Taiwan needs to embrace clean energy

I co-signed the following letter which was published in the Taipei Times today.

Is there an unfortunate misunderstanding about German politics and history among some Taiwanese?

After two of us had to clarify the path Germany took to abolish the death penalty, (“Real deal behind abolition,” March 17, 2011, page 8), we now have to clarify a misrepresentation of the anti-nuclear stance of Germany’s Green Party (“Anti-nuclear protesters confronted by Taipower ‘thug’ police: DPP lawmaker,” Sept. 10, page 3).

Contrary to allegations made in an article on Taipower’s Web site, the German Green Party was partly founded by people emerging from the popular anti-nuclear movement formed during the 1970s. It always had a staunch and unwavering anti-nuclear platform, and, most importantly, has been a key factor in pushing Germany toward a path of sustainable energy based on clean renewable energy and away from dirty coal and potentially calamitous nuclear fuel.

Germany is now a world leader in producing and installing renewable energy, such as wind power, thanks in large part to the Green Party’s insistence of giving clean energy a chance during its stay of power in German’s national government in the early 2000s. Continue reading

Vision for a sustainable future

Bruno Walther sent the following letter to the Taipei Times last week. The Taipei Times published a second letter that he also sent last week. He has given me permission to post the first letter here.

Ever since the nuclear catastrophe began in Japan, I was just waiting for somebody to step forward with the argument ‘but given all the environmental problems caused by fossil fuels, isn’t nuclear energy the lesser of two evils?” I didn’t have to wait long, as the Taipei Times’ editorial repeated this tired and old propaganda of the nuclear energy industry (“The irrational fear of invisible agents,” Mar. 22, page 8). While overall, nuclear energy may be the lesser of two evils, it is still an evil, capable of disseminating radiation and thereby increasing cancer rates considerably in affected populations. Worse, it leaves us with thousands of tons of the most toxic and dangerous waste for hundreds of thousands of years. Who in his or her right mind would place such a burden of responsibility on future generations who have no benefit from our wasteful ways?

Continue reading

The cost of nuclear power

Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and Fulong Beach

Taiwan’s Fourth Nuclear Power Plant under construction in August 2009 with Fulong Beach in the foreground.

I had a letter in the Taipei Times today on the subject of nuclear power. It argues that the high cost and long lead times of nuclear power projects defers investment in cleaner and safer forms of electricity generation. The text of the letter is below followed by details about anti-nuclear protests in Taipei. Continue reading

Peak oil is a big problem

I had another letter in the Taipei Times today. This one was on the subject of peak oil. Unfortunately the title the Taipei Times’ editors chose for the letter, “Planning for an oil-less future”, reflects a common misunderstanding. Peak oil doesn’t mean the world will run out of oil, but that the supply and availability of oil will begin to decline.

To better understand the issue of peak oil I suggest reading The Oil Drum, a website which contains a vast array of articles discussing peak oil and energy issues. I also suggest downloading the free e-book Searching for a Miracle from the Post Carbon Institute website. It clearly explains the limitations of all the major energy sources and the problems these pose for the future.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill has forced the world to address the inherent danger of our dependency on oil. [I originally wrote: has woken up the world to the risks and dangers of our dependency on oil.]

Hopefully, this environmental disaster will provide sufficient impetus for societies to start reconsidering their use of oil and planning for a future after peak oil, which is imminent or might already have arrived.

The exact timing of peak oil may be uncertain, but it is clear that oil is already becoming more expensive and harder to extract.

There is obviously only limited capacity for any major increase in the global supply of oil. The age of cheap oil is over.

Oil importing countries will be more adversely affected by peak oil than oil producing countries.

As a country that is almost entirely dependent on imported energy, Taiwan is particularly vulnerable to changes in the price and availability of oil. Taiwan’s economy is largely based on manufacturing for export and this is dependent on the ready availability of energy and petroleum products.

Reconfiguring the economy and people’s lifestyles to be less energy intensive is not something that can be done overnight.

Up to now the energy policies of Taiwan’s governments have been weak and piecemeal.

There has been little investment in developing renewable energy and even if larger investments are made, it will still take a long time to scale up renewable energy. Even then, technical and economic constraints make it unlikely renewable energy will meet all of Taiwan’s present energy needs.

Similarly there have been no major investments in improving energy efficiency. Measures proposed by the government are often token and while they should not be dismissed out of hand, they just don’t match the scale of the problem. Nor do they address the fundamental issue of restructuring the economy.

People will have to adapt to life with less energy in the future.

This necessitates a fundamental shift in our economies and our lifestyles. The sooner action is taken to adapt, the smoother the transformation [I originally wrote: transition. Transition better describes an ongoing process while transformation suggests more sudden change.] will be.

Without appropriate action the future is likely to be dark.

Energy is a hot topic

The National Energy Conference currently being held in Taipei has pushed energy issues into the spotlight. This comes on the back of news earlier this week that German wind power company InfraVest threatened to withdraw from Taiwan if the government did not implement policies to support renewable energy.

At the conference President Ma called on the Legislative Yuan to pass the renewable energy law.  The Taipei Times reported the DPP and KMT finger pointing at each other over the failure to pass the renewable energy bill. Both parties must shoulder the blame. The DPP controlled the executive for eight years and failed to implement effective energy policies. The pan-blue parties had a majority in the legislature during this time and failed to pass the renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction laws. Continue reading