Monday, October 26, 2009

Environmental Venting

A longtime local environmentalist sent these articles and comments around (articles follow after comments). I throw in a few remarks afterward....


ETS Sousa [Dolphin] Extinction Guaranteed by Ma and Wu’s Cat in the Hat Economics?

Two stories from today’s local Hanji press1 indicate that Taiwan continues to practice “Cat in the Hat” economics. The first was “Premier Wu Dun-yi: Three Major Investment Projects Will Spur Employment” in which we were told about the Executive Yuan support for the Fourth Stage of the Central Science Park Erlin, the Guoguang Petrochemical project and the Fifth Stage of the Sixth Naphtha Plant of Formosa Plastics. The investments will be more than a million million NT$ and will bring twenty to thirty thousand jobs. The second was about how the first of those projects, the Central Science Park project a Erlin would overcome all obstacles to achieve its purpose, the main obstacle, according to the article, being the disposal of waste water. If they can’t give it to the Guo Guang Petrochemical Park to use, then they will pipe it three kilometers out into ETS Sousa habitat.

I thought Cat in the Hat Economics might be an original idea with me, maybe it is, but someone beat me to it with a blogger talking about the metaphor in the context of the banking bail out:
Most of us should remember the story of the Cat in the Hat. The kid (Wall Street and the banking industry) makes a mess and creates a stain and the Cat in the Hat (The US Government) tries one thing after another but can get rid of the problem. The cat simply transfers the stain from one article to another actually making it far worse in the process. Moral of the story: One can't run from or hide from problems to deal with them.
Actually, we are going further than this. The Chinese KMT Ma regime is actually continuing on its merry path, deceiving the Taiwanese into thinking nothing has really changed in the world, there is no climate destabilization, or if there is, it has nothing to do with us and government policies to encourage toxic high waste, high consumption industries are fine, because amidst the social, economic and natural environmental havoc it is laying on Taiwan, there is a magic bullet at the end – something that will “clean it all up” as that little last cat did just in time. The magic pill changes from day to day, sometimes it is China and ECFA, sometimes it is new investments. But the mess keeps growing and along with the human cost in terms of health, social justice and economic security, we are taking down many, many other species with us. So there really is little point in all of this talk about a green economy, because there is no way we are going to catch up with the destructive practices of government, industry, academia and our elected officials. Friday is the show-down on Erlin at the EPA’s EIA plenary meeting.

Wu Dun-yi: Three Major Investment Projects Will Spur Employment
Economic Daily News Reported by Wu Bi-eh, Ciu Sin-yi in Taipei and Tainan
25 October 2009

Executive Yuan Premier Wu Dun-yi yesterday (24 October 2009) pointed out that stimulating jobs and cutting the unemployment rate are the governments most important policies at this time so that the Executive Yuan will promote the Fourth Stage of the Central Science Park, the Guoguang Petrochemical project and the Fifth Stage of the Sixth Naphtha Plant of Formosa Plastics. The investments will be more than a million million NT$ and will bring twenty to thirty thousand employment opportunities.

At a jobs fair in Tainan yesterday, while attending the activities, Wu Dun-yi emphasized the governments resolve in promoting large scale investment projects; he pointed out the government’s absolute duty to provide an environment in which people can be assured of jobs and stimulate employment and this has also been the policy of objective since he took office.

The Directorate General of Budget Accounting and Statistics announce that the September unemployment rate, although down a bit, was still more than 6%; Wu Dun-yi pointed out that while stimulating short term employment opportunities would have some positive impact on the unemployment rate, the most fundamental way was to create long term stable job opportunities.

Jennifer Wang, Minster of Labor said the “immediate get to work plan” starting from October last year through 21 October this year, was to deal with the fallout from the financial crisis and statistics showed that just in the counties of Yunlin, Chiayi and Tainan the service center had already helped 6,710 people get jobs.

In addition, the government has also begun a special program to develop diverse employment opportunities, helping to find employment for middle and elderly people who have lost their jobs as well as disadvantaged groups.

To stimulate jobs the Council for Labor Affairs starting from 22 October will hold a series of seven large scale job fairs altogether providing twenty thousand jobs; at the fair in Tainan yesterday one hundred businesses were looking for over 3000 applicants to fill positions, including leading companies such as 奇美電、晶電、茂迪、益通 whose orders have been recovering business developments otherwise call for more jobs. In total the number of attendees yesterday were 6,596 with 7,780 applications being filed and preliminary successes in matching job seekers with employment opportunities were at 1,514 or a success rate of 26.3 percent.

According to 104 Labor Bank, the demand for personnel has rebounded and for the past ten months has been increasing, with 243,000 positions open in October. With the economic recovery the unemployment rate has peaked and there is a falling trend which bodes well for the jobless situation.

