Possible US Three Seas money oil shale scope

Oil shale production in Auvere, Ida-Viru County.
Oil shale production in Auvere, Ida-Viru County.

United States support pledged by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could in part be allocated to the oil shale sector in Estonia, according to a report on ETV current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" Monday evening. The sector does not fit well with EU climate policy, but at the same time, there are limitations to how far the United States money can go as well.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference at the weekend, Pompeo said US$1 billion was earmarked for support via the Three Seas Initiative, which brings together a dozen Central and Eastern European countries, spanning, as the name suggests, the Baltic, Black and Adriatic sea regions.

The U.S. money is aimed primarily at supporting energy projects in the CEE countries, with a view to reducing dependence on Russian energy.

At the same time, this would have to be spread across the whole region.

"These are infrastructure projects involving a large number of countries, so in this context, one billion dollars is not a particularly large sum," said Meelis Kitsing, head of the Riigikogu's Development Monitoring Center (Arenguseire Keskus).

"I think there is more to these projects than oil shale refining. For example, energy savings and climate neutralization are also helped by, for example, better insulation of the houses. This is a consumption side consideration," Kitsing continued.

Finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) told "Aktuaalne kaamera" that the U.S. funding presented an alternative source of funds for sectors out of favor with EU.

"Starting with road projects, for example. In Europe, internal combustion engine transport is not viewed highly - only rail transport and electricity or gas or other newer types of power [are favored], but also Ida-Virumaa's energy – oil shale plants and refineries [are not favored]," he said.

At the same time, the Three Seas Initiative is aimed primarily at supporting cross-border projects which Estonia's oil shale sector still does not fit in well with.

"As such, the key word for these projects is 'cross-border', which is a kind of limiting factor, but things are currently under development so nothing can be ruled out. Cross-border coherence is important for these projects," said foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) of the developments.

Estonia itself pays in €20 million to the Three Seas Initiative.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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