Jordan: Reform in the Darkness?

While Jordanians are actively engaging in demonstrations, set-ins and public debates over the process of the political reform in Jordan, they are facing the dangers of darkness, literally. I am not only referring here to the fact that the whole debate on political reform is entering a state of chaos.  It is amazing how people are talking about constitutional monarchy, abolishing the peace treaty with Israel, fighting corruption, alternative homeland, giving lands from the state to tribes and nationalization of privatized enterprises without acknowledging that we have grave problems in energy and water.

When the people of Jordan wake up in the morning and switch the light on, they receive electricity that is generated in a staggering 80% by imported natural gas from Egypt. Something nasty happened on February 4th at the midst of the Egyptian revolution when an explosion hit the natural gas pipeline in Sinai that is delivering natural gas to both Jordan and Israel. Since that day natural gas supplies stopped and Jordan had to turn to using fuel oil for its energy supply at an additional cost of 2.2 USD Million per day. With the supply being cut for the last 34 days the total costs is around 75.0 USD Million and still subject to further increase. Egyptian natural gas supplies Israel with 20% of its electricity needs.

This is a terrifying case of energy (in)security in which Jordan finds itself vulnerable to unexpected risks in supply. What is worse however is the planned pressure that Jordan can be subjected to in such circumstances. According to a report by AFP a Jordanian official said that Egypt has officially told Jordan that future gas supplies will not be restored until a new agreement is signed in which Jordan will have to pay more. Egypt used to sell gas to Jordan at a discount – half of the market price, or $3 (2.16 euros) per million British Thermal Unit (1,000 cubic feet of gas equals 1.027 million BTU). According to the same AFP report, A Western diplomat in Amman said the delay in the resumption of Egyptian gas “is motivated by political reasons because there is widespread opposition, especially in Sinai, against the resumption of gas supply to Israel.” “In this context, it is difficult for Egypt to export gas to Jordan, and not Israel, without raising an international outcry,” the source said.

At this dangerous time of budget deficit Jordan will have to find additional financial resources to pay the price for the explosion that occurred in Sinai and for the need to have a “fair treatment” between Jordan and Israel in gas supply, or else the country will suffer a great blow in losing the source of 80% of its electricity generation capacity, not withstanding the need to shift from a relatively clean source of energy (natural gas) to the polluting fuel oil.

So, my question goes to all those who are involved heavily in the political debate and pushing for reform: Do you have the slightest idea on how to come out of this tricky situation?

The answer is complete darkness, to reiterate the metaphor!

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About bwardam

Mr Batir Wardam is a Jordanian environmentalist with professional experience in disciplines of natural resource management, environmental policies and communication. He has a 15 years working experience with national academic institutions, NGOs, the government of Jordan and international and regional environmental organizations including UNDP, UNEP and IUCN. Mr Wardam is currently working with UNDP as a project manager for the third national communication report on climate change in Jordan.
This entry was posted in Energy, Future Risks, Political context. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Jordan: Reform in the Darkness?

  1. Haitham says:

    It is a tricky situation as you said. However, I have some eccentric ideas that might help mitigate the problem.

    I remember being told once by a Prof that water pumps in Amman consume more than 60% of the electrical power delivered to the city. The government can for a starter provide efficient pumps to every house for half the price in return for the old pumps.

    The eccentricity lies in the fact that even though this sounds like madness, it might reduce the costs of electricity production to a lower level compared to that before the Egyptian revolution. They can also sell efficient light bulbs for a low price, or even for free.

    If we managed to replace the inefficient pumps and bulbs, we can save ourselves a whole lot of energy, money and troubles in a sustainable manner. It is only a matter of incentives and creativity, and it might prove to be better than incurring an expenditure of 2.2 Million USD per day for a long time for nothing other than supplying the same amount of power.

    As a side note, I believe that this whole energy crisis in Jordan is the ugly child of corruption.

  2. Yazan says:

    Thank you,
    There are however forces that are beyond our control… on one hand, we should stand beside our egyptian brothers in their decisions. yet on the other hand I think the government should have been more transparent on this issue, and should have given the public such details instead of the continuous assurance that they will solve it, which they will, I have no doubt.
    the reform on the other hand is a legitimate debate… anytime…

  3. Batir Wardam says:

    @Yazan; the deal with Egypt was based on unrealistic optimism. The government ahs asked the industries to change their power production systems from fuel to gas but the gas never arrived due to one main reasons: Egypt wanted to reduce the amount provided to Jordan as it was supporting the establishment of 1000 new factories between 2008-2015 and needed more gas. Now even the agreed amount is not being delivered and although I am in full support of Egypt’s choices but it is also vital to adhere to the committments stipulated in joint agreements especially between Arab state. The debate on reform is certainly legitimate but it should also focus on solutions to pressing problems in economy and development, and not only political strategies.

  4. Very important article. Thanks.

    Do you have an opinion on the recent shale deal that was signed this week (kerak company).

  5. Maysam says:

    80% is part of the 95% of the total imported energy to Jordan. It does provide a matter of concern, not only due to Jordan’s scarce energy resources, but due to the fact that imported energy is itself unsustainable on the long run, prospects of conventional energy is rise in price in the future as it becomes more and more scarce, on the other hand its not clean, but yet that is not one of our major concerns now, since we have many other priorities to shed light on!

    The Ministry of Energy and Minerals Resources has issued a Renewable Energy Law in January 2010, that is still temporary. It would lead to more abundant use of solar panels for cleaner residential energy which can also be connected to the grid and sold to nearby neighbours, it seems very prosperous. We have high potential to exploit solar energy in many vast areas in Jordan. However am not sure about oil shale since it is water intensive, which may pose more pressure on the limited water present in Jordan.

    Does that mean we need to speed the process of embracing renewable energy to ensure sustainability? Or are there many obstacles facing us? How can we resolve them?!

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