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Activists protest against projected gas deal with Israel

By Mohammad Ghazal - Nov 30,2014 - Last updated at Nov 30,2014

AMMAN — Activists lobbying against signing a gas agreement with Israel on Sunday submitted a petition to lawmakers, with the government defending the deal as one of the Kingdom’s strategic options.

Several activists, members of political parties and professional associations gathered in front of Parliament to call for pressuring the government not to sign an agreement to buy gas from Israel.

“We are here to say no to buying gas from the enemy. We reject that the government buys gas from the occupation and supports its economy,” Hisham Al Bustani, a representative of the Jordanian Coordination Committee against Importing Gas from Israel, told The Jordan Times at the protest.

In September this year, the government said the state-owned National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) will sign a deal in November to buy natural gas from Israeli fields starting late in 2017. NEPCO signed a letter of intent in September with Noble Energy, which owns 39 per cent of the Leviathan natural gas field in Israel, to buy gas over a period of 15 years at a total cost of $15 billion.

“Some MPs oppose the agreement and we are here to give them our petition rejecting the deal with the Zionist entity. There are plenty of options the government can resort to; why gas from Israel?” Bustani said.

Noting that Jordan’s energy bill exceeds JD4 billion annually at a total cost of 20 per cent of the gross domestic product, the government defended the agreement, which is yet to be signed, as one of the Kingdom’s strategic options.

“Where are the options they talk about? Natural gas is the cheapest option for Jordan at present to generate electricity. The agreement that is yet to be signed with Noble Energy is one of the strategic options for the country to ensure natural gas supply,” Energy Minister Mohammad Hamed told The Jordan Times on Sunday.

“We are building a terminal for liquefied natural gas and we will import it from Cyprus, from Gaza and from across the world. The price of LPG is almost three times higher than natural gas,” Hamed noted.

“Our options are limited and we cannot build the national economy on uncertainties. We need to ensure different sources of natural gas, especially after the complete cut in gas supplies from Egypt since early 2014,” the minister added.

The government is committed to going ahead with projects in different fields to generate electricity, including renewable energy and oil shale, but natural gas remains the cheapest option for generating electricity, Hamed underscored.

Ramzi Hashweh, one of the protesters, said: “How can Jordan accept buying gas from the Zionist entity that occupied Palestine?”

“How can Jordan base its future and economy in the hands of the enemy… Buying gas from Israel seeks to save its economy,” Hashweh charged.

“Jordan can focus more on renewable energy and oil shale… we will continue to lobby against the deal until the government goes back on the decision,” he told The Jordan Times during the demonstration.

If NEPCO signs the agreement, it will be the second with Noble Energy, as the Arab Potash Company (APC) signed a $771 million agreement under which the Texas-based company will provide the APC with 66 billion cubic metres of natural gas over a period of 15 years.  

Jordan, which imports about 96 per cent of its energy needs, is witnessing a rising demand on electricity, which stands at about 6 per cent annually.

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