Sunday, May 04, 2014

Economist at it again

The Economist's blatant favoritism toward the KMT was on display again this week. Consider the first paragraph:
....When [Lin I-hsiung] began his vigil, he said he would fast to death if necessary, until the government (a reformed and elected KMT) reversed a national energy policy that sees nuclear power as vital for the island. Not wanting to have a martyr on its hands, the government caved in. On April 30th Mr Lin ended his fast. The country’s nuclear policy lies in tatters.
"The country's nuclear policy lies in tatters." This pro-KMT remark sets the tone for the entire piece. We learn that the anti-nuke movement swelled after Fukushima, and then again after the street protests. We are given the KMT line -- the President "argued that Taiwan’s economic future needed nuclear power." The KMT line gets another repeat in the next paragraph, where we are told via quotes that the President is 100% right but no one is listening. The steady drumbeat of KMT talking points is so hypnotic, the reader may be forgiven for not noticing that the writer of this prose poem in favor of the Ma Administration never stops to inform the reader of why the opposition to the plant is so strong, and why they see the 4th Nuke Disaster as a really bad idea (for example, in describing Ma meeting with Su, we are told what Ma said, but not Su). The opposition never speaks, except tellingly, at the end, when Tsai Ing-wen is quoted to make another negative point about the street protests.

Its entire construction hinges on the idea that the street protesters were irrational and aggressive while the Ma Administration was rational and tolerant, just one big KMT talking point. Pure comedy.

The reader is never told that Ma backed down in part because the street protests signaled the KMT chiefs of Taipei, New Taipei City, and Taichung that it could hurt the party's election chances at the end of this year, and that Ma was forced to re-organize the KMT in response (post below this one) to shore up his sagging support from within the party. Protests took place within the KMT leadership, in other words.

Indeed, someone out there should be noting that the KMT itself began this mess by offering to submit the plant to a referendum. Remember that? More than a year ago, in fact (example). At that time pro-KMT media organs began arguing that the Executive Yuan can't shutter the plant because it would be unconstitutional, only the Legislature can do that (example), the argument made when the Chen Administration tried to kill this zombie project all those years ago. The Ma Administration's decision to mothball the plant (not halt construction) may be a clever way to get around that alleged constitutional problem.

But to return to the point about the nation's nuclear policy lying in tatters, it lies "in tatters" because there was never any nuclear policy -- it started out "in tatters".There is still, after five decades of nuke plant operations in Taiwan, no place or policy for long-term storage of nuclear waste. There is no plan or place to evacuate Taipei in the event of a catastrophe at of one of the three plants that ring the city. The plant is rife with construction irregularities (Global Post). The Fourth Nuke Zombie was supposed to have a tsunami assessment performed, but this was never done. If the nuclear policy is in tatters, it is because its supporters never had one that made any sense. It was just another construction-industrial state project, building, always building, just as it is with dams, roads, and other infrastructure.

Indeed, one could point out that KMT might have begun this mess because it knows perfectly well that the Fourth Nuclear Plant construction is rife with irregularities and that its local suppliers have little or no experience. Thus, it could never be opened. The government merely waited until all the money had been spent and the thing was almost completed, as if to ensure that its patronage networks had been properly fed and watered. Since a 1994 local referendum rejected the plant by +90% vote, and the public remains opposed to it, this whole mess might be the KMT's way of getting the plant shut down without taking the blame for it, as it did when it killed that monster naptha cracker in Changhua. "Those damn street protesters! They tied our hands!" Then when electricity prices go up as they must because they are far too low, the government can blame the anti-nuke types as well. My cynical guess would be that the KMT never anticipated that things would go in this direction.

