Dani Rubinstein and Lior Gutman
July 15, 2014
TEL AVIV — While Hamas fires dozens of rockets every day towards Israeli cities, and while the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) crushes the terrorist infrastructures in Gaza, there is a little-mentioned anomaly in the domain of infrastructure and trade.
The Israeli Electric Corporation (IEC) continues to provide its services to houses and institutions in Gaza, while Mekorot (the Israeli water company) keeps up its supply of water to complement the local Palestinian suppliers. Meanwhile the movement of trucks loaded with goods continues through the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel towards Gaza.
The reason for this anomaly is simple, and is not some sudden expression of good-hearted behavior on the part of the Israeli government — instead, it is because ever since the Oslo Accords of 1993, it has no other choice. Israel controls all the outside borders of Gaza, whether at sea, land or air. The only exception is the Rafah crossing to Egypt. With such control, Israel has to take responsibility for what is happening in that closed swath of territory.
Israel's obligation to Gaza is preserved in international agreements and treaties, and the country is therefore responsible for the well-being of more than 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.
The incoming power supply to Gaza is a clear demonstration of the Palestinian dependency on Israel for basic measures of daily life. The power is supplied by three main sources: Israel, local production in Gaza and Egypt.
Yet, high gas prices tend to limit local production. Actually, only a 12-hour supply of power is currently being supplied to the people of Gaza. In hundreds of houses, especially in those with several floors, home-made generators have been installed in order to fill the gap and people plan their comings and goings according to the power supply hours in order to be able to take the elevator.
If it were up to the IEC, they would have stopped the supply long ago since the Palestinian Authority owes them $410 million. The head of the IEC executive board, Iftah Ron Tal, has said in the past that the decision to cut the supply of power to Gaza or the West Bank would be a political decision, and the IEC cannot make it on its own.
Top executives at the electric company say that the National Security Council, which reports to the prime minister’s office, has unofficially ordered the company to avoid a cut off of the supply to the West Bank and Gaza. It appears the prime minister’s office is worried what effect such an action could have on Israel's image abroad.
Boil your water
Preventing a power cut also has a clear humanitarian aspect: Israel does not have the ability to choose between the services that would be cut off from the power system. Therefore, a power cut could also affect non-fighting populations as well as the hospitals in Gaza.
The dependence that forces Israel to face the situation from a legal and humanitarian point of view to supply electricity to Gaza is what prevents the government in Gaza — whether it is Hamas or the Palestinian Authority itself — from truly disconnecting from Israel.
Until 2008 there had been an old yet functional powerhouse in Gaza that worked on diesel fuel and supplied dozens of megawatts. But it was bombed by the IDF during the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead intervention.
In order to disconnect from Israel, another powerhouse would have to be built in Gaza that would supply 350 to 400 megawatts to answer the current and growing demand. However, the cost of such a project is around $880 million and would take approximately 36 months to complete.
So even if the people of Gaza find a funding source for their powerhouse like the European Union or Qatar, technically they would be able to disconnect from the Israeli power system only at the end of the decade.
The people of Gaza also depend on Israeli companies for gas supplies, including fuel and diesel for their vehicles. According to estimates of the Israeli gas companies, they supply 200,000 liters of fuel and diesel and a few thousand liters of cooking gas every day. Even now, during the war, companies continue to supply fuel to Gaza as part of the transfer of goods.
As for water, Gaza also depends on Israel. Mekorot supplies 5 million cubic meters of water annually, as part of the obligations signed in the Oslo Accords. However, local authorities have drilled wells in the coastal aquifer in order to provide a sufficient water quantity to complement the demand. But the drilling was badly done and resulted in the pollution of the water.
The lack of regular power supply also affects the sewage system and caused the penetration of sewage in the water system. As a result, the people of Gaza have to boil their water before they drink it.
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Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.
October 17, 2021
It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.
More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.
But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:
Cleaner aviation fuel
The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.
While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.
Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.
In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.
Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.
High-flying ambitions for the sector
Hydrogen and electrification
Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.
One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.
Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.
New aircraft designs
Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.
International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.
The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.
Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airportcommons.wikimedia.org
Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.
The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.
Data privacy issues
However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.
Auckland Airport, New Zealand
The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?
At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.
Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.
40% of Swedes intend to travel less
According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.
But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.
At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.
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SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST
South China Morning Post (SCMP) is an English-language daily published in Hong Kong. Co-founded in 1903 by the British journalist Alfred Cunningham, the newspaper has an estimated circulation of 104.000. It is currently owned by Alibaba group.
La Repubblica is a daily newspaper published in Rome, Italy, and is positioned on the center-left. Founded in 1976, it is owned by Gruppo Editoriale L'Espresso.
E24 NÃ¦ringsliv is a Norwegian, online business newspaper launched on 18 April 2006. In the course of the first week of operations it became the largest business web site in Norway. In week 46, 2008, it had 575,000 unique users per week.
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