holy Land

    How Gazan Natural Gas Became the Epicenter of An International Power Struggle

    Guess what? Almost all the current wars, uprisings, and other conflicts in the Middle East are connected by a single thread, which is also a threat: these conflicts are part of an increasingly frenzied competition to find, extract, and market fossil fuels whose future consumption is guaranteed to lead to a set of cataclysmic environmental crises.

    Amid the many fossil-fueled conflicts in the region, one of them, packed with threats, large and small, has been largely overlooked, and Israel is at its epicenter. Its origins can be traced back to the early 1990s when Israeli and Palestinian leaders began sparring over rumored natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Gaza. In the ensuing decades, it has grown into a many-fronted conflict involving several armies and three navies. In the process, it has already inflicted mindboggling misery on tens of thousands of Palestinians, and it threatens to add future layers of misery to the lives of people in Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus. Eventually, it might even immiserate Israelis.

    Resource wars are, of course, nothing new. Virtually the entire history of Western colonialism and post-World War II globalization has been animated by the effort to find and market the raw materials needed to build or maintain industrial capitalism. This includes Israel's expansion into, and appropriation of, Palestinian lands. But fossil fuels only moved to center stage in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship in the 1990s, and that initially circumscribed conflict only spread to include Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Turkey, and Russia after 2010.

    The Poisonous History of Gazan Natural Gas

    Back in 1993, when Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) signed the Oslo Accords that were supposed to end the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and create a sovereign state, nobody was thinking much about Gaza's coastline. As a result, Israel agreedthat the newly created PA would fully control its territorial waters, even though the Israeli navy was still patrolling the area. Rumored natural gas deposits there mattered little to anyone, because prices were then so low and supplies so plentiful. No wonder that the Palestinians took their time recruiting British Gas (BG) -- a major player in the global natural gas sweepstakes -- to find out what was actually there. Only in 2000 did the two parties even sign a modest contract to develop those by-then confirmed fields.

    BG promised to finance and manage their development, bear all the costs, and operate the resulting facilities in exchange for 90% of the revenues, an exploitative but typical "profit-sharing" agreement. With an already functioning natural gas industry, Egypt agreed to be the on-shore hub and transit point for the gas. The Palestinians were to receive 10% of the revenues (estimated at about a billion dollars in total) and were guaranteed access to enough gas to meet their needs.

    Had this process moved a little faster, the contract might have been implemented as written. In 2000, however, with a rapidly expanding economy, meager fossil fuels, and terrible relations with its oil-rich neighbors, Israel found itself facing a chronic energy shortage. Instead of attempting to answer its problem with an aggressive but feasible effort to develop renewable sources of energy, Prime Minister Ehud Barak initiated the era of Eastern Mediterranean fossil fuel conflicts. He brought Israel's naval control of Gazan coastal waters to bear and nixed the deal with BG. Instead, he demanded that Israel, not Egypt, receive the Gaza gas and that it also control all the revenues destined for the Palestinians -- to prevent the money from being used to "fund terror."

    With this, the Oslo Accords were officially doomed. By declaring Palestinian control over gas revenues unacceptable, the Israeli government committed itself to not accepting even the most limited kind of Palestinian budgetary autonomy, let alone full sovereignty. Since no Palestinian government or organization would agree to this, a future filled with armed conflict was assured.

    The Israeli veto led to the intervention of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who sought to broker an agreement that would satisfy both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. The result: a 2007 proposal that would have delivered the gas to Israel, not Egypt, at below-market prices, with the same 10% cut of the revenues eventually reaching the PA. However, those funds were first to be delivered to the Federal Reserve Bank in New York for future distribution, which was meant to guarantee that they would not be used for attacks on Israel.

    This arrangement still did not satisfy the Israelis, who pointed to the recent victory of the militant Hamas party in Gaza elections as a deal-breaker. Though Hamas had agreed to let the Federal Reserve supervise all spending, the Israeli government, now led by Ehud Olmert, insisted that no "royalties be paid to the Palestinians." Instead, the Israelis would deliver the equivalent of those funds "in goods and services."

    This offer the Palestinian government refused. Soon after, Olmert imposed a draconian blockade on Gaza, which Israel's defense minister termed a form of "'economic warfare' that would generate a political crisis, leading to a popular uprising against Hamas." With Egyptian cooperation, Israel then seized control of all commerce in and out of Gaza, severely limiting even food imports and eliminating its fishing industry. As Olmert advisor Dov Weisglass summed up this agenda, the Israeli government was putting the Palestinians "on a diet" (which, according to the Red Cross, soon produced "chronic malnutrition," especially among Gazan children).