Central Science Park Fourth Stage – Barging the Gates of Environmental Impact Assessment
Economic Daily News Reported by Sung Jian-sheng from Taichung
25 October 2009

The Environmental Protection Administration has set Friday (30 October 2009) to have a meeting of the plenary session of the Environmental Impact Assessment Commission on the fourth stage of the Central Science Park in Erlin, which if the EIA goes smoothly, Yang Wun-ke, the head of the CSP Bureau, says ground breaking can begin as early as before the end of the year and it could be completed within five years.

Yang Wun-ke emphasized that AUO has planned an investment in the park amounting to NT$4,000,000,000,000 to build the largest optical fibre plants in the county to start up by the third quarter next year, so looking at the status of the EIA, if the case goes through in the plenary there should be no adverse impact on the progress of AUO’s investment.

There are already over ten companies that are interested in investment in the Erlin Central Science Park, and in addition to AUO, Winbond, Chunghwa Picture Tube, Hota, Syudong (?), the French company Air Liquide, Dipao (?), Kefong (?), Helius Power Corporation total investments will be over NT$6,000,000,000,000.

To ensure that the Erlin Park does not end up still born, Premier Wu Dun-yi has already indicated that if the waste water from Erlin can be used for the Guoguang Petrochemical Plant’s use then the connecting pipeline will be laid. If Guoguang Petrochemical, can’t use the water then it will be discharged into the ocean three kilometers from the low tide line, after passing through a pipeline that will be three kilometers so as to ensure that the people of Yunlin and Changhua can rest assured.

Yang Wun-ke said that the EIA subcommittee passed the case with conditions and the Central Science Park Administration will do its best to oblige, in the future the discharge pipeline will be extended from 14 kilometers to 35 kilometers and the total investment increased from 3.3 billion NT$ to 6.87 billion, such additional funds to come out of the Science Park Operating Fund.

In the midst of the voices of protest the EIA subcommittee passed the continuation of the case conditionally.

Currently the largest investor in Central Science Park case is AUO which plans an optoelectronics village with NT$4,000,000,000,000 which will be used to build fourth generation 10 inch wafer fab and this will also attract downstream related businesses, and as the chip industry has seen recovery, AUO’s two 8.5 inch wafer fabs in the Central Science Park in Houli have also restarted operations.

吳敦義:三大投資 促進就業
【經濟日報╱記者吳碧娥、邱馨儀╱台北、台南報導】2009.10.25 04:18 am

【2009/10/25 經濟日報】

中科四期環評 再闖關
【經濟日報╱記者宋健生/台中報導】2009.10.25 04:18 am

【2009/10/25 經濟日報】


There's been a lot of speculation that China's destructive environmental habits will in the end bring down the Party. Looking at the mess in Taiwan, one would find strong evidence against that. Both states share the same Leninist party-state framework and similar problems with local factions, and both have chosen to solve the problem of hanging onto power by enabling economic growth through a form of development that is environmentally destructive. But as long as there is buy-in to this construction-industrial paradigm among local politicians, and as long as the flow of money either in the form of foreign or state investment holds out -- and those flows are backed by the awesome debt-generating power of the State in both cases -- change does not seem to me to be as likely as some might think.

The second article says that the Environmental Impact Assessment passed the Erlin Central Science Park case "conditionally" but note that (1) no project in Taiwan has ever been defeated by its environmental assessment and (2) that the conditions generally have no teeth. I would bet good money that the pipeline extension will fall far short of the 3 or 14 or 35 kilometers that is demanded.

Also today, the Taipei Times hosted a commentary on the proposed carbon tax. It noted:

The Cabinet’s Tax Reform Committee recently decided that the government should gradually implement a proposed energy and carbon tax next year at the earliest, but this decision was instantly rejected by Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義). Wu and legislators reacted as if the taxes would increase public suffering, adding that the government should not levy new taxes until after the economy recovers. It seems everyone is against the energy and carbon tax proposals.

A carbon tax had been proposed because some countries are thinking seriously about carbon tariffs, import taxes on products based on their carbon footprints. Using a carbon tax Taiwan could then claim it had offsetting taxes, hence outside taxes would be unnecessary. Moreover, the tax revenues would remain in Taiwan instead of being collected by a foreign government.

The logic of Premier Wu's response that we can't have a new tax while the economy is suffering! is old hat. When the economy is doing well, we will hear: we can't have a new tax because it will kill the recovery! Nothing will be done, as always.

I biked up Taroko Gorge on Saturday and my friend Michael Fahey told me the story of an environmentalist in Hualien whose focus is on illegal building in the national park. She has organized platoons of volunteers who count the trucks going in and out, and she has been a tiger in preventing (more) construction in the park. One might be inspired by such devotion, and the fact that sometimes she wins, but her case also shows the sort of casual destructiveness, the purblind drive to slather concrete over everything, of the construction-industrial state, that even a world-class gem like Taroko is constantly under threat, and that nothing less than single-minded bloody-mindedness can keep it safe.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

No comments: