Saturday, September 30, 2006

Spanking Abdulhadi

The speaker of the house, Abdulhadi Majali, has given a press conference highlighting the achievements of parliament during the extraordinary session. He also threatened the press, saying that parliament might issue press restricting legislation if journalists keep criticizing the MP’s.

Since then, there have been numerous criticisms of Majali’s threat from the press. In Al Ghad, Samih Maitah said that parliament’s problem is not with the press, but with poor performance during the discussions of legislation. That, and weak understanding of the implications of the modifications that were passed, led them to reverse themselves after the changes were rejected by the senate. Jamil Nimri, also at Al Ghad, was slightly more conciliatory, suggested that the parliament should use public relations, like everybody else.

Nabil Ghishan, at Al Arab Al Yawm, stated the obvious by saying that nobody should be immune from criticism. He also said that freedom of the press is a right for the public, and not simply a right for journalists. At the same newspaper, Fahd Khitan pointed out that the government gets much greater criticism from the press than the parliament, and that the parliament shouldn’t think about being vindictive.

Omar Kullab at Al Anbat suggested that this picture of a dog in a kitchen standing over a stove was what triggered Majali’s anger. The dog is saying “I am faster than the MP’s in cooking [laws]”. Kullab jokingly suggests that Al Anbat will get Brigitte Bardot to defend the press in Jordan, since the parliament is obviously against animals.

Even the bastion of free expression, the IAF, got on the bandwagon. In a statement, the secretary general of the party, Zaki Bani Irshaid said that democracy can not be complete without a free press.

Notably quiet were Al Dustour and Al Rai. Well, at least some people can be cowed.

Too bad Majali can’t call in the security forces to shoot the dissenters. It worked so well in the past, back during the simpler days of martial law.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Isn't that nice?

The minister of finance, Ziad Fariz, is insisting that the raising of licensing fees for large cars is to promote the use of more fuel efficient cars, and not to collect more money.

I wonder if it occurred to him to lower the licensing fees for more fuel efficient cars.

Just a thought.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Is Bakhit in trouble?

It seems that a cozy meeting at the International Affairs Society between the members and the prime minister ended with some quite interesting statements. The PM told the attendees that US’ policy was decided in Tel Aviv, and that our strategic reserves of fuel are enough for 33 days, rather than the official 3 month number that is typically used.

Anyway, attempts to scratch the statement from the reports of the meeting were unsuccessful, and our new private news agency, Ammon News, published the quote on line. A subsequent report said that “higher references” were angry about the statement, although the implications of this anger are unclear.

Al Quds al Arabi carried a report on the incident and goes on to suggest that a change of government might be in the cards soon. My feeling is that if every politician who makes an inadvisable statement is forced to quit, then we would run out of politicians rather quickly. Wait. We are running out. There are many people in Amman who live for cabinet changes, and so rumors like this are greeted with much relish.

As for me, I am numb. I would rather give Hajjaj enough time to draw a decent cartoon of Bakhit.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Is the government angry?

Various reports are suggesting that the government is angry with the rate of achievement during this parliamentary session. These reports indicate that the parliament is not as “cooperative” as it “should” be with the government, and not completing new legislations at a fast enough rate.

In most parliamentary systems in the world, it is the government that worries about whether the parliament is unhappy, and not the other way around. In Jordan, the prime minister can recommend to the king to dissolve the parliament, which as been threatened in the past. Rarely does the parliament exercise its right to withdraw confidence from the government, although this has been threatened in the past as well.

The government has been less than accommodating to the government than is usual. Although they approved the terror prevention law and the financial disclosure law (which has finally been approved by the senate), a whole host of other laws were either rejected or rewritten to the point that they lost their purpose.

For example, they approved changing the sales tax law, but only after deleting fuel and cement from the list of commodities to which it was to be applied. The senate subsequently rejected the whole legislation, because of it needed “reconsideration”. Reconsideration could have been done by the senate itself, but of course that was not the point. Without including fuel and cement in the sales tax, the reason for modifying the law is lost. This way, after the “reconsideration” is done, the government can send it back to the house with the original list of commodities, including fuel. The next time, they will exert greater pressure to impose the tax on fuel and cement.

The parliament went against the government on the income tax law as well. They approved the legislation only after significant modifications. These included raising deductions from the government’s proposed JD 13000 per year up to JD 20000. They also raised the tax on banks and financial institutions to 35% instead of the government’s 25%. No complaints here.

