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Israel to spend $500m to develop oil alternatives

The cabinet will discuss investing $500 million in finding substitutes for oil, National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said last week. The proposal, the details of which will be presented to the cabinet by June, calls for the state to invest $50 million a year for 10 years to find alternatives to oil-based fuels for transportation. A group of ministry directors is working on the project, which is part of a strategic national plan to lessen Israel's dependence on foreign oil. (Avi Bar-Eli)

Egged will get less for transporting soldiers

The Defense Ministry recently cut the amount it pays the Egged bus cooperative for transporting soldiers for free on its regular bus routes. The ministry had been paying Egged NIS 312 million a year, but will cut this by NIS 42 million, some 13%, in 2011. The two sides have been negotiating the change for five years, but Egged refused to any cuts in the amount. But the ministry conducted a survey of soldiers' usage of all bus lines, and told Egged if it did not agree to changes, it would issue a tender for transporting soldiers on chartered buses on many routes, and would issue soldiers tickets on other routes - as it once did, said the ministry. Egged has a different version of the story, saying the improved train system has drawn many soldiers, as have new privatized bus lines. In any case, new negotiations will start soon, as Egged switches to smart cards for all payments - and the ministry will most likely have to pay for every ride, but with a large, fixed discount for soldiers. (Daniel Schmil and Avi Bar-Eli)

IBA journalists halt negotiations

The negotiations between the journalists' union at the Israel Broadcasting Authority and management were halted yesterday after the two sides could not reach an agreement. The union was demanding raises, while the treasury says the union has yet to internalize the fact that they are negotiating a rehabilitation plan for the IBA. (Ophir Bar-Zohar)

Afikim tapped to set up giant dairy in Vietnam

Afimilk, officially known as Kibbutz Afikim's SAE Afikim, is building a half-a-billion-dollar milk production project in Vietnam. The new dairy project will include 30,000 cows in 10 huge cowsheds, and will provide 500,000 liters of milk a day, about 40% of Vietnam's present milk consumption. Vietnamese consume very small amounts of dairy products, about 11.5 liters of milk per person per year, compared to 130 liters in Israel. Vietnamese cows also produce much less, about 3,500 liters of milk a year compared to Israeli cows' 11,000. For comparison, American cows put out 9,500 liters a year and the average in western European countries is 7,500. Dozens of companies from all over the world competed for the project, and Afikim will be responsible for all stages, including breeding and helping prepare the land for the crops used as feed. The first 1,600 calves have already arrived in Vietnam from New Zealand. (Amiram Cohen)