There is a major environmental protest in Taipei this afternoon focused on the issue of Taiwan’s petrochemical industry. It begins at 2pm at the Zhongxiao-Fuxing MRT Station.
Opposition to the petrochemical industry in Taiwan is frequently framed in terms of its impact on the health of workers and nearby residents, climate change or because of the threats it poses to endangered dolphin populations. Another important reason the development of this industry must be stopped is peak oil.
This week a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) showed that the production of conventional oil peaked in 2006. A graph showing this is above and you can find some initial analysis of the report at The Oil Drum. Earlier this year I wrote a letter to the Taipei Times on the topic of peak oil. I mentioned how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill should wake up the world to the problem of oil dependency. The report from the IEA should ring even louder alarm bells.
I sent the following letter to the Taipei Times on Thursday. It hasn’t been published yet, but I thought it was appropriate to post it on my blog today. (I will update with a link if the Taipei Times publishes the letter.)
The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2010 shows that the world’s production of conventional oil peaked in 2006. The spectre of peak oil can no longer be dismissed. Peak oil has already arrived.
Peak oil doesn’t mean running out of oil. It does mean higher oil prices and reduced supply. Its impacts will result in a massive restructuring of the global economy in the next few decades.
Taiwan is almost entirely dependent on imported energy. Despite this Taiwan continues to follow a path of industrial development with no consideration for the dual challenges of peak oil and climate change.
The ongoing expansion of the petrochemical industry in Taiwan is especially shortsighted. This industry consumes 36% of Taiwan’s energy, yet only contributes 4% of Taiwan’s GDP. The economic benefits of planned petrochemical projects are often overstated by investors keen to make a quick dollar. However, the short term profits come at the expense of harm to the environment and human health.
The planned development of the Kuokuang Petrochemical Plant off the coast of Changhua County is an example of this shortsightedness. The plant will be built on the habitat of the critically endangered Taiwan Pink Dolphin. Pollution from the plant will harm the health of people in the area. It will also impact on agriculture and fishing which local communities depend on for their livelihood.
In response to questions about the how the plant will affect the dolphins Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) claimed the dolphins could just go around it. What really needs to turn around is not the dolphins, but the way of thinking of government officials and industrialists.
Taiwan’s government really needs to focus its efforts on adapting to peak oil, not propping up the dinosaur that is the petrochemical industry.