US sends experts to tackle Ukraine's energy needs

On top of a $50 million package aimed at helping Ukraine's economy, the U.S. is sending a team of experts to hep Ukraine with its immediate and longer term energy needs.

Over the next few weeks experts from multiple U.S. agencies to help Ukraine strengthen its energy supply and become less dependent on Russia's natural gas.

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On Tuesday, an interagency expert team arrived in Kyiv to help the Ukrainian government secure reverse natural gas flows from its European neighbors. Later in the week, the team will visit Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia to work on the details of the arrangement.

"And as you attempt to pursue energy security, there’s no reason why you cannot be energy secure.  I mean there isn’t.  It will take time.  It takes some difficult decisions, but it’s collectively within your power and the power of Europe and the United States," Vice President Joe Biden said on Tuesday during a meeting with Ukrainian legislators.  "And we stand ready to assist you in reaching that.  Imagine where you’d be today if you were able to tell Russia:  Keep your gas.  It would be a very different world you’d be facing today."

In May, U.S. technical experts will meet with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to help Ukraine develop a public-private investment project to increase conventional gas production from existing fields. The increase in production will help Ukraine build up its domestic energy supply.

The team will also work with the Ukrainian government on measures that will provide fast and environmentally-friendly implementation of fracking for shale gas, in line with contracts signed in 2013.

Energy Department and U.S. Agency for International Development officials will travel to Ukraine next month to offer advice on energy efficiency, helping Ukraine cut back on energy consumption.

In recent weeks tensions over natural gas supplies have increased between Russia and Ukraine. Russia's state-controlled energy company Gazprom upped Ukraine's natural gas bill earlier this month.

Ukraine's prime minister told Ukraine to prepare for its natural gas to be shutoff after refusing to pay the bill.

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