The deputies went overboard in their discussion of the Fatwa and Mosque sermon and teaching laws. The fatwa law is supposed to put an end to the fatwa bazaar inflicting society. Under the government proposed law, issuance of a fatwa became under the jurisdiction of a state appointed board. The deputies changed the law to allow for anybody “qualified” to issue a fatwa, which defeats the purpose of the legislation. The senate rejected this modification and sent it back to the house.

The Mosque sermon and teaching law gives the minister of religious affairs (awqaf) the right to approve preachers and teachers in mosques, and prevent others from taking the pulpit. This is needed to control the teaching and preaching of extremist ideology in mosques. The deputies kept the clause allowing the minister to appoint preachers, but left out teachers from the law. Again, this defeats the purpose. The senate rejected the modification and sent it back to the house. Jamil Nimri has suggested that both the fatwa and preaching laws should be passed without the modifications introduced by the house. Today the house approved including mosque teachers as well as preachers in the law.

So, the house has had both good and bad moments. The system has fail safes that seem to work well. I would neither trust the senate nor the house alone, but working together they seem to keep each other in line.

As for the government being unhappy, there is no clause in the constitution that states that the parliament should have the approval of the government. Expecting to pass 42 laws in a month was unrealistic to begin with. The legislative branch should never become a rubber stamp, as Fahd Khitan and I have said before.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Ramadan is tomorrow

You can feel it in the streets, in the markets, at the ATM’s. Preparations are afoot. If you didn’t know that tomorrow was Ramadan, you would probably guess that people are preparing for a war or a natural disaster. Why else would they be stocking up on food, as it was going out of style? This behavior leads to inevitable price gouging.

The massive rush is causing rising of prices, as people stock up on meat, chicken, rice, vegetables and Pepsi. It is sad to think about how much of this food will go to waste, as so many families prepare iftar (breakfast) feasts that they feel they can eat while they are fasting, but discover they can’t during iftar. This year seems to be different, as I have actually never seen such irrational demand on food before Ramadan, proving that societal evolution does not follow a linear trend.

Anyway, I found some health tips for Ramadan which I hope will be useful. The biggest problems stem from changing food habits, salt imbalance and dehydration. A lot of testiness seen in Ramadan is probably the result of low blood sugar at the end of the day. Poor sleeping habits are also a problem.

I look forward to the day when Ramadan regains its spiritual meaning between Allah and Man, and sheds the herd behavior imposing consumerism and forced compliance. May God bless you and guide you to the correct path this Ramadan.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Is wasta corruption?

The parliament is going through a heated debate over how to include wasta into the definition of corruption. This is part of the debate over the “anti-corruption commission” that the parliament is considering.

Wasta is an important component of Jordanian life, and most deputies in the parliament view it as part of their job description. Simply defined, wasta is favoritism, which is an attempt to use the influence of relatives or acquaintances to achieve certain objectives. This can include anything from hooking up your house to the water system to getting appointed in a high level government job. Most people feel that getting anything done smoothly and quickly requires some sort of wasta with the people in charge of the particular issue.

In reality, people use their connections at all levels of society and of decision making. It does not need to be with the minister or a high level official. Sometimes the wasta is with a mid or low level bureaucrat, a secretary or even the guy who delivers coffee and tea in the department.

The debate is not to delegitimize wasta absolutely, but what type of wasta to ban. The most recent phraseology delegitimizes “what achieves illegitimate results and takes away a right”. This is an attempt to keep a semblance of fairness to decision making processes. For example, if two people want the same job, then wasta would be illegal if it achieves the appointment of the less qualified person. There are two problems with this. The first is that which candidate is the most qualified is often a subjective decision, based on multiple criteria. Should more weight be given to academic degrees, experience, fluency in English, personal charisma or whether his father was a minister? Should all jobs have uniform weights for the different attributes, or should different weights for different jobs be a factor? In reality, I suspect that even demonstrably lower caliber candidates can be defended as being superior by the decision maker if he or she so chooses.

The second problem is that the wasta is only illegal if it achieves a bad result. Thus, if influence peddling is attempted, but fails then it is not illegal. In fact, wasta is a process, and not the achievement.

A whole set of wasta related to getting “legitimate” results achieved is ignored. This seems to be an admission that the bureaucracy simply can’t function smoothly if you show up with your papers and stand in line like everybody else. Isn’t jumping the line by going behind the counter and talking to your cousin achieving illegitimate results? You got your work done before the guy standing in line, who will probably be sent away to search for ten piasters worth of revenue stamps. Is that legitimate?

