Energy Matters- October 2016

Energy Matters
October 2016
The desalination plant in Carlsbad, CA (shown above) is just one example of enhanced water cooperation between the United States and Israel. (Gregory Bull/AP).

The Future of U.S.-Israel Relations Lies beyond Security Ties

In September, the United States and Israel signed a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which pledges $38 billion in U.S. security assistance to Israel for Fiscal Years 2019-2028. The same week, the Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), a bill which would authorize critical water infrastructure projects across the United States and advance U.S.-Israel water cooperation. In addition, the House Homeland Security Committee referred for consideration to the full House of Representatives two bills that would advance U.S.-Israel cybersecurity cooperation. These advancements demonstrate increased joint cooperation that extends beyond the battlefield. “While our security cooperation will remain at the crux of our alliance, increasingly, the next horizon for the U.S.-Israel relationship will focus on areas where our two countries have only begun to scratch the surface,” wrote U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Director, Middle East Affairs Josh Kram.

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Senate Advances Water Bill with Key U.S.-Israel Provisions

On Sept. 15, the Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA) by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 95-3. The bill would authorize 25 critical U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects in 17 states, and advance the U.S.-Israel water relationship through three provisions—a testament to Israel’s global leadership in the management of water resources and technology development. If enacted, WRDA would restructure a federal grant program created by the Water Desalination Act of 1996, creating a provision that would prioritize potential grantees who demonstrably leverage the experience of Israel in desalination. The bill would also require the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a coordinated strategic plan with certain allies, specifically Israel, for the development of new water technologies. It would also authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to engage in technology transfer and R&D with Israel for the purpose of the development of water resources.

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United States and Israel to Establish Joint Energy Research Center

The Department of Energy (DOE) is preparing to establish a joint U.S.-Israel energy research center, which was authorized by the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014, according to Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs Jonathan Elkind. The announcement was made during a Sept. 8 joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa—led by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL)—and the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy—led by Reps. Randy Weber (R-TX) and Alan Grayson (D-FL). “The center will build on the extensive engagement that already exists between our two countries through the U.S.–Israel Energy Dialogue, as well as programs such as the BIRD Energy program, the upcoming energy-water desalination challenge, and others,” said Elkind. “We are confident that a potential new center would help benefit U.S.–Israel energy cooperation.”

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Turkey, Israel to Examine Building Gas Pipeline

On Oct. 13, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz met his Turkish counterpart Berat Albayrak in Istanbul where the two agreed to examine the feasibility of building an undersea pipeline to pump Israeli natural gas to Europe via Turkey. The engagement represented the highest level official meeting between the two countries since they normalized relations in June. “What we decided is to establish immediately a dialogue between our two governments…in order to examine the possibility and the feasibility of such a project,” said Steinitz. He added that Israel “will also be glad to see Turkish companies involved in Israel’s energy sector,” including in the exploration of natural gas fields.

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Emerging Focus on Cyber Threats to Energy Infrastructure

Oil and gas companies around the world could be spending up to $1.87 billion annually on cybersecurity by 2018, according to a September report by the World Energy Council. Much of the United States’ electric grid relies on outdated technologies, requiring an immense investment in cybersecurity. Refineries, dams and data centers are all potential targets for cyber incursion. National Security Administration Director and Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command Adm. Mike Rogers has stated that two or three countries have the ability to launch a cyberattack that could shut down the entire U.S. power grid and other critical infrastructure. Several steps can be taken to help mitigate these risks: remain vigilant to advances in malware advances; facilitate public and private information sharing; adhere to industry protocols when updating networks; maintain cyber incident response programs and access management control; and invest in next-generation cybersecurity technologies. Threats can also be mitigated through continued partnership with America’s allies. For example, the protection of critical infrastructure is an important part of the Department of Energy’s growing collaboration with Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources.

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