Expert: Giving up oil shale political, not knowledge-based or economic decision | News

Expert: Giving up oil shale political, not knowledge-based or economic decision | News
Expert: Giving up oil shale political, not knowledge-based or economic decision | News

For example, candidate for regional minister Piret Hartmann told ETV’s “Esimene stuudio” that Estonia will be moving off oil shale and that people in Ida-Viru County should not be led to believe otherwise. ERR’s Ida-Viru correspondent Jüri Nikolajev asked scientists and local governments how they feel about the incoming minister’s position.

Oil shale has been used to generate electricity and shale oil, or used primarily as a fossil fuel in Estonia over the years. The material has not found widespread use in the chemical industry.

“It is likely that there has been enough demand for oil shale as a fossil fuel. There has also been no direct need to turn it into chemical compounds or products or indeed pressure for developing oil shale processing further,” said Kalle Pirk, head of TalTech Virumaa College’s Oil Shale Competence Center.

According to Pirk, researchers have been exploring the potential uses of oil shale in the chemical industry for years, but applying this knowledge requires investment courage, which is currently lacking. As an example, Pirk mentioned the developments in producing gasoline from oil shale.

“Companies have already half-traveled this path and have abandoned the plan. If oil shale cannot be used at all, then there is no point in building a plant. And today, it is very risky to invest in the oil shale industry.”

Pirk affirmed that the decision to phase out oil shale is political, not based on science or economics.

“Even when we talk about burning, we are actually discussing energy security, and with the possibility of capturing CO2 emissions, it seems that we could burn oil shale because we would not create emissions. It seems to me that everything starts with the fact that oil shale is a fossil fuel. But the problem is greenhouse gas emissions, not the burning process itself.”

With the end of the oil shale era, the competence center does not plan to close its doors. A major research area is the recycling of waste from the oil shale industry, and in addition, offering the knowledge and skills accumulated over decades to other countries.

The phasing out of oil shale poses a tough choice for the “oil shale municipalities” of Ida-Viru. For example, the budget of Alutaguse Municipality will be reduced by half due to the disappearance of resource taxes. The critical year will be 2028, when the last mine ceases operations.

Companies emerging with the support of Just Transition are clustering near cities, and no new taxpayers are moving into the forested areas, thus the municipality must resort to budget cuts and rely on the state.

“The hope is that within four to five years, the national legislator will change the local government funding model so that municipalities can manage themselves. Perhaps by 2030, Alutaguse Municipality will be a place where tourists come to see how people survive when you can’t longer do anything,” stated Tauno Võhmar, the elder of Alutaguse.

According to the majority, the attack on the municipality’s revenue base is coming from multiple fronts. While the green transition is killing the oil shale industry, the expansion of protected natural areas is affecting forestry. In turn, national defense restrictions are hindering the development of green energy.

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