Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz called for Israel to cease using fossils fuels by 2030 for powering vehicles and generating electricity, a move that could jump-start Israeli green technology.

Addressing a conference in Tel Aviv organized by the Israeli Institute of Energy and Environment, Steinitz said on Monday that the government would ban the import of gas- and diesel-based cars in 12 years’ time.

“We intend to reach a situation in which Israel’s industry will be [using] natural gas, and most important, transportation in Israel will be based on natural gas or electricity,” Steinitz. “From 2030 onward, the State of Israel will create alternatives and will no longer allow the import of gasoline- and diesel-based cars.”

European countries such as Norway and the Netherlands are also moving in the direction of banning fossil fuel-based vehicles, and such a move would put Israel on the map of eco-innovation.

The energy minister added that he intended for the economy to rely solely on renewable energy and natural gas – with electricity no longer coming from diesel, fuel oil and coal sources.

“I’m not going to give in to any pressure, neither the energy companies, nor the fuel companies and not anyone else,” Steinitz declared, as demonstrators from the Hadera area – who object to natural gas infrastructure close to shore – interrupted his speech.

The energy minister has criticized the protesters in the past, saying that their environmental concerns – over rigs located some 10 km. offshore – had hampered and delayed the development of the Leviathan gas reservoir for years, costing Israel billions of dollars.

Steinitz also cited an OECD report which stated that in 2015, 2,500 Israelis died from air pollution. In contrast, around 350 Israelis died in traffic fatalities last year.

Given the ever-increasing traffic in the country, the problem of cars emitting pollution has only gotten worse – and banning fossil fuel vehicles will help.

The energy minister plans to soon submit a master plan – transforming how we power our buses and turn on our cars – to the government.

Today, around 70% of Israel’s electricity comes from natural gas – with the operating Tamar gas reservoir being responsible. The remainder comes from coal, with a slight 2% from renewable energy.

That is a dramatic uptick from just five years ago when Israel relied on coal to power more half of its electricity – and none of the country’s gas fields were up and running.

Natural gas is generally considered to be much cleaner than coal, diesel or fuel oil electric sources.

By 2030, Steinitz aims for Israel to be powered by natural gas for around 80% of its needs, with renewable energy filling the rest.

In separate developments, the minister also touted the ongoing development of Israeli gas fields Leviathan, Karish and Tanin – which has granted Israel energy independence and will allow for exports to the region. Leviathan is expected to be up and running by the end of 2019.

During the energy minister’s tenure, Israel has signed agreements with neighboring Sunni Arab countries Jordan and Egypt, a sign of solidifying ties.

Earlier in February, operators of Israeli natural gas signed a long-negotiated deal to export 64 billion cu.m. of gas over a decade to Egyptian firm Dolphinus, worth some $15 billion. In 2016, Jordan reached an agreement with Israel to buy natural gas worth $10b. over 15 years.

“This has the value of strengthening the axis of peace... This is a geopolitical success that became possible thanks to the natural gas agreement,” Steinitz said.

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