It is too bad that people are giving up on fixing the bureaucracy in a way that people can get their work done quickly and fairly without wasta. By ignoring this aspect, the culture of wasta will continue, along with all the sense of entitlement that goes with it. Attempting to fragment this will only dilute it to uselessness.

More on the debate at the Black Iris.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

700 people suffer from food poisoning

This happened in Zarqa, where apparently a well known shawerma franchise seems to have been the source. According to the minister of health, 80% of the patients have now left the hospital (leaving about 140 still suffering). Similar incidents have happened this summer, although not at this scale. In the previous times, poor storage of mayonnaise has been blamed. Mayonnaise is relatively new to Jordan, but this does not excuse the fact that restaurant operators should know that it is easily perishable. It is sometimes kept in vats on the counter, uncooled. Duh. I personally think that falafel is a better bet.

Anyway, restaurants are monitored by the municipality and the ministry of health, each with its separate inspections. Some have suggested that monitoring in Zarqa and other towns might be less stringent than in Amman. I am not sure this is true, but health monitors might be easily bribed with a free shawerma sandwich (with extra mayo). If this is the case, I hope the inspector is one of the 140 still in the hospital.

UPDATE: Al Arab al Yawm reports that the number has risen up to 1135 patients. But not to worry. The government will treat the patients for free and the restaurant owner has been fined 135 dinars. That should fix him.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Al Anbat today has eye-witness accounts on the attack by a gunman on tourists in the Hashemite Plaza at the Roman Amphitheater. According to the witnesses, after shooting began, a large number of citizens surrounded the assailant, who was still shooting, and began pelting him with stones, wooden boards and shoes. They closed off the exits of the plaza to prevent his escape. Apparently, as the assailant faced off with the police man, who was shot twice, a sanitation worker attacked the gunman from behind, knocking him to the floor and eventually subduing him.

Other by-standers were busy helping the wounded tourists, carrying them to the main road waving down private cars to get them to hospitals.

While most attention is focused on what the nut job represents in terms of Jordanian society, I believe that the heroes of the Hashemite Plaza are more representative of who Jordanians are and what they stand for.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Why Jordan needs nuclear energy (part III)

Part I here.
Part II here.

Two major sets of objections are cited in the context of the proposal to use nuclear energy. The objections are related to waste and safety, and to political concerns. This stems from the current crisis involving Iran’s nuclear program.

All traditional forms of energy come at environmental costs. Fossil fuels are cited as a reason for the buildup on greenhouse gases, which have a profound effect on the climate of our planet. Solid fossil fuels (such as coal or oil shale) produce massive amounts of solid waste, some of it is radioactive. Building hydroelectric structures comes at an environmental cost. The Three Gorges dam in China will cause massive social dislocations and environmental stresses. The Aswan dam has had large impacts on the river system, and the entire structure of the Abu Simble temple had to be moved. Thus, it is clear that in our modern world, we will always require more energy, and obtaining this energy will come at social, cultural and environmental costs.

Thus, the environmental costs for nuclear energy must be viewed in comparison with other energy sources. The largest concern stems from the management and disposal of nuclear waste.

Nuclear waste is divided into low, intermediate and high level nuclear waste. Low level waste consists of medical and research waste produced at the plant, as well as protective gloves, shoes and other clothes. Disposal of this material is not considered to be a problem. Intermediate level waste is produced in the reactors, and typically is short lived. The greatest concern comes from high level nuclear waste, which comes from the spent fuel of the reactor. The volume of this material is small, but requires special handling and disposal procedures. In many instances, it is recycled to reclaim some of the unfissioned isotopes, which significantly reduces the volume.

The criteria for disposal of nuclear (or any other hazardous) waste are well defined. These include geological requirements related to low seismicity and significant distance and hydrogeological separation from the water table, as well as distance from population centers and natural resources. It is highly likely that one or more suitable locations are available in the country. Disposal of waste is not an insurmountable technical issue. Either that, or it may be shipped to other countries. The North Koreans want it (just kidding).

Despite the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the record of safety for nuclear energy is superior to all major energy sources currently used. This list gives an idea of the track record for the major energy sources. Modern standardized designs take into account the experience of many years of nuclear experience, and these designs have multiple fail-safes that make Homer Simpson type accidents impossible.