In the post below this one I pointed out the nation's massive renewable resources. Another truth about the nation's energy policy was revealed in a Taipei Times article yesterday. Experts have long contended that the 4th Nuke Disaster can be converted to safer natural gas. This writer of a TT commentary (read it all, it's great) went a step further....
The Datan [Natural Gas power] plant is a combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) generation plant with an installed capacity of 4.484 gigawatts (GW) and a thermal efficiency of 53 percent, which is quite high. Unfortunately the capacity factor was only 35 percent in 2011, only generating power for about one-third of the time, thus wasting the investment in the plant’s construction. If it could be changed into a base load power station with a capacity factor of 90 percent, it could produce 4.0GW of power, which would be enough to replace the first power plant and the Gongliao plant, which produce 1.27GW and 2.7GW respectively. It would also remove the excuse that ending construction of the fourth plant would require power to be delivered from the south of Taiwan to the north.
Wiki points out that the Datan Plant is the largest in the world of its kind.

The reason the nation's nuke policy is "in tatters" is because it is stoooopid, not because of street protesters, who merely called attention to this existing fact. Even without counting on renewables or calling for greater power conservation, the nation's power situation is such that we don't need the 4th Nuke Nightmare. The 4th nuclear plant is simply the ultimate example of a construction-industrial state run amok.

Next step: shutting down our absurd, murderous coal plants. Protesters, don't stop at nukes!
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9 comments:

Mike Fagan said...

"Then when electricity prices go up as they must because they are far too low, the government can blame the anti-nuke types as well. "

This will backfire though, because the 4th nuke would not have drastically improved Taiwan's electricity supply all by itself. As I said, it would have added only about 6% (more or less) to the overall supply.

"Next step: shutting down our absurd, murderous coal plants..."

How many people have been "murdered" by Taiwan's coal-fired power plants in the last year?

Jenna Cody said...

Bluesplained: "The KMT has a policy and because the KMT has it, it is the right policy because it is the policy. Everybody agrees except troublemakers."

Michael Turton said...

his will backfire though, because the 4th nuke would not have drastically improved Taiwan's electricity supply all by itself. As I said, it would have added only about 6% (more or less) to the overall supply.

The point is they will make handy whipping boys.

How many people have been "murdered" by Taiwan's coal-fired power plants in the last year?

No idea, haven't looked up exact stats. But when you dump shit like mercury into the atmosphere and ocean, you get dead people. Exact amount is debatable, but if you type "coal plants deaths" in Google you can get some numbers. We also get another cohort of deaths from China's coal plants.

Michael

Michael Turton said...

Bluesplained: "The KMT has a policy and because the KMT has it, it is the right policy because it is the policy. Everybody agrees except troublemakers."

Well put. The Economist is kind of an outlier among conservative mag in its preference for the pro-China, anti-democracy party in Taiwan. The others tend to be more supportive of the DPP and more skeptical of China. It's rather strange.

Mike Fagan said...

"The point is they will make handy whipping boys."

I don't think so; few people will believe the government if they blame electricity price rises on the nuke protesters particularly because the relative importance of the 4th nuke's would-have-been contribution to electricity supply will be contradicted by their own data.

"But when you dump shit like mercury into the atmosphere and ocean, you get dead people."

Yes, but by the same logic you can say that when you raise the costs of electricity, you get dead people too.

Besides, mercury emissions can be reduced through conventional flue gas treatment systems that we already have (e.g. in Taichung power plant) as well as new tech (e.g. fabric filters) specifically for removing mercury.

Anonymous said...

Michael, I know a research who's looking into a big jump in cancer deaths in Chiayi b/c of heavy metal pollution, so there certainly must be stats about pollution-related illnesses around the coal-fired plants

Jenna Cody said...

Coal plants are bad for people - pretty much all fossil fuel energy spews all sorts of nasty crap into the air, sea and sky, which screws up the environment. Then we get polluted water, polluted land, illness and long-term, we get climate change, which does have the potential to kill people (many scientists say it already has).

So yes, "murderous coal plants" may be a bit of rhetoric, but unless you're a climate change denier and don't think pollution exists, it isn't really inaccurate.

Michael Turton said...

but unless you're a climate change denier

He is. Don't go there.

globOfNeurons said...

Deaths per TWh

Compared to other energy sources, coal is by far the deadliest. Burning coal leads to harmful pollution and mining coal leads to unfortunate accidents.