Scores of parents and children gathered in front of the Legislative Yuan building yesterday to protest against a cut in electricity rates, saying it would lead to an increase in the use of fossil fuels necessary to generate power.
The reduction, which was implemented this month, lowered electricity rates by as much as 9.56 percent, with households expected to see their monthly bill drop by NT$80, while industrial users could see a NT$400,000 reduction.
Children put on face masks and displayed packs of medicines and medical bills, to suggest that they are more vulnerable than adults to the effects of air pollution.
Photo: Chen Wei-han, Taipei Times
“My nose bled after I attended the Dajia Matsu Pilgrimage with my parents last week. The doctor said dirty air might have caused the bleeding. I think the government is stupid to lower electricity rates, because the air will be dirtier and people would have to pay hundreds of New Taiwan dollars every month to see the doctor, which is much more than the NT$80 reduction in electricity bill,” third-grader Yang Tzu-ching (楊子慶) said.
Association of Parent Participation Education in Taiwan member Lu Shu-hui (呂淑慧) said that NT$80 is not enough to buy an air purifier or afford medical expenses, and parents would rather pay more for cleaner electricity.
“The prevalence of asthma among children has doubled over the past 20 years, which is highly related to environmental factors. Clean air is very important to children’s health and development, which cannot be traded for cheaper electricity prices,” pediatrician Chang Chian Hsiao-yun (張簡曉芸) said.
Protesters said that the nation still relies on coal as its principal fuel, and the rate cut would only increase the dependence on coal, which is one of the cheapest sources of electricity.
Taiwan Healthy Air Action Alliance convener Yeh Guang-peng (葉光芃) said airborne particles from burning coal contribute five times as much to the risk of developing lung cancer and heart disease as typical PM2.5 particles — fine particulate matter measuring under 2.5 micrometers or smaller in diameter.
Yeh called on the Ministry of Economic Affairs to withdraw the rate cut and use the money to replace coal-burning generators with more environmentally friendly ones.
The government should not continue favoring industry with low electricity prices and sacrifice the nation’s environment, while developing cleaner energy sources is not to be sacrificed over a tiny benefit, Citizen of the Earth Foundation Taipei office director Antonio Chou (周東漢) said.
Protesters said that the formula for electricity price calculation does not reflect real costs because it does not include the external cost of air pollution caused by fossil fuel power generation, calling on legislators to review the formula and the nation’s energy policy.
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