As for the political objections, these stem from assumptions about the attitude of the major powers towards the proposal. The non-proliferation treaty states in part that “Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty”. This is quite clear, and as a signatory to the NPT, there are no legal reasons to object to Jordan developing a peaceful energy program. This is contrary to the situation of Israel, which has not signed the NPT.

It should be noted that the Iran nuclear crisis stems from their attempts to enrich uranium. Indeed, the offers to Iran have included supplying them with light water reactors and the fuel needed. Jordan’s nuclear program would be purely for peaceful purposes, and would be open to the inspection of monitoring of the IAEA.

The Canadians, French, Russians and Chinese are all looking for customers for their reactors. They have a vested interest in making things easy for us.


Monday, September 04, 2006

جهد بلا

فقد وردني خبر قيام الاستاذ باتر وردم بعمل (تاق) لي، طالبا اجابات على مجموعة من الاسئلة، و سائلا عن سر الولد الراكب على الحمار. و يبدو ان هناك مشكلة بالنسبة لتعريب كلمة (تاق) حيث انها مشتقة من لعبة الاطفال الذين يركضون ورا بعض، فان مسك احدهم الاخر فان دور الممسوك هو ان يركض وراء الاطفال الاخرين الى ان يمسك آخر و هكذا. بالنسبة لي فاني اقترح تعريب التاق ب(جهد بلا) أو(سلبطة) او (ثقل دم). فارجو من مجمع اللغة العربية اخذ هذه الاقتراحات بعين الاعتبار

اما بالنسبة للولد و الحمار، فان الصورة تمثل السيرورة الانثروبولوجية للواقع الانتقالي للمجتمع الابوي التقليدي المتحفز للتعبير عن المكنونات النفسية و العاطفية و الجنسية و المتمثل بالتناحة و العنفصة، حيث ان الولد مفصوم ما بين الواقع الثقافي و الاجتماعي الريفي و الذي يعرف بالاصالة، و بين الطموحات الحداثية للواقع المدني البادي في خلفية الصورة، و الذي يعرف بالحداثة. ان هذا الاتفصام يفسر الوضع المأزوم للفرد العربي، الراكب على حمار العصبيات التقليدية في الاتجاه المعاكس للمدنية الحديثة و التي يدعي الجميع الرغبة بالوصول اليها. اعتقد ان الصورة تمثل الكثير من واقع الاردني المعاصر.

اما بالنسبة للاسئلة، فاني ساجيب عليها تاليا:

هل أنت راض عن المدونة شكلا و موضوعا

لا. شكل المدونة هو قالب جاهز مأخوذ من مزود الخدمة، و لا يوجد لدي الوقت لتغييره، كما اني لا اثق بقدراتي الفنية لتطوير ما هو اجمل منه. اما الموضوع، فلا استطيع التعقيب عليه ، و ان كان بالامكان سؤال جماهير قرائي (عددهم حوالي 10) لابدائهم رايهم (و ان كان هناك تساؤل حول اهليتهم لابداء أي رأي).

هل تعلم أسرتك الصغيرة بأمر مدونتك؟

اشك انهم يعلمون بي شخصيا (هذه مزحه، و يجب ان انوه الى ذلك خوفا من الكتله).

هل تجد حرجا في أن تخبر صديقا عن مدونتك؟ هل تعتبره أمرا خاصا بك؟

لا اخبر اصدقائي عن المدونة، كي لا يعرفوني على حقيقتي، حيث اني اسرق افكاري منهم.

هل تسببت المدونات بتغيير ايجابي لأفكارك؟ أعطي مثالا في حالة الإجابة بنعم

نعم. فقد أصبحت أكثر عنادا و تمسحت.

هل تكتفي بفتح صفحات من يعقبون بردود في مدونتك أم تسعى لاكتشاف المزيد

لا اكتفي بهذا، بل اسعى الى معرفة اين يسكنون و اين يعملون و عاداتهم اليومية و المدارس التي يرسلون اولادهم اليها.

ماذا يعني لك عداد الزوار ؟ و هل تهتم بوضعه في مدونتك؟

اسعد لزيادة عدد الزوار جدأ، لان هذا مؤشر على اهمية و نفوذ المدونة.

هل حاولت تخيل شكل أصدقائك المدونين؟

أتخيل الإناث بملابس فاضحة، أما الذكور فلا أتخيلهم أبدا.

