Youth organizations: Government should not invest in oil plant

Auvere Power Plant.
Auvere Power Plant. Source: Eesti Energia

Nineteen organizations representing young people as well as high school and university students in Estonia have jointly addressed the government to stop the recent decision to allocate €125 million for the construction of a new shale oil plant.

The organizations said in the statement addressed to the government: "At a meeting on March 26, you granted Finance Minister Martin Helme authorization to increase the equity of Eesti Energia with a cash contribution of €125 million for the construction of a new Enefit280 oil plant. In an emergency situation where the state has to take out large loans to cope, no risky investment that causes environmental damage is acceptable. It is inappropriate to make such an important decision impacting the future in a situation where the media is focusing on the crisis caused by the coronavirus, there is no public debate and there is a ban on public gatherings and demonstrations.

"We do not agree that in a situation where the world is gradually phasing out the production of fossil fuel-based energy, the state of Estonia promotes the production of fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases produced in the burning of them. The earth's atmosphere and climate are one entity, which makes it very hypocritical to produce fuel that is not consumable in our country, but which is intended for export to other countries. The greenhouse gases emitted there also affect the Estonian climate. Although the use of shale oil is less polluting than the generation of electricity from oil shale, this decision will not contribute to achieving climate neutrality by 2050 or to the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement, which Estonia has signed.

"Although the construction and operation of the plant will create new profitable jobs in the short term, it is not a sustainable solution in the long run. According to a study by the Tallinn Center of the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and commissioned by the government, investing in the oil shale sector would attract a significant regional labor force into one industry and a region dependent on one particular industry may not be able to adapt to the realization of risks, for example, the fast termination of oil production, at the necessary speed. Therefore, in view of the long-term stability of the region, it is justified to abandon the planned investment. Instead, solutions must be found to retrain those currently working in the oil shale sector.

"The national oil shale development plan for 2016-2030, prepared by the Ministry of the Environment, explains that the profitability and competitiveness of shale oil production depends on the European Union's environmental standards and global oil prices. As the global crude oil price is at the lowest point it has been at in the last 18 years and the unit price of carbon dioxide (CO2) quotas is set to rise, new feasibility studies are absolutely necessary from the perspective of the investment's cost-benefit," the organizations said.

"As youth organizations, it is important for us that the government also takes into account the interests and opinions of young people, as their opportunities to participate in political decision-making remain limited. Contributing to climate change and unreasonable economic decisions are not a pledge to present and future generations for their social success and overall benefit.

"We urge the Government of the Republic to suspend the investment in the construction of the oil plant and launch a public debate on the need for this plant after the crisis situation. At this juncture, it is more important to ensure, with financial means, that people and businesses are able to cope. Instead of energy based on fossil fuels, in the light of the climate crisis, the only way forward is to develop renewable energy and CO2-free energy production."

The signatories of the statement addressing the government include the Society of Biosciences' Students, the Society of Environmental Protection Students of the Estonian University of Life Sciences, the Student Union of the Estonian University of Life Sciences, the youth caucus of the Reform Party, the Federation of Estonian Student Unions, the Tartu chapter of the European Geography Association (EGEA-Tartu), Fridays for Future Estonia, East-Viru County Youth Council, the Society of Environmentally Aware Students, West-Viru County Youth Council, the youth caucus of Estonia 200, the youth caucus of the Estonian Greens, the youth caucus of the Social Democratic Party (SDE), City of Parnu Youth Council, Parnu County Youth Council, Sillamae Youth Council, Tartu County Youth Council, the Student Union of the University of Tartu and the Tartu Student Nature Conservation Club.

Estonian Greens: Burying money into oil shale repeats earlier mistaken decisions

The Estonian Green Party find that the decision of Finance Minister Martin Helme to bury hundreds of millions of euros into a shale oil factory is a repetition of similar faulty decisions made earlier. 

The Greens' administrative head Joonas Laks said on Saturday said: "Now that an emergency situation has been declared, we and the rest of society alike were taken by surprise by the fact that it's truly being planned to spend €280 million, notwithstanding the needs of health care, the economic crisis, and common sense."

He added: "How many times can the Estonian state keep making the same mistake? It looks like a lot. But during a crisis?"

The leader of the Greens, Zuleyxa Izmailova, said that in the interests of the Estonian people and the state the Greens were urgently calling on the government to call a halt, rethink, and invest the hundreds of millions of euros intended to be spent on supporting oil production, for instance, in subsidies enabling every citizen to produce renewable energy for themselves. 

According to the Greens, Estonia needs a rapid transition to renewable energy and hydrogen-based economy to offer well-paid jobs that support the country's economy, not exhaust it. 


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Editor: Helen Wright

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