At the National Energy Conference in 1998, the Cabinet decided to promote four low-carbon areas, in the north, center, south and east of Taiwan. The plan, which was supposed to emulate the success of Denmark’s Samso Island, listed Penghu and Kinmen as “low-carbon islands.” Lots of resources were pumped into planning, including the establishment of large-scale renewable energy power plants and the promotion of low-carbon transport systems. These were all signs that the government was serious about energy conservation and reducing carbon emissions.
However, on July 7, a so-called “gambling referendum” was passed in Matsu, a place once described, together with Kinmen, as being a pearl in the sea and the front line of Taiwan’s military resistance against China. The passage of the referendum allowing casino resorts will, its proponents say, lead to the construction of a luxurious airport and an impressive cross-sea bridge that will attract tourists from China and other parts of the world to go and gamble in Matsu. This is supposed to make the area prosper and it dreams of someday taking Macau’s place as Asia’s pre-eminent gambling paradise.
Once the residents of Matsu get rich, there will be no hope of preserving their traditional way of life and the area’s historical significance, and the ideals of energy conservation and reducing carbon emissions will go right out the window.
If Matsu becomes a “gambling island,” planes will be coming to and from Matsu constantly and thousands of gamblers bringing Chinese yuan and US dollars will burn their cash in luxurious casinos. Being a small island, Matsu cannot provide the massive amount of fuel, electricity and water that will be required, and all these will have to be imported. Also, the large amount of trash that will be produced will have to be transported to Taiwan proper for disposal. Lienchiang County Commissioner Yang Sui-sheng (楊綏生) has said that wind power and desalinization can be used to solve these problems, but these solutions will not work at all. These two proposals might meet the current demand of local residents, but how can they be expected to handle the needs of a sudden, huge increase in gambling tourists? Especially because casinos will have their air conditioners on all day long to provide a comfortable gambling environment for their patrons, the energy levels needed for just one gambler might be many times that of the average resident.
Moreover, if Matsu becomes a gambling island, the emissions increase could well cancel out the carbon reductions achieved by the equivalent of a dozen or even a hundred low-carbon islands like Kinmen. This is incredibly ironic and should open our eyes to the sad truth that the government is only concerned with promoting the concept of low-carbon islands on Kinmen and Penghu as a low-carbon model, and has no intention of promoting energy conservation and carbon emission reductions on a national scale.
The people who should be blamed in all this are the political hacks and corporations involved, who talk only about how great things will be once the economy gets up and going. These people have not honestly told local residents how low the chances really are that they will receive the NT$80,000 per month subsidy that has been promised them if the casino achieves a certain level of profit in its fifth year of operations. Nor have they been told that they will never get back their current peace and tranquility and that crime rates are likely to shoot up. How high a price will be too high for future generations to pay in exchange for current short-term gains?