The Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) plan to ask fuel companies to provide fuel oil with lower sulfur content to factories to improve the nation’s air quality is “nearly impossible at present” the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said yesterday, adding that the proposal could hinder economic competitiveness.
Environmental Protection Administration Minister Stephen Shen (沈世宏) told a legislative committee meeting that the agency planned to gradually toughen air quality standards in yearly phases and on a regional basis.
The aim is to control air pollutants at the source, and would require a reduction in sulfur content from 0.5 percent to 0.3 percent, he said, adding that the move would be introduced first in Greater Kaohsiung, which has the highest total fuel usage in the nation and a a high proportion of poor air quality days.
However, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Francis Liang (梁國新) said that while the ministry respected the agency’s proposal, “if the policy became a national standard for the industry it would have a severe impact,” adding: “It does not conform to measures adopted by other countries.”
State-run oil refiner CPC Corp, Taiwan’s (CPC) refineries were built before 1993 and are unable to produce fuel oil with a sulfur content of 0.3 percent, Liang said, adding that plans for a hydro-desulfurization plant in Taoyuan County had been blocked by residents.
An analysis by the Changhua Medical Alliance found that the average concentration of PM2.5 dust in the nation was 29.99 micrograms per cubic meter last year, compared with an average of 28.3 micrograms per cubic meter in 2012.
Taiwan Healthy Air Action Alliance founder Yeh Guang-peng (葉光芃), a gynecologist at Changhua Christian Hospital, said the average PM2.5 level last year was about two times the standard in Taiwan (15 micrograms per cubic meter) and three times the WHO standard (10 micrograms per cubic meter).
Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan deputy secretary-general Wang Min-ling (王敏玲) said that since cities in this country are densely populated and some areas have a lot of industrial plants, “we have to have stricter standards. If CPC is unable to improve, will people’s lungs be able to endure the poor air quality? The government is kind enough to be thoughtful for the industry, but not kind enough to ensure the public’s health.”
Although the air quality worsened last year, it was better than it was in 2010, and the decline in air quality was largely caused by pollutants from China, Shen said.
The EPA is planning to set up an app-based warning system to alert the public to bad air quality when PM2.5 concentration levels rise higher than 80 micrograms per cubic meter so that those at risk will know to stay indoors, Shen said.