Thursday, April 07, 2011

AP misses the Kuokuang issue on the move

The massive industrial complex at Mailiao, seen from the Dachen wetlands where the Kuokuang complex is slated to go in.

The Taipei Times reported on the Control Yuan's report on the Kuokuang Petrochemical Complex, to be located on what is currently central Taiwan's last big wetland in Changhua County. The Complex has generated much controversy for its appetite for land, water, and government subsidies. The Control Yuan observed:
The Control Yuan yesterday said that a Chaunghua County site selected for a petrochemical complex was unsuitable in view of land subsidence problems in the area.

“Available surface water resources in Chaunghua and Yunlin counties of 380,000 tonnes a day are not sufficient ... Water-intensive industries such as the Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co (國光石化) project, which needs 400,000 tonnes of water a day, should not be introduced to the region,” the government watchdog said in a report.

The government should abandon the planned fourth-stage expansion of the Central Taiwan Science Park in Chaunghua’s Erlin Township (二林), the report said. The science park, the Erlin Precision Machinery Park Development Project and the Chaunghua Coastal Industrial Park already consume about 155,000 tonnes, 14,100 tonnes and 22,000 tonnes of water a day respectively, it said.

One problem that could arise from the Kuokuang project is that more groundwater would have to be pumped to maintain a stable water supply during shortages, which would compromise the effectiveness of measures to improve land subsidence problems, the report said.

The report said the highest rate of subsidence in Chaunghua County had been observed in Dacheng Township (大城鄉), where a wetland — the nation’s second-largest — was proposed as the location for the Kuokuang project. The subsidence rate there was 6.9cm per year in 2006 and 1.6cm per year in 2009.
A large dam, the Hushan Dam, was proposed in conjunction with this project to supply it with the necessary water. That too may be stopped if Kuokuang is halted. (BTW, since when is Changhua spelled with an extra U?)

Note the issues identified here -- the water supply and land subsidence, long identified as problems with the area. Other local critics have pounced upon the subsidized electricity and water as serious issues, as well as, in general, the direction of Taiwan's economy and political economy that the choice over Kuokuang indicates.

Now lets turn away from that sensible and detailed report on Kuokuang, and look at AP's report today. From Huffpost:
Taiwan may scrap a contentious plan to build a major petrochemical complex on reclaimed land on its western coast amid claims it could cause the extinction of an endangered species of dolphin, officials said.
AP's article focuses on the pink dolphins! These creatures are almost totally unknown in Taiwan, except to a small group of environmentalists who were attempting (and failing) to get them adopted as a kind of public symbol of the stupidity of the Kuokuang petrochemical complex. Land subsidence, subsidies, water, and the direction of the economy never enter into AP's picture. None of that comes out in the AP article. If this project dies, it will be because practical factors and the slowly evolving Taiwanese view of the developmentalist state monster that is gradually consuming Taiwan, not because of pink dolphins. Rather than reporting the actual and complex state of affairs, it is as if AP's article is written to appeal to the presumed anti-environmentalist prejudices of its business readers.

By casting the debate in such superficial terms as "dolphin vs industrial complex", AP lost the opportunity to educate readers abroad in how these issues are viewed here in Taiwan, and on the importance of this for the upcoming presidential election....

...because President Ma, according to the Taipei Times report, has promised to make a decision on Kuokuang before the presidential election next year (pending review of the environmental assessment). In other words, Ma has promised to make a political issue of out Kuokuang right before the election. Should be plenty of fodder for us bloggers.
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! Delenda est, baby.


Robert Scott Kelly said...

The timing of the Control Yuan assessment is very interesting in light of the DPP's drive to make heavy industrial development a key issue in the upcoming election. With official backing, Ma could cancel the Kuokuang plant, boosting his fading image and give his off-vaunted statements regarding the environment some credence. It would certainly steal a hell of a lot of thunder from Tsai and Su. Of course it could also end in a similar way to the Judge Shao incident. That is, Ma now bowing to public opinion but later approving the plant anyway. "What you mean this is the SAME petrochemical plant I said I would close?" LOL.

David on Formosa said...

I appreciate your thoughtful analysis as always. I wonder if high oil prices are also a factor. As high oil prices are likely to be an ongoing reality this will fundamentally alter the economics of projects like this one.

