Re­al­is­tic energy poli­cies an im­per­a­tive for Tai­wan

The China Post - - COMMENTARY - BY ERIC HUANG

The Wall Street Jour­nal re­cently dis­cussed Tai­wan’s energy needs and crit­i­cized Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party Chair­woman and pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Tsai Ing-wen for her “fan­ci­ful vi­sions” to re­place nu­clear power with ex­pen­sive and un­re­li­able re­new­ables. (1) We are glad the Wall Street Jour­nal has fol­lowed the Na­tion­al­ist Party’s, or Kuom­intang, lead to de­mand Ms. Tsai pro­vide Tai­wan’s vot­ers with clar­ity on her energy poli­cies. Like many of Ms. Tsai’s pol­icy ideas, when clar­ity is needed, there is a power out­age.

Tai­wan has al­most zero energy en­dow­ment and im­ports about 98 per­cent of its con­sump­tion. (2) Re­new­ables such as so­lar, biomass and hy­dropower pro­vide a lim­ited amount of energy at high prices. Among im­ports, ap­prox­i­mately 8 per­cent is nu­clear fuel and more than 90 per­cent are fos­sil fu­els. Not sur­pris­ingly, most of our oil and gas is im­ported from the Mid­dle East at tremen­dous cost and risk.

Ms. Tsai held nu­mer­ous se­nior gov­ern­ment po­si­tions be­tween 1992 and 2008, serv­ing as a leg­is­la­tor, min­is­ter and vice premier. Dur­ing that time she sup­ported nu­clear be­fore she was against it, although her party now la­bels the Wall Street Jour­nal as “disin­gen­u­ous” for point­ing out her shift­ing po­si­tion. Her party fur­ther of­fers the odd ex­cuse that Ms. Tsai was “duty-bound to im­ple­ment the de­ci­sions made by the KMT-dom­i­nated leg­is­la­ture”. (3) We are happy to sub­mit a lengthy list of poli­cies ap­proved by our par­lia­ment, the Leg­isla­tive Yuan, dur­ing that pe­riod which Ms. Tsai and the DPP gov­ern­ment re­fused to im­ple­ment.

In any event, as the DPP’s may­oral can­di­date in New Taipei City (home to two of Tai­wan’s three op­er­at­ing nu­clear power plants) in 2010, she op­posed nu­clear, and as the DPP’s pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in 2012, Ms. Tsai said Tai­wan can phase out nu­clear via re­new­ables and energy ef­fi­ciency. She lost both elec­tions.

The Wall Street Jour­nal also noted Ms. Tsai’s DPP pro­poses to ban coal in cities and coun­ties where it holds ex­ec­u­tive of­fice. The DPP has also re­peat­edly sought, and failed, to hold ref­er­enda to elim­i­nate nu­clear power. These poli­cies ig­nore our man­u­fac­tur­ing base’s need for a de­pend­able energy sup­ply.

In­deed, our re­liance on fos­sil fu­els is dan­ger­ous to Tai­wan’s eco­nomic and en­v­i­ron- men­tal se­cu­rity. CO2 emis­sions per capita nearly dou­bled be­tween 1990 and 2013, though this growth is mod­est com­pared to some of our neigh­bors and the ve­loc­ity has re­cently slowed. (4) Although our diplo­matic iso­la­tion pre­vents for­mal ac­ces­sion to in­ter­na­tional cli­mate change agree­ments, the cur­rent Kuom­intang-led gov­ern­ment and par­lia­ment has sought to im­ple­ment emis­sions re­duc­tion strate­gies. On June 15th of this year the Leg­isla­tive Yuan, in which the Kuom­intang holds a ma­jor­ity and our pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hung Hsiu-chu is deputy speaker, passed the Green­house Gas Re­duc­tion and Man­age­ment Act. The act tar­gets a 50 per­cent re­duc­tion in green­house gas emis­sions be­low the 2005 level by 2050. The act had bi­par­ti­san sup­port and was praised by DPP leg­is­la­tors as a “his­toric point in Tai­wan’s fight against cli­mate change.” (5) This law, though im­per­fect, is a pos­i­tive uni­lat­eral step to re­duce CO2 emis­sions.

With many years of leg­isla­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, Ms. Hung has a re­al­is­tic un­der­stand­ing of energy pol­icy. She pro­poses to grad­u­ally re­duce the use of nu­clear energy, and (de­spite in­evitable public op­po­si­tion) set rea­son­able elec­tric­ity rates that truly re­flect costs of pro­duc­tion. How­ever, she is forth­right with vot­ers when she states that it is im­pos­si­ble to to­tally re­place nu­clear or coal-fired energy with green energy. (6)

In this elec­tion cy­cle, Ms. Tsai has “re­newed” her calls for the same energy poli­cies she pre­vi­ously cam­paigned on, poli­cies that will leave our econ­omy and se­cu­rity vul­ner­a­ble to geopo­lit­i­cal events be­yond our con­trol. We hope she will in­stead shed light on a more re­al­is­tic energy pol­icy for the vot­ers to con­sider. 1 http://www.wsj.com/ar­ti­cles/tai­wan-chooses-vul­ner­a­bil­ity-1437607506 2 http:// www. brook­ings. edu/ re­search/ opin­ions/2013/09/12-tai­wan-energy-se­cu­rityliao 3 http:// www. wsj. com/ ar­ti­cles/ re­new­able- energy- is- not- dan­ger­ous- for- tai­wan-1438102522 4 http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/news_­docs/jrc2014-trends-in-global-co2-emis­sions-2014re­port-93171.pdf 5 http://www.chi­na­post.com.tw/tai­wan/busi­ness/2015/06/16/438517/New-his­toric.htm 6 http://www1.kmt.org.tw/english/page.asp x?type=ar­ti­cle&mnum=112&anum=16399

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