WASHINGTON DC/RIVNE - -May 25 -- The upcoming (May 26-27) visit to Ukraine by U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman serves as a reminder that both countries are facing strikingly similar energy problems for which an array of similar solutions are available. Moreover, both have made comparable energy policy mistakes in the past which should be avoided in the future.
The United States and Ukraine have both grown dangerously dependent on imports of natural gas and oil. Ukraine now gets well more than half of its supplies from Russia and Turkmenistan while the United States imports 58% and 15% of its oil and natural gas respectively.
The consequence for both nations has been dependence on politically unstable supplies which threaten their economic stability and national security. It also has meant the loss of domestic dollars (or hrevna) and jobs and worsening trade deficits.
Unfortunately, the initial response by both countries has been to advocate new nuclear construction. The U.S. Congress and White House are promoting a mix of policy changes and overly-generous tax subsidies in an effort to jump-start the building of new reactors nearly 30 years after the last nuclear license was granted. Likewise, Ukraine has recently announced plans to construct 11 new reactors of its own.
Ironically, Ukraine and the U.S. share the dubious distinction of being the sites of two of the worst accidents in commercial nuclear power's history worldwide: the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979 and the Chornobyl accident in Ukraine in 1986. It would appear that the lesson of the dangers posed by nuclear power have not been learned by either.
Moreover, nuclear power will not offer much of a solution to either nation's energy challenges - nuclear-generated electricity usually does not displace oil which is used primarily in the transportation and industrial feedstock sectors. However, it does pose a range of safety, economic, waste disposal, terrorism, and weapons proliferation concerns which neither country has yet demonstrated the ability to solve.
On the other hand, Ukraine and the United States can both go a long way towards resolving their respective energy needs through far cheaper, far easier, and far safer investments in energy efficiency. One need only consider the fact that the U.S. uses twice as much energy unit of domestic out put as does the European Union while Ukraine uses several times more to realize how much energy both nations waste and could therefore conserve.
Similarly, the mix of renewable energy technologies (e.g., solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydroelectric) offer cleaner and less costly alternatives to nuclear power that could also significantly decrease energy imports and curb greenhouse gas emissions while creating high quality jobs and industries in both countries. Studies have suggested that both the United States and Ukraine could derive a very large share - possibility a majority - of their energy needs from renewable energy sources but presently they derive only seven percent and two percent respectively from them.
Ukraine and the United States should consequently use the opportunity of Secretary Bodman's visit to explore opportunities for jointly pursuing sustainable energy solutions, rather than nuclear power, to their common problems of reliance on oil and natural gas imports.
A Ukrainian language version of this release is available upon request.
UKRAINIAN-AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTAL ASSOCIATION:
The Ukrainian-American Environmental Association is a private, non-governmental organization founded in 2004 and chartered in both the United States and Ukraine. It was created to serve as a network of Ukrainian and American NGOs, academic researchers, businesses, and government officials to facilitate the exchange of information on a broad array of environmental issues including, but not limited to, energy policy, climate change, air and water pollution, toxic wastes, soil conservation, sustainable agriculture, and wildlife and wilderness protection.