    When the Palestinians still refused to accept Israel's terms, the Olmert government decided to unilaterally extract the gas, something that, they believed, could only occur once Hamas had been displaced or disarmed. As former Israel Defense Forces commander and current Foreign Minister Moshe Ya'alon explained, "Hamas... has confirmed its capability to bomb Israel's strategic gas and electricity installations... It is clear that, without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement."

    Following this logic, Operation Cast Lead was launched in the winter of 2008. According to Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, it was intended to subject Gaza to a "shoah" (the Hebrew word for holocaust or disaster). Yoav Galant, the commanding general of the Operation, said that it was designed to "send Gaza decades into the past." As Israeli parliamentarian Tzachi Hanegbi explained, the specific military goal was "to topple the Hamas terror regime and take over all the areas from which rockets are fired on Israel."

    Operation Cast Lead did indeed "send Gaza decades into the past." Amnesty International reported that the 22-day offensive killed 1,400 Palestinians, "including some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians, and large areas of Gaza had been razed to the ground, leaving many thousands homeless and the already dire economy in ruins." The only problem: Operation Cast Lead did not achieve its goal of "transferring the sovereignty of the gas fields to Israel."

    More Sources of Gas Equal More Resource Wars

    In 2009, the newly elected government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inheritedthe stalemate around Gaza's gas deposits and an Israeli energy crisis that only grew more severe when the Arab Spring in Egypt interrupted and then obliterated 40% of the country's gas supplies. Rising energy prices soon contributed to the largest protests involving Jewish Israelis in decades.

    As it happened, however, the Netanyahu regime also inherited a potentially permanent solution to the problem. An immense field of recoverable natural gas was discovered in the Levantine Basin, a mainly offshore formation under the eastern Mediterranean. Israeli officials immediately asserted that "most" of the newly confirmed gas reserves lay "within Israeli territory." In doing so, they ignored contrary claims by Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, and the Palestinians.

    In some other world, this immense gas field might have been effectively exploited by the five claimants jointly, and a production plan might even have been put in place to ameliorate the environmental impact of releasing a future 130 trillion cubic feet of gas into the planet's atmosphere. However, as Pierre Terzian, editor of the oil industry journal Petrostrategies, observed, "All the elements of danger are there... This is a region where resorting to violent action is not something unusual."

    In the three years that followed the discovery, Terzian's warning seemed ever more prescient. Lebanon became the first hot spot. In early 2011, the Israeli government announcedthe unilateral development of two fields, about 10% of that Levantine Basin gas, which lay in disputed offshore waters near the Israeli-Lebanese border. Lebanese Energy Minister Gebran Bassil immediately threatened a military confrontation, asserting that his country would "not allow Israel or any company working for Israeli interests to take any amount of our gas that is falling in our zone." Hezbollah, the most aggressive political faction in Lebanon, promised rocket attacks if "a single meter" of natural gas was extracted from the disputed fields.

    Israel's Resource Minister accepted the challenge, asserting that "[t]hese areas are within the economic waters of Israel... We will not hesitate to use our force and strength to protect not only the rule of law but the international maritime law."

    Oil industry journalist Terzian offered this analysis of the realities of the confrontation:

    "In practical terms... nobody is going to invest with Lebanon in disputed waters. There are no Lebanese companies there capable of carrying out the drilling, and there is no military force that could protect them. But on the other side, things are different. You have Israeli companies that have the ability to operate in offshore areas, and they could take the risk under the protection of the Israeli military."

    Sure enough, Israel continued its exploration and drilling in the two disputed fields, deploying drones to guard the facilities. Meanwhile, the Netanyahu government invested major resources in preparing for possible future military confrontations in the area. For one thing, with lavish U.S. funding, it developed the "Iron Dome" anti-missile defense system designed in part to intercept Hezbollah and Hamas rockets aimed at Israeli energy facilities. It also expanded the Israeli navy, focusing on its ability to deter or repel threats to offshore energy facilities. Finally, starting in 2011 it launched airstrikes in Syria designed, according to U.S. officials, "to prevent any transfer of advanced... antiaircraft, surface-to-surface and shore-to-ship missiles" to Hezbollah.

    Nonetheless, Hezbollah continued to stockpile rockets capable of demolishing Israeli facilities. And in 2013, Lebanon made a move of its own. It began negotiating with Russia. The goal was to get that country's gas firms to develop Lebanese offshore claims, while the formidable Russian navy would lend a hand with the "long-running territorial dispute with Israel."

    By the beginning of 2015, a state of mutual deterrence appeared to be setting in. Although Israel had succeeded in bringing online the smaller of the two fields it set out to develop, drilling in the larger one was indefinitely stalled "in light of the security situation." U.S. contractor Noble Energy, hired by the Israelis, was unwilling to invest the necessary $6 billion dollars in facilities that would be vulnerable to Hezbollah attack, and potentially in the gun sights of the Russian navy. On the Lebanese side, despite an increased Russian naval presence in the region, no work had begun.

