Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers yesterday asked government officials to better explain the administration’s air pollution control and energy policies to the public, after a referendum requiring the government to reduce thermal power generation was passed by voters last month.
Referendum #7, which was held alongside the Nov. 24 nine-in-one elections, asked voters: “Do you agree that the share of thermal power in the annual energy structure should be reduced by at least 1 percent per year on average?”
The referendum result was discussed at a meeting of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee, where Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers asked government officials to explain how they planned to achieve the goal.
Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times
The Ministry of Economic Affairs needs to consult relevant agencies and would next month present draft guidelines on how to achieve the goal, Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Tseng Wen-sheng (曾文生) said.
The ministry is evaluating to what degree such a reduction would improve the nation’s air quality, given that PM2.5 — fine particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers or smaller — emitted by thermal power plants account for only 4.5 to 9.9 percent of domestically produced PM2.5 pollution, Tseng said, citing Environmental Protection Agency data released at the end of last year.
DPP Legislator Chung Chia-pin (鍾佳濱) said the referendum question was misleading, because what people really want is to cut the amount of air pollutants emitted by power plants.
The EPA should explain to the public the difference between the three, he said, adding that the referendum results have helped the DPP understand the importance of properly explaining its policies.
The ministry should also better explain its renewable power policy, as some people are questioning whether the nation’s renewable power prices are more expensive than other countries, DPP Legislator Lin Ching-yi (林靜儀) said.
People are exploiting public concerns over the government’s alleged waste of funds to spread misinformation, so officials must explain their policies more clearly to make sure that everyone can easily understand them, Lin added.
The nation’s air quality has been improving, EPA Acting Minister Tsai Hung-teh (蔡鴻德) said, adding that the annual average PM2.5 concentration has fallen from 18.3 micrograms per cubic meter last year to 17.4 micrograms per cubic meter as of last month.
Asked by lawmakers if the agency might collect a carbon tax, Tsai said it is one of the options to curb carbon emissions, but added that government agencies have yet to reach a consensus on the matter.