Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Coal shipped from the United States could help address energy security issues in Ukraine, the nation's energy secretary said.
U.S. Cabinet officials, the U.S. envoy to Ukraine and representatives from XCoal were on hand for the first shipment of coal from a Pennsylvania facility to Ukrainian energy company Centrenergo. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said coal sent from the United States would serve as a secure and reliable form of energy for Ukrainian consumers.
"The department and this administration look forward to making available even more of our abundant natural resources to allies like Ukraine in the future to promote their own energy security through diversity of supply and source," he said in a statement.
Coal exports from the United States were around 37 million tons total for the first five months of the year, a level that's 60 percent higher than the same time last year.
U.S. President Trump in his first weeks in office took aim at environmental rules he said threatened the coal industry. According to the White House, more than 600 coal mines closed in the six years ending in 2015, production declined by more than 177 million tons and more than 36,000 jobs were lost "without any sign of relief."
Eurocoal, an association that represents coal producers in the European region, said Ukraine has enough of its own coal to last for more than a century. Nuclear energy accounts for about half of the country's electricity generation, with coal representing about 40 percent. Most of the nation's coal reserves are found in Donetsk, an industrial city at the heart of the Ukrainian separatist movement.
The United States has used its natural resources for strategic purposes to counter Russian influence in Eastern Europe, most recently with the shipment of liquefied natural gas to Lithuania and Poland.
The U.S. coal shipment came as the Ukrainian government laid out a roadmap for its own energy future. According to the strategy, Ukraine by 2035 would get about half of its electricity needs met by nuclear power, 24 percent from hydropower and the rest from thermal-electric power stations.
The coal shipment leaves port later this week and should arrive in Ukraine by September.