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!