Mon, Jun 20, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Energy policy requires action

A national energy strategy conference is scheduled to start today at the Taipei International Convention Center. The meeting aims to bring together government, academia and industry on ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions after the Kyoto Protocol went into effect on Feb. 16. It is also expected that the government will use the discussions as a reference in the formulation of policy concerning cutting reliance on energy imports and promoting renewable energy.

The meeting is not the first time that Taiwan has expressed hopes of laying out an energy strategy for resources and conservation. In 1998, efforts to convene a national energy conference under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration to promote a policy of energy conservation and efficiency ended after many talks, with the creation of a five-year, NT$10 billion research and development project to promote conservation and clean energy.

Almost seven years after the previous meeting, there is a huge change in the world regarding the energy issue. The Kyoto Protocol was initially viewed with suspicion by more than 160 countries when it was envisioned in 1997 to regulate the emissions of six kinds of greenhouse gases. But the treaty has now gained wider attention, because countries have gradually recognized global warming from fossil fuels as an environmental issue of fundamental importance.

On the other hand, crude oil prices have surged to above US$50 a barrel recently, compared to about US$20 a barrel in 1998, when the meeting last took place. High crude oil prices have lifted the price of related energy products and have rippled across many sectors of the economy, sparking worry that fossil fuels will become more expensive as supplies dwindle. In addition, rising oil prices have provoked governments to search for renewable sources of power such as wind, solar, hydrogen and geothermal, and to become more alert about the security of energy supplies.

Given that the country's energy supply is about 97 percent imported, the Democratic Progressive Party administration should realize that a review of energy consumption is imperative to economic development and national security. Therefore, how Taiwan handles its energy dependence is an important test of how far it has come, because the nation's energy policies have mostly stayed the same since the 1998 meeting. In this respect, efforts to promote efficient consumption and conservation of energy, as well as the increased usage of natural gas and the development of renewable energy sources, should not just be put up for discussion during the meeting, but also be presented as concrete measures, along with incentives.

Another noteworthy aspect of the meeting is that this country is determined to deal with the Kyoto Protocol's implications and tackle the issue of local greenhouse gas emissions. Although Taiwan is not a signatory to the protocol, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has said that regulations on the control of six kinds of greenhouse gases will be drawn up during the meeting to specify the shared duties of the governments at all levels. But before addressing this issue seriously, Taiwan needs to clearly position its energy policies in the balance of economic development and environmental protection, and clarify possible impacts the protocol will have on the manufacturing sector.

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