Sat, Feb 26, 2011 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

Carbon dependency, be gone

Although I’m a fan of fiddler crabs, oysters and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, there’s a much more compelling reason why plans for the Kuokuang “Pollutochemical” plant must be immediately scrapped: Fossil fuels are a dying industry.

Let’s look at a few facts. Unrest in the Middle East has pushed oil over US$100 a barrel and many don’t see it ever climbing down from there. Meanwhile, industry insiders widely believe that Saudi oil reserves are vastly overstated.

Only from the perspective of the future will scientists be able to pinpoint the exact time we hit “peak oil,” but the simple truth is that we are using ever-increasing amounts of energy to exploit the dwindling oil and coal resources that are available now. Given this scenario, future oil and energy prices can only rise.

Furthermore, given ongoing global water shortages, “fracking,” tar sands and other non-conventional fossil fuel sources are no magic bullet for the energy crisis. We need to be moving toward a green energy economy, not someday, but now.

Brilliant researcher and eco-champion George Monbiot recently wrote: “Why are we prospecting for new oil anyway? If we burn more than 60 percent of current global reserves of fossil fuels, we produce 2°C of warming. If we burn all of them and still look for more, we’ll get four, five or six degrees. Preventing runaway climate change means getting out of fossil fuels.”

The International Energy Agency predicted 1.4 percent annual growth in the global crude oil market for this year and this is clearly not the direction we need to be going if we’re going to address climate collapse. In my view, we should be focusing efforts on generating electricity from methane, which is far more harmful to our shared atmosphere than carbon dioxide, and a by-product of many polluting industries, especially factory farming. The Taiwanese farmer who reportedly trained his pigs to defecate into his custom methane-to-electricity device could be an example of “best practices” in this emerging area.

Wang To-far (王塗發), an economics professor at National Taipei University, said construction of the plant will take 16 years.

“If the Kuokuang project costs NT$500 million [US$16.8 million] and we invest the funds in green energy instead, it will create an additional output of at least NT$125 billion because it will -simultaneously stimulate development of new -electronics products.”

Our intellectually feeble and morally bankrupt government wants to “invest” NT$500 million on a dying industry that won’t show a “return” in 16 years, if ever. This is irresponsible madness.

It is my sincere hope that the Democratic Progressive Party’s newly formed economic and social affairs think tank will take a responsible, scientific view of current crises and the world’s energy future as they map out their plan for Taiwan’s government and economy.

We need viable solutions here, not hypocrisy and sloganeering. I’m looking for a real leader who has the courage to wake up the largely ignorant public and push for conservation and conversion toward our inevitable low-carbon future.

TORCH PRATT

Yonghe, New Taipei City

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