Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at the 2009 President’s Conference Jerusalem, 20 October 2009
Translation from Hebrew
This Conference is an opportunity to think about how to make the impossible possible. How do we transform a dream into reality, a crisis into an opportunity? ……Therefore, tonight I would like to talk to you about one of the more significant matters on the global agenda: eliminating the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, particularly oil. We all know the simple truth: dependence on oil endangers the world. It is a threat to our security, our economy and the environment. Our security, because dependence on fossil fuels strengthens the dark regimes that encourage instability and fund terror with their petrodollars. Our economy, because if we don’t develop alternative energy sources, the demand for fossil fuels will increase and the supply will decrease. This will lead to an increase in prices, which in turn will adversely affect global economic development in countries that import fossil fuels – which is the majority of countries. This will cause serious economic harm. Environmentally, because the pollution from fossil fuels poisons the air that we breathe, the water that we drink and the food that we eat. Our dependence on oil harms us and the earth every day, and has done so for decades. To counteract all this, we must set a goal: we must free ourselves from our dependence on oil. I know it seems impossible, but believe me – it is possible. Sometimes all it takes is one or two inventions to make a breakthrough and change the world. Look at salt during the 19th century. Until the beginning of the 20th century, salt was a luxury item used to preserve food. Caravans of camels carried salt through the Sahara Desert, and the salt was traded for gold. Entire empires became rich trading salt, because of the world’s dependence on salt. But two inventions were made. The first was the canning process and the second was refrigeration, and all at once the world’s huge dependence on salt was eliminated. As a result, the salt empires crashed almost overnight. Is Israel the country that will discover the breakthrough that will free the world of its dependence on fossil fuels? I believe so because Israel has two significant resources that provide us with a good chance of doing so. • We have the minds and the hearts. • The capability, the will. Israel is very advanced in the technological fields – agro-tech, hi-tech, nanotechnology, solar energy, battery technologies and renewable energies. Naturally, we are leading candidates to create a global revolution in the clean energy field because of this capacity. Here is the essence of what I’m saying. It’s possible to change the world. The greatest changes in man’s history occurred when there was not only a technological change, but a conceptual change. For many generations, hundreds of thousands of years, man was a hunter-gather. He went to seek out food. He had to go great distances, chase animals to get the protein he needed, or to look for berries or fruit to gather so he’d have the nutrients that were needed for life. These nomadic hunter-gatherer patterns changed one day, because man realized that the food was right underneath his feet. And that was the day that agriculture was born. We are hunter-gatherers for energy. We go to the depths of the oceans. We seek energy from the bowels of the Earth and distant lands. But the energy is right under our noses. It’s all around us. It’s bountiful. It’s in the sun. It’s in the wind. It’s in the water. We just have to tap it.
I think we have the capacity to develop this. Our Nobel Prize winners were mentioned – yes, we have per capita more Nobel Prize winners than any other country, than any other people. We have the second largest concentration of technological capacity; in terms of venture capital, the highest per capita by far. We have scientific publications and we have patents in abundance. So we have the capacity, including in these areas – the development of energy from hydrogen, from water, the development of solar energy and other energies. We have the brains, but we also have the will. Because think what this will mean for our national security. Think of what it would mean for our future if the world ended its dependence on fossil fuels, and especially on oil. By changing this dependence, we can change the world. I don’t know which technology will triumph. Yesterday, Ray Kurzweil, who hasn’t changed a bit in 35 years – I remember you from MIT, Ray – you gave us a course on entrepreneurship and you proceeded to be an entrepreneur, like Shimon Peres, in your own great scientific capacities. Yesterday you said that the efficiency of solar energy doubles every two years. You said that we live in a very brief generation that will develop the energy of the proximate future. If that’s the case, then we’re in good shape. But I say let’s make it happen faster. If we have placed a man on the moon, surely we can harness the energy of the sun.
What I propose to do today is to establish a nation commission of scientists, engineers, business and government people to set a goal that within ten years, we’ll have a practical, clean, efficient substitute for oil. I think it’s possible. I think we can make the impossible possible. Ladies and Gentlemen, I have never been accused of being a disciple of government intervention. However, sometimes the private market simply cannot create the critical mass of activities needed to make such a big change. Sometimes it needs a push and support from the government. Finding an alternative to oil is a critical matter for the State of Israel must deal with – with regard to geopolitics, security concerns, environmental concerns, to secure the future and to change the world’s order of priorities. Therefore, I repeat my announcement that I am going to establish a national commission comprised of scientists, manufacturers, engineers, businesspeople and government officials, with the goal of formulating a practical plan for efficient development in technologies and engineering in order to replace fossil fuels within the decade. I ask the minds and talents who are here, and around the world, to help.
It is not in our interest alone. The resources need not be exclusively Israel’s. Most of the world shares this interest. But Israel has a strong and clear interest in achieving this. “For out of Zion will come Torah”: We are commanded to bring a new light to the world. God willing, with your help and the help of many others around the world, we will make the impossible possible. Thank you.