Karl said...

My pink dolphin has been the cause of many industrial-sized complexes.

M said...

I agree with Robert, and I think Ma will cancel the project. At the very least, it will be drastically scaled down.
Firstly, the KMT have a track record of successfully "co-opting" DPP policy initiatives that they think will be popular - think social housing, welfare subsidies and so on.
Secondly, Ma would look quite ridiculous if after "listening to the people" who clearly told him they didn't want the plant, he went ahead with it anyway.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs are still pushing for the project. But the ROC president has significant powers, and he should be able to override any objections. (he has also managed to force through the luxury tax even though many KMT legislators got rich through the construction industry/ property speculation)

Michael Turton said...

Yes, I don't see much downside for Ma in canceling the plant, electionwise.

Anonymous said...


Trevor UK says URGENT mate:

all the 5 stories today in the '''CHINA REPORTS'' propaganda soft insert in the '''CHINA
Post'' in Taipei today ..april 8....issue come from CHINA DAILY
and PEOPLE's DAILY,and this was confirmed to me by source INSIDE the ''china
Post'' today...really... DOES the GIO ALLOW this kind of china
propaganda in an english newspaper in taiwan without
anything in the INSERt that identifies it as being from CHINA and
prioduced inside CHINA, not one phone number or publisher name
or address in the insert at all. makes it look like comes from CHINA
POSt staff, in fact every article is from CHINA DAILY or PEOPLE DAILY
see list here

here is list of articles and their origianl onlien insde CHINA......

Feature: Hidden cost of rare diseases in China

[Editor: Chen Zhi ]
BEIJING, March 30 (Xinhuanet) --

ANDY LAU article from Jan. 17, 2011 [ NOTE OLD DATE]
China's hair-care market powers ahead ***
****China Daily,
January 17, 2011 ......: Hong Kong heartthrob celebrity Andy Lau used
to say in a hair-care product TV commercial in the early 1990s: "The
girl of my dreams should have beautiful, pitch-black hair."

Investors get picky about rare, exotic teas

Investors get picky about rare, exotic teas13:30, March 28, 2011
Email | Print | Subscribe | Comments | Forum Increases the
bookmarktwitter facebook

While many rich Chinese people are happy to fork out $2,000 on a
bottle of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, one of the most expensive wines
in the world, others are turning to a more traditional Chinese
beverage with centuries of culture behind it.

A cut above
By Liu Lu .......from ******(China Daily European Weekly)

There is one city in China where artistic, religious and scientific
cultures all once thrived like never before. Taoism originated there
and the first Buddhist temple was set up in the confines of the city.
This special spot is also the hometown of China's most famous
inventions including papermaking, printing and the compass. It also
was the breeding ground of the nation's most brilliant poets and

Cornwall, UK

Anonymous said...

Trevor in Cornwall UK with imp mssg:

Peng Ming-min did a very good op-edit in the Taipei Times on Saturday titled, “Doubts over fortitude of Taiwanese democracy” .... It was a well-stated and distressing assessment of the situation in Taiwan, and doubtless accurate. I assume that this was also published in Chinese in the Liberty Times.

Peng's oped brings up not only growing threats to Taiwanese people, but it brings up to the possibility of an immediate threat to Peng personally. Many of my friends here in the UK have asked me about the danger of Peng's returning to Taiwan. Neither the KMT nor the CCP have forgiven him for escaping to Sweden in 1970 and making the KMT look like fools.

Peng may be old and may be out of touch in Taiwan. What say you? The KMT is still one of THE richest political parties in the world. If the Mainland could have been bought, they would have done it years ago with money still in the bank. I have seen nothing in the KMT to make me think it not able and willing to do everything Peng fears.

We here in the UK who love Taiwan can do little about Taiwan. The people there have to decide the limit of their toleration for themselves. Maybe they have and "life under the PRC wouldn't be so bad" may be what they've concluded, just like the majority here in the UK may have written off the immigrants and the poor.

As they say "ou va la france?" where is France headed, which really means for Taiwan: Where is Taiwan headed. Was Peng's oped on Saturday prophetic or old White Terror paranoia?

Would love to hear your answer sire.

Trevor UK man in Cornwall