Sept. 15 (UPI) -- The first batch of U.S. coal sent to Ukraine could open additional doors for bilateral energy trade, the Ukrainian minister of infrastructure said.
Minister Volodymyr Omelyan said Friday that, after declaring a state of emergency because of coal blockades in eastern Ukraine, his country was supported with the arrival of U.S. coal.
"My dream is that other ships coming from United States would bring Tesla cars and other electric cars, and we would supply electrical batteries and high-tech components to the USA, then this cooperation will be even stronger and more promising," he said in a statement.
U.S. Cabinet officials, the U.S. envoy to Ukraine and representatives from XCoal were on hand for the first shipment of coal in late August from a Pennsylvania facility to Ukrainian energy company Centrenergo. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said U.S. coal would serve as a secure and reliable form of energy for Ukrainian consumers. Omelyan added it would help counter "Russian aggression."
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. Most of the coal reserves in Ukraine are found in Donetsk, an industrial city at the heart of the Ukrainian separatist movement.
Russia has used energy as a strategic tool in Eastern Europe, cutting gas supplies through Ukraine because of various economic and political disputes. Gazprom, the Russian gas company, has been accused of exploiting its position as both the transporter and supplier of natural gas to the region.
The United States, meanwhile, 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.