هل ترى فائدة حقيقية للتدوين؟

نعم، فهي طريقة جيدة للتعريف بأفكاري دون التعرض للضرب المبرح.

هل تشعر أن مجتمع التدوين مجتمع منفصل عن العالم المحيط بك أم متفاعل مع أحدا

مجتمع التدوين هو عالم منفصل عن عالمي الاجتماعي التقليدي.

هل يزعجك وجود نقد بمدونتك أم تشعر أنه ظاهرة صحية؟

يزعجني ذلك، حيث انني دكتاتور صغير، شأني شأن معظم الأردنيين الذين يحاولون إخفاء هذه الحقيقة.

هل تخاف من بعض المدونات السياسية و تتحاشاها؟ هل صدمك اعتقال بعض المدونين

لا. فمدونتي سياسية و لم أسمع أن احد في الاردن تم اعتقاله لممارسة هذه العادة السرية.

هل فكرت في مصير مدونتك في حال وفاتك؟

أعتقد بان التدوين في العالم سيتوقف لمدة اسبوع حدادا على روحي الطاهرة.

من تشعر أنه يشبهك من المدونين؟

أن اعتقدت ذلك سأتوقف فورأ. أما ان هناك العديد من المدونين الممتازين و الذين اتمنى ان اكون بنفس موهبتهم، و معظمهم لديهم روابط من مدونتي.

تحب تسمع إيه؟

"عنقر بوريتك"، "جيشنا"، "عل عسكرية" للمبدع عمر العبداللات. أعشق سماع مقطوعات موسيقية للعبقري الراحل رياض السنباطي (بدون الاغاني).

أكتب أسماء خمسة مدونين ليقوموا بهذا الاستقصاء بعدك:

سوف اجهد بلا التالية اسمائهم:

Why Jordan needs nuclear energy (part II)

Part I here.

Various options have been proposed as alternative energy sources in Jordan. These include solar, wind, oil shale and the Red-Dead canal. Here is some information pertaining to these choices.

Solar Energy: While much research has been done on solar energy, this resource still suffers from high instillation costs. While the energy itself is free, the cost of installation of photovoltaic cells is still prohibitively high. It is currently estimated that solar energy costs upwards of 21 US cents per Kilowatt hour. The potential for substantial drops in costs is questionable, and little is being done in terms of commercial investment in this resource.

Wind Energy: Large scale wind farms have been constructed in Holland, and some pilot projects in Jordan have been carried out. This study estimates that installed capacity of about 50 MW per year is feasible in the two potential areas in Jordan. European estimates for the cost of wind energy, including cost and maintenance, differ according to wind regime. The most optimistic cost range is from 6.4 to 7.7 US cents per Kilowatt hour. While the economics of wind energy are promising, the potential amount of electricity that can be generated in Jordan is modest.

Oil Shale: I have written about this in the past, and many people are excited about the possibilities of this resource. Two economic issues limit the possibility of using these resources for electricity. The first is that extraction of liquid petroleum from the rock is still too expensive. Second, burning extract from the shale would be a waste of a valuable resource that would be better utilized in vehicles rather than in electric generation. Environmental issues related to the volume of water required and the nature of the waste products from oil extraction also arise.

The Red-Dead Canal: The potential elevation difference between open seas and the Dead Sea (400 meters) is being considered as a source of hydroelectric power. While some aspects of the project are desirable (restoring the level of the Dead Sea), some of the numbers associated with the project simply don’t make sense.

The flow of 1600 million cubic meters of water is expected to generate a measly 100 MWe, with an annual production of 876 GWh. This is supposed to be used for desalination of the water to produce freshwater. The best numbers concerning desalination of seawater using reverse osmosis suggest a need for over 5 KWh per cubic meter. Thus, if what the proponents say is true, then the desalination of 850 million cubic meters of water will require at least 4250 GWh per year. This will require an additional installed capacity of 400 MWe. Pumping the water from the Dead Sea to Amman (a vertical elevation of 1300 meters from the Dead Sea) will probably require another 150 MWe of installed capacity, meaning that running the system as described by the proponents will require installing of at least 550 MWe capacity above the 100 MWe that will be generated by the flow of the water. Thus, the Red Dead canal system will be a net drain on the electrical system of the country.

