Fri, Aug 24, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: EPA announcement full of hot air

It is difficult to know whether the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) announcement last week that Taiwan plans to present a "green" initiative during next month's APEC forum was some kind of joke.

After all, Taiwan has doubled its carbon dioxide emissions since 1990, the baseline year of the Kyoto Protocol, while the government -- if we are to believe environmental groups -- recently reshuffled its environmental review commission in order to rid it of anyone opposed to development on environmental grounds. This came soon after the president told an association of industrialists that "the government should not make environmental protection policy so stringent as to force out enterprises."

If the nation were really serious about reducing carbon dioxide emissions, tackling climate change and reducing its dependence on energy imports, then it would have already begun to make better use of emission-free power sources, including the vast amounts of untapped potential it possesses in solar, hydroelectric and geothermal power generation.

It would also be trying to reduce the amount of power it generates using fossil fuels, which the Bureau of Energy (BOE) puts at 68 percent.

Taiwan has more than 100 geothermal sites but so far only small-scale experimental geothermal power generation. In contrast, Iceland uses its geothermal resources to great effect, heating around 90 percent of all homes and also generating electricity.

Taiwan receives a lot of sunlight and is a big producer of solar panels, but we do not have any large-scale solar power plants.

We could also better utilize hydroelectric power; currently just 15 percent of national power is generated in this way. In contrast, Norway, a country with similar terrain, generates 99 percent of its needs through hydroelectricity.

Wind-generated energy, although on the increase, does not yet make up a single percentage point.

Another emission-free option is nuclear power, which despite its controversial nature, should not be ruled out as it may be the best choice if Taiwan is really serious about reducing emission levels quickly.

But instead of concentrating on domestic issues and tackling the causes of climate change, officials like EPA Minister Winston Dang (陳重信) harp on about China stopping Taiwan from cooperating with other countries on environmental matters.

While this is undoubtedly true, whining about it will not solve anything.

If Taiwan were to forge ahead with its own investment in renewables and become a world leader in certain fields, then other countries would come knocking at our door, regardless of what China says.

Not being a member of international bodies means there are no restrictions on what we can do. Taiwan should put its engineers to work and use their skills in innovation in the renewable energy sector, while setting itself ambitious targets for renewable energy.

Instead, the BOE has set itself a target to double the percentage of electricity generated by renewable energy sources to a measly 10 percent by 2010.

While it is okay to promote green initiatives at APEC if you are serious about environmental issues, it is not okay if back home you are on the verge of allowing Formosa Plastics and CPC Corp, Taiwan to open new plants that environmentalists claim will raise Taiwan's emissions by a further 40 percent.

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