Fri, Jun 08, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Environmental groups act on minister’s challenge

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Activists push a scooter outside the Ministry of the Interior in Taipei yesterday, bringing with them a letter demanding that Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan arrange a debate with them on fuel and electricity price increases.

Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times

Following a challenge from Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) to environmental groups to organize a debate on energy prices, environmental groups yesterday rallied outside the ministry’s building in Taipei and delivered an invitation to a debate, which an official accepted, promising to set a date for the debate.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Lee challenged environmental groups to a debate on energy prices, as environmental groups have expressed opposition to the government’s decision to raise fuel and electricity prices.

Saying that he believes raising energy prices is a necessary measure to cut carbon emissions, Lee said he was disappointed that environmental groups did not support the policy and added that he wanted to sort things out by having a debate.

“We certainly support the idea of rationalizing energy prices and we’d love to see reduction in carbon emissions, but we’re opposed to the way the government tries to achieve these objectives and the way the decision was made,” said Kao Ju-ping (高茹萍), secretary-general of the National Association for the Promotion of Community Universities.

“Lee should not blame environmental groups for the government’s lack of communication before implementing the policy,” he added.

Green Party Taiwan representative Pan Han-sheng (潘瀚聲) said that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had proposed levying a tax on energy companies as a measure to help reduce carbon emissions, but he had yet to turn that proposal into policy.

“Leadership and the support of the public are both required to achieve reform — yet our government has no leadership capability and it just wants the public to blindly support its policies,” Pan said. “It’s the government that should take the blame, not the public or environmental groups.”

As Lee was attending a meeting in the legislature at the time of the rally, ministry chief secretary Wen Wen-teh (翁文德) accepted the invitation on his behalf.

Weng said he would be in touch with the environmental groups soon to set up a date and time.

At a separate setting, Lee said he would be happy to talk about energy prices with environmental groups, but despite his earlier challenges, he played it down yesterday.

“Let’s not say it’s a debate, let’s call it a ‘dialogue,’” he said.

Asked to respond to criticism that he should not be interfering in the energy price issue, since he is the minister of the interior, not minister of economic affairs, Lee said that as a citizen he should be concerned about all issues of concern to the public.

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