Thursday, December 07, 2017

Pollution Takes Center Stage

Somewhere with clean air...

Donovan Smith, ICRT's central Taiwan news reporter and all around awesome guy, observes of the pollution issue:
DEC 6, Donovan’s Central Taiwan News ICRT report
Taichung’s Mayor Makes Major Move on Pollution
Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung made another major move against Taipower’s Taichung Power Plant.


In exchange for extending the operating licenses for nine coal-fired generators next February, Taichung made three demands.

The first is to reduce coal usage in total to 16 million tons, a claimed reduction of 5 million tons from permitted consumption of 21 million tons--or a 24% reduction--next year.

The second is to reduce the licensing periods to two years, down from five currently--significantly increasing the city’s leverage.

And third, the city reiterated the demand made in a law passed by the Taichung City Council pushed by Mayor Lin himself to reduce emissions by 40% in total by 2020.

Taipower responded by warning that could reduce Taichung’s power supply by 10%, which could put Taichung’s and the national government’s industrial expansion plans and related job growth in jeopardy--including a massive TSMC expansion underway.

However, instead of simply overruling the local authorities as usual, after some grumbling the national economics ministry announced plans to massively ramp up plans to cover reservoirs and other water installations with solar panels to help alleviate the shortfall--though it would still be a drop in the bucket.

Pollution and Politics Totally Dominate Local News
Taichung local news has talked of virtually nothing--outside of some restaurant news of course--but the pollution issue and related politics.

After gaining considerable traction in the polls against the mayor by portraying him as weak on the issue, this move set off a KMT storm of attacks.

Most significantly, they took aim at his 24% reduction numbers, with one KMT mayoral candidate Johnny Chiang Chi-cheng pointing out that the 5 million tons of coal reduction from permitted consumption was at odds with the actual consumption of the plant, which averaged under 18 million tons in the last three years, yielding only a 2 million ton reduction in practice.

Mayor Lin shot back that they were playing with semantics between “actual” and “permitted” usage, and noted that he had already gotten them to reduce usage to under 18 million tons since he took office.


Politics also entered into the fray regarding a major anti-pollution march scheduled for December 17th at the Taichung City Hall.

The KMT announced en masse they would be supporting and marching with the protestors.

The mayor hit back however, saying that he agreed with the aims of the protesters and called on the public to join in and support the march--but criticized the KMT for using the march for their own electoral gain.

He also slammed the KMT over past policies, saying “the perpetrators now acting the victims, how ironic”.
I met up with Donovan earlier this week and we had a good laugh about the Celestial Dragon Kingdom. The pollution issue suddenly exploded when pollution spilled over into Taipei (how dare it!) instead of remaining respectfully at a distance from the center of power.

Just want to remind the reader: Taichung is now the second most populous city in Taiwan. Its mayor might be presidential someday, especially if he is KMT. It turns out in Taoyuan the KMT is running the same princeling from the Wu family who lost the last election, and in Taipei, the Blues want Chiang Wan-an, a princeling of the Chiangs of yore. Ko Wen-je will likely win again and the Taipei will be ready for a DPP mayor. Meanwhile the princeling-heavy KMT will find it difficult to win with such individuals even in their home localities, and they have little national appeal. So any KMTer who can do well in central Taiwan might become a presidential hope, especially he wins the city and develops his own power base -- a hard blow to the DPP.

Pollution keeps striking me as the wrong issue, especially since the part the DPP can affect, the power supply, is responsible for only a tiny fraction of air pollution. This seems like a made-to-lose issue, unless the DPP has some incredible policy in the bag still unrevealed.

Like maybe getting the public to implement conservation?
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Anonymous said...

I don't know the breakdowns exactly but it would seem logical that if

1) the idea is to reduce pollution in the winter when it's the worst (1/3 of air pollution from electricity and factories) AND
2) electricity consumption in the summer is roughly double that of the winter due to air conditioning

Then it seems there's a real possibility to radically reduce coal usage in the winter (but not in the summer). Also, it would cost, more, but it's definitely possible. Seeing Taipei 101 become almost invisible in bright afternoon light is waking up Taiwan to a nightmare (even if it's existed in some form for quite some time). I think it's just the right time to consider reasonable rate hikes and shutting down large amounts of coal power during the winter.

Anonymous said...

The DPP can effect another source of pollution as well- transportation. In Taipei at least transportation contributes a third of total pollution. Of course actually enforcing emission laws and discouraging driving would be unpopular despite Taiwanese people's supposed concern for the environment, so this would be politically risky for the DPP.

Anonymous said...

50% of the country's electricity is going to be produced by coal stations!

I don't think that air pollution from power plants is a 'tiny percentage' of the total air pollution. No doubt it is very significant as is the experience in China also with coal fired power plants.
IF Taipower use all the tech on hand and switch to lower sulfur coal then nitrogen and sulphur emissions can be cut.

The CO2 emissions are still a big problem of course.

Transportation as mentioned is also a huge contributor.

Anonymous said...

Some good info on sources of the pollution here:

It looks like LNG is 45%, so I'm hard pressed to see how coal could be 50%. Above, does clean coal tech work anywhere in the world?

Anonymous said...

No mention of those nasty 2-strokes still buzzing everywhere in Taichung or all the old diesel blue trucks driven by betelnut chewing idiots. The coal plant is way out by the coast past the Dadu ridge. The pollution from it is not the biggest problem at the street level where we spend most of our time.