Tue, Jan 11, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Lee Yuan-tseh turns to environmental sustainability

EFFICIENCY He may be best known for hobnobbing with world leaders, but the Academia Sinica president is just as concerned about energy and the environment


Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh's (李遠哲) latest mission representing the government at US President George W. Bush's inauguration on Jan. 20 is proof again that key roles promoting Taiwan on the international stage can best be played by him.

Lee, who received the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1986, has served as Taiwan's representative at the APEC summit three times due to his prestige and ability to win trust and respect from other countries' leaders.

But the 68-year-old leader of Taiwan's scientific community is having more to say about what society must do next to ensure a sustainable future.

"Taiwanese people have to be thoroughly aware of the importance of energy efficiency. If not, we will see an energy crisis here within two decades," Lee said. "In the past five years, the level of Taiwan's carbon-dioxide emissions has increased."

Lee said energy policies relating to state corporations such as Chinese Petroleum Corp and Taipower should be revised so that an up-to-date perspective can be adopted.

"For example, halting new power-plant projects for the sake of energy conservation ... might be criticized as having a negative economic impact on state corporations," Lee said.

Lee believes that promotion of energy conservation should be a top national priority because it might take a long time before a breakthrough is made in research on renewable energy.

He said that the emphasis placed on sustainable development by the rest of the world has promoted energy-conservation measures, such as efficient heating, cooling and lighting, which saves not only natural resources but also money.

"Industry should be acutely responsive to such global trends, too," he said.

Citing the Chinese Petroleum Corp, whose annual budget is about NT$50 billion, as an example, Lee said if one-tenth of that budget could be used for education, then sustainability could be significantly advanced.

Lee said Taiwan needs to adopt better policies to deal with issues of climate change, such as global warming, which carbon dioxide emissions mainly exacerbate.

"In terms of global warming, the adoption of nuclear-power generation should be the way to go for Taiwan. We have to make the best use of existing nuclear-power plants rather than advance their scheduled dates for decommission," Lee said.

Lee's position is obviously not consistent with the Cabinet's "nuclear-free homeland" policy, which seeks to decommission each of the three nuclear power plants now operating seven years early -- in 2011, 2014 and 2017, respectively. The expected 40-year life of each plant will be shortened to 33 years.

"This is not energy-efficient at all. In addition, the completion of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant now under construction should be guaranteed. It must also be fully utilized," he said.

Lee said that in the next 30 years, energy consumption must be cut by at least one-fourth to ease the pressure on the planet. To curb carbon-dioxide emissions, he predicted nuclear power plants would become more prevalent in China and Korea.

"Abnormal weather patterns have been observed in many places. In Taiwan, we've experienced heavy rainfalls, typhoons and unexpected droughts in the last few years. It's wrong if we keep ruling out nuclear power plants and rely on electricity converted from fossil fuels," he said.

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