Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) yesterday challenged environmental groups to a debate on gas and electricity prices, saying they should not oppose the price increases because they are a necessary measure to reduce carbon emissions.
“I am challenging environmental groups to a debate, because they oppose raising gas and electricity prices, but want to cut down carbon emissions at the same time,” Lee told reporters before attending a meeting of the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee.
“If you keep energy prices low, it’s impossible to cut carbon emissions at the same time,” he said.
Lee said some environmentalists might not be happy to hear his critical remarks, but he thought it would be a good opportunity for both sides to sit down and rationally talk about the issue.
“After all, it’s always better to have public participation in formulating public policies,” he said.
Asked about Lee’s remarks, Green Party Taiwan’s Central Executive Committee member Pan Han-sheng (潘瀚聲) said at a separate setting that he would turn down the invitation.
“We don’t want to debate with him, he’s the minister of the interior and is not the one in charge of adjusting energy prices. It’s useless to debate with him. We’d prefer a debate with the minister of economic affairs,” Pan said.
“I agree that higher energy prices would help to cut carbon emissions by stimulating development of energy-saving technologies and discouraging driving, but raising energy prices is not the best way to do it,” he said. “In fact, what a lot of European countries do is collect energy taxes.”
He said that levying such taxes on energy companies would lead to an increase in energy prices, thus discouraging driving and encouraging the development of energy-saving technology.
“After collecting taxes from energy companies, the government should distribute the money through tax refunds. The extra money that people receive could help subsidize the extra spending they have to make because of higher energy prices,” Pan said.
“This is especially important for the economically disadvantaged,” he added.
“There’s one last thing I’d like say to Lee: You should not challenge environmental groups, rather, you should challenge those business giants who are opposed to raising energy prices,” Pan said.
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