Air pollution in Israel places a financial burden of NIS 11 billion ($2.7 billion) on the country, equal to 2.26 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). This figure is the amount the state pays on such expenses as sick leave and medical treatments for those who suffer from severe illness and early death fueled by pollution.
Data presented to Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, National Infrastructure Minister, revealed that all in all, the cost of Israel's transportation sector reached NIS 44 billion ($10.9 billion) a year. This sum includes gas purchase at NIS 14 million ($3.5 billion) a year; accidents, noise and road maintenance that cost an overall NIS 19 billion ($4.7 billion and 3.8 percent of the GDP) and the aforementioned NIS 11 billion.
According to the report, pollution is taking as big a chunk out of the coffers as the State of Israel's defense budget.
Ben-Eliezer recently proposed a joint bill with Environment Minister Gidon Ezra aimed at reducing Israel's air pollution.
Ben-Eliezer wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: "The strategic dependency on imported crude oil and its products, the over high costs of pollution, and the severe damage caused to the environment, demand serious and immediate attention from the government."
Ben-Eliezer is asking for NIS 90 million ($22.3 million) to fight pollution in 2008. He has suggested an experiment in government offices whereby the staff will work from home, saving energy costs. The hypothesis is that this would save use of electricity and transportation that lead to pollution. He recommended running the experiment initially in five ministries, including his own. Employees would be given laptop computers and web cameras for video conferencing. The experiment is estimated to cost NIS 1 million ($247,000).