    Meanwhile, in Syria, where violence was rife and the country in a state of armed collapse, another kind of stalemate went into effect. The regime of Bashar al-Assad, facing a ferocious threat from various groups of jihadists, survived in part by negotiating massive military support from Russia in exchange for a 25-year contract to develop Syria's claims to that Levantine gas field. Included in the deal was a major expansion of the Russian naval base at the port city of Tartus, ensuring a far larger Russian naval presence in the Levantine Basin.

    While the presence of the Russians apparently deterred the Israelis from attempting to develop any Syrian-claimed gas deposits, there was no Russian presence in Syria proper. So Israel contracted with the U.S.-based Genie Energy Corporation to locate and develop oil fields in the Golan Heights, Syrian territory occupied by the Israelis since 1967. Facing a potential violation of international law, the Netanyahu government invoked, as the basis for its acts, an Israeli court ruling that the exploitation of natural resources in occupied territories was legal. At the same time, to prepare for the inevitable battle with whichever faction or factions emerged triumphant from the Syrian civil war, it began shoring up the Israeli military presence in the Golan Heights.

    And then there was Cyprus, the only Levantine claimant not at war with Israel. Greek Cypriots had long been in chronic conflict with Turkish Cypriots, so it was hardly surprising that the Levantine natural gas discovery triggered three years of deadlocked negotiations on the island over what to do. In 2014, the Greek Cypriots signed an exploration contract with Noble Energy, Israel's chief contractor. The Turkish Cypriots trumped this move by signing a contract with Turkey to explore all Cypriot claims "as far as Egyptian waters." Emulating Israel and Russia, the Turkish government promptly moved three navy vesselsinto the area to physically block any intervention by other claimants.

    As a result, four years of maneuvering around the newly discovered Levantine Basin deposits have produced little energy, but brought new and powerful claimants into the mix, launched a significant military build-up in the region, and heightened tensions immeasurably.

    Gaza Again -- and Again

    Remember the Iron Dome system, developed in part to stop Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israel's northern gas fields? Over time, it was put in place near the border with Gaza to stop Hamas rockets, and was tested during Operation Returning Echo, the fourth Israeli military attempt to bring Hamas to heel and eliminate any Palestinian "capability to bomb Israel's strategic gas and electricity installations."

    Launched in March 2012, it replicated on a reduced scale the devastation of Operation Cast Lead, while the Iron Dome achieved a 90% "kill rate" against Hamas rockets. Even this, however, while a useful adjunct to the vast shelter system built to protect Israeli civilians, was not enough to ensure the protection of the country's exposed oil facilities. Even one direct hit there could damage or demolish such fragile and flammable structures.

    The failure of Operation Returning Echo to settle anything triggered another round of negotiations, which once again stalled over the Palestinian rejection of Israel's demand to control all fuel and revenues destined for Gaza and the West Bank. The new Palestinian Unity government then followed the lead of the Lebanese, Syrians, and Turkish Cypriots, and in late 2013 signed an "exploration concession" with Gazprom, the huge Russian natural gas company. As with Lebanon and Syria, the Russian Navy loomed as a potential deterrent to Israeli interference.

    Meanwhile, in 2013, a new round of energy blackouts caused "chaos" across Israel, triggering a draconian 47% increase in electricity prices. In response, the Netanyahu government considered a proposal to begin extracting domestic shale oil, but the potential contamination of water resources caused a backlash movement that frustrated this effort. In a country filled with start-up high-tech firms, the exploitation of renewable energy sources was still not being given serious attention. Instead, the government once again turned to Gaza.

    With Gazprom's move to develop the Palestinian-claimed gas deposits on the horizon, the Israelis launched their fifth military effort to force Palestinian acquiescence, Operation Protective Edge. It had two major hydrocarbon-related goals: to deter Palestinian-Russian plans and to finally eliminate the Gazan rocket systems. The first goal was apparently met when Gazprom postponed (perhaps permanently) its development deal. The second, however, failed when the two-pronged land and air attack -- despite unprecedented devastation in Gaza -- failed to destroy Hamas's rocket stockpiles or its tunnel-based assembly system; nor did the Iron Dome achieve the sort of near-perfect interception rate needed to protect proposed energy installations.

    There Is No Denouement

    After 25 years and five failed Israeli military efforts, Gaza's natural gas is still underwater and, after four years, the same can be said for almost all of the Levantine gas. But things are not the same. In energy terms, Israel is ever more desperate, even as it has been building up its military, including its navy, in significant ways. The other claimants have, in turn, found larger and more powerful partners to help reinforce their economic and military claims. All of this undoubtedly means that the first quarter-century of crisis over eastern Mediterranean natural gas has been nothing but prelude. Ahead lies the possibility of bigger gas wars with the devastation they are likely to bring. More