Saturday, December 02, 2017

Oh look... after decades of killing Taiwanese, suddenly the air pollution is a political issue

The huge new train stations in Taichung, completely lacking in human feel and individuality. They couldn't even use different color paints?

Yup. It's election time, and the DPP has announced its candidates... incumbents, for now.
The nine incumbents are: Keelung Mayor Lin Yu-chang (林右昌), Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), Hsinchu Mayor Lin Chih-chien (林智堅), Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), Changhua County Commissioner Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷), Yunlin County Commissioner Lee Chin-yung (李進勇), Chiayi Mayor Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲), Pingtung County Commissioner Pan Men-an (潘孟安) and Penghu County Commissioner Chen Kuang-fu (陳光復).
Intense internal struggles for Chiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Yilan delayed the announcements of those candidates. The Penghu mayor is sinking in the polls, and I fear for Mayor Lin of Taichung...

Yup. It's election time, and the DPP is making a coordinated assault on air pollution, with all the sanctimony of the newly-converted. After decades of deaths and illnesses from Taiwan's toxic air, suddenly pollution is an election issue, to be forgotten the following day, of course, unless the DPP needs to relax regulations to please big business small business owners.

Sorry. Just a bit cynical today watching our Republican Congress loot the future of the United States. I think in the coming years my sole enjoyment in international politics will be watching all those yammerheads in other countries who wanted to see the US giant fall complaining about Chinese influence and pining for the good old days of US imperialism....

Meanwhile, in Kaohsiung, the government is handing out free metro rides in a bid to reduce pollution...
The number of passengers who took the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) during morning peak hours rose more than 10 percent yesterday, the first day the city provided free public transport in an effort to combat air pollution, data released by Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp showed.
The K-town EPA is running the program til Feb 28. This time of year the air quality is awful in central and southern Taiwan.

In central Taiwan, the battle of Taiwan's second largest city is being fought over pollution. After years of doing and saying nothing about the incredible pollution in central Taiwan's air, suddenly it's an issue for both parties:
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers and environmentalists yesterday called on the Taichung City Government to revoke the coal-use permits it has awarded the Taichung Power Plant, which they said is the “dirtiest power plant in the world.”

KMT legislators representing electoral districts in Taichung, andYunlin, Changhua and Nantou counties called a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei to address the permit extension issue.
Since the leading KMT voices in this charge, Johnny Chiang and Lu Hsiu-yen, are gunning for the Taichung mayoral candidate position for the KMT, the political manipulation is obvious. Sadly, we won't get real change. The hypocrisy is breathtaking -- we have these crappy coal fired plants because for years the KMT controlled Taipower did nothing to implement renewables.

Environmental Protection Agency Minister Lee Ying-yuan said he would step down without a 20% reduction in air pollution by May 20. Haha. That means he will step down in May, in time to be a candidate in the November election. LOL.

How much effect will the cuts in coal consumption at the Taichung plant have? From a discussion of the issues surrounding the distribution of monies for pollution:
In Taiwan’s case, one third of air pollution comes from mobile sources, such as automobiles and motorcycles, and one third from stationery sources and industrial facilities, Lai said, adding that thermal power plants only account for 2.9 percent of Taiwan’s pollution.
What's really happening is shown by the air pollution data collected by Airvisual App. Here is some data from today:

Note the purple boxes. The '12 pm' is mislabeled, should be 12 am. The purple box shows the air pollution in the wee hours of the morning, with type of pollution in gray at the bottom (example: the second chart is SO2, sulfur dioxide). You can see that in the early morning the pollution spikes, I suspect as factories dump their emissions into the air to avoid daytime emissions that attract EPA attention.

So no, this pollution issue is purely cynical politics by both sides. No real enforcement will take place, because nobody wants to put any restraints on the great capitalist machine that is spitting out jobs and tax revenues, even as it eats the future of the island and the world. As a special bonus, many of those factories are illegal factories in residential areas and on agricultural land. Once, many years ago, I was asked by a state official in a midwestern state whether they could get small factory districts like Taiwan going in their state. I laughed and explained that the whole system runs on illegality, which the textbooks don't discuss...

It also means that the DPP has put itself as a disadvantage in the close battleground areas of central Taiwan, since it is the incumbent and the pollution cannot be meaningfully reduced in such a short time. Plausibly DPP Mayor Lin can claim progress, but the KMT will laugh, and voters sneer, especially with Nov PMI at a six year high. It never ceases to amaze me that voters live in the crap left behind by KMT policies but never make the KMT suffer for it...

Well, as a cyclist, election time is my favorite time. Not only are there lots of pretty posters to photograph, but the local governments are busily repaving the roads. Lots of lovely new tarmac out there next year....
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Anonymous said...

Good acerbic stuff, Turton, and dead on, but as you say 1/3 of the smog is from vehicles, so Taiwanese--or at least those who live in cities with good public transport--also have themselves to blame. You know this, I know this, but it NEVER COMES UP IN THE MEDIA. I've lived in various places in Taipei and New Taipei for 15 years, never owned a scooter, and never had any problem whatsoever getting around. At this very moment outside my (shut) door the PM 2.5 is around 60 and you can literally taste it, but the alleys are still full of jerk-offs on scooters riding to the corner FamilyMart for smokes. Tomorrow morning I'll once again witness droves of parents whisking their fat, stupefied children to schools that are easily in walking or biking distance. Then rush hour will start, and about then it will also be marketing time for all the old people on their ancient 2-stroke bikes. So in addition to making walking on the street a stressful hell (literally _on_ the street--no sidewalks, of course! Who needs those?), these selfish fools are giving people CANCER. Hello, tragedy of the commons, anyone? And no one fricking cares! Try to bring this up with your students some time. The young don't worry about it because they think they're indestructible, and the old don't worry about it because that's how it's always been. Why so negative, Mr. Foreigner? In my daydreams I envision requiring each scooter idiot to connect a hose from tailpipe to helmet, so that the "external costs" get internalized and I don't have to worry about premature death.

Phillip Charlier said...

God Lai's proposal:

And let's not forget pollution's rainbow lining: