Wed, Jan 13, 2010 - Page 4 News List

Taiwan’s green potential trumpeted by Friedman

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan has the potential to be at the forefront of the global “green industry” and the government could encourage the public to become more environmentally conscious by imposing a “revenue-neutral” energy tax, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman said in Taipei yesterday.

Speaking to an audience of more than 3,000 at the Taipei International Convention Center — including elected officials and corporate leaders — Friedman said a “revenue-neutral” tax is a tax on people’s usage of energy and carbon emissions instead of income. This allows people to continue to enjoy the incentive of working hard for their money while scaling back their use of petroleum, he said.

The government collects the tax and invests the money in clean, renewable energy and other measures to benefit the environment.

Friedman said he had found a close link between oil prices and freedom, especially for people in oil-producing countries. As the price of oil goes down, the pace of freedom in the oil states goes up and vice versa, he said, calling it the “First Law of Petropolitics.”

Bahrain was the first Gulf country to discover oil as well as run out of oil, but it was also the first in the region to establish female suffrage, hold free and fair parliamentary elections and sign a free-trade agreement with the US, he said.

When oil was selling for US$20 a barrel in 1997, Iran elected a leader who called for a “dialogue of civilizations,” he said. Fast forward to 2005, when the price of oil shot up to US$60 to US$70, another Iranian leader emerged and called for the destruction of Israel, he said.

Although challenges, including overpopulation and an over-reliance on petroleum, appear daunting, they could be viewed as a “series of great opportunities disguised as insoluble problems,” he said, quoting John Garner, the founder of Common Cause.

Taiwan’s creativity has been demonstrated by its advanced information technology industry, he said.

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