Nuclear Energy: The economics of nuclear energy are compelling, as described here. While the startup costs are high (about 1500 $ per KW, as opposed to between 500-1000 for gas and 1000-1500 for wind), this is made up for in low fuel costs. Therefore, a 1000 MWe nuclear plant will cost 1.5 billion dollars, as opposed to the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal project, which will cost 5 billion dollars and generate a tenth of the electricity.

Part of the attractiveness of nuclear energy is that it is insensitive to fuel rises, as most of the cost is in the building of the plant, with only 8% of the cost being from the consumption of fuel. In total, the cost of generating nuclear electricity ranges from 2.3 US Cents in the Czech Republic to 4.8 US cents in Japan (an outlier in terms of cost, if you check the table). This cost includes construction, maintenance, fuel, management of waste and decommissioning. By any economic standard, it would be difficult to imagine generating significant amounts of energy at such a low cost.

An additional bonus to this is that coupling of a nuclear power generator with a desalination plant allows for the production of significant volumes of low cost water. This IAEA document suggests that a 900 MWe power plant on the Red Sea is capable of producing half a million cubic meters of water per day at a cost of between 50-60 cents per cubic meter. This alone is an important incentive.

Part III here.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Why Jordan needs nuclear energy (part I)

The recent rise in energy costs, coupled with the drop in oil donations from Iraq and the Gulf states has exposed the precarious energy situation in Jordan. The country is almost totally dependent on imported oil and natural gas, and the cost is eating away at our budget. Fahed Fanek estimates that oil imports constitute 21% of our GDP.

The currently perceived economic effects of high energy costs are only the tip of the iceberg as to how this is affecting the country. For example, high energy costs preclude large scale desalination plants, heavy industries and mass transit systems. Thus, it effects the water situation, unemployment and the environment. Simply stated, we are using less energy than we need, and the cost is being borne by the human and physical environment of the country.

The government is placing heavy emphasis on the conversion to natural gas. A gas pipeline has been established to supply Jordan, Syria and Lebanon with natural gas from Egypt. As an incentive to the Jordanian government, the Egyptians agreed to fix the price of natural gas used in the country for 15 years. Because the cost is low, the electrical system of the country is being converted to gas turbines, and energy hungry industries and being encouraged to convert their energy sources to natural gas.

In fact, this situation is reminiscent of that which left us in this position in the first place. Prior to natural gas, Jordan’s electricity infrastructure was based on petroleum derivatives, particularly residual fuel. As far as I know, no non petroleum rich country produces significant electricity using residual oil, because it is simply too expensive. The Hussein Thermal Station was built to produce electricity based on the premise that petroleum is given to us at low prices or for free. Of course, this premise no longer holds.

Now we are repeating the same mistake. We are rebuilding our electricity generation capacity on the premise that natural gas from Egypt will always be abundant and cheap. Since signing the agreement, the world price of one million BTU of natural gas has risen from $4.9 to over $7 (a 42% increase). While we are shielded from these fluctuations now, it would be naïve to think that the price will be fixed after 2018. At that point, we will be where we are now, paying for energy through the nose. It will take many years and a lot of money to convert the electric system again.

The National Electricity Power Company sells the Kilowatt hour of electricity to medium industries for between 28 (night) and 38 (day) fils, which works out to between 4 and 5.4 US cents. This can only be done through artificial suppression of costs through subsidies on residual fuel and the fixed gas price agreement with Egypt. Electricity prices are now comparable with current US industrial rates in industrialized states such as Ohio (5.4 cents), Michigan (6.06 cents) and Illinois (4.42 cents), although lower than other states. The lower rates in the US are not subsidized, but are a result of the availability of abundant low cost alternatives such as hydroelectric, coal and nuclear energy.

Reliance on natural gas in the near future should only be viewed as a stepping stone towards more energy independence. The volume of gas to be imported from Egypt (reaching about 2 billion cubic meters per year) is enough to generate about 11300 Gigawatt hours per year. Electricity generation in 2003 was 8500 GWh, and with annual growth in consumption estimated at 9% per year, the volume of gas pumped at preferential rates will not be enough to produce the electricity needed in a few years.

In fact, the production of more electricity should become a goal in itself, as the amount of electricity produced per capita in Jordan (1190 KWh) is lower than Israel (6000 KWh) or any industrialized nation. As noted in the beginning, more abundant low cost energy will mean a greater ability to manage our economy and environment. In the next installments I will discuss some of the options available to us in getting out of this predicament.

Part II here.
Part III here.