Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Controversy surrounding Kuokuang Petrochemical Complex

l  The lingering controversy over the planned Kuokuang Petrochemical Complex has forced presidential hopefuls, including President Ma Ying-jeou, DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen and Su Tseng-chang, to declare their positions on the future of industries like petrochemical that are considered risky for the environment.

l  The project was initiated by Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Company—an affiliate of state-run oil refiner China Petroleum Corporation (CPC)—to expand oil refining capacity and the production of chemicals like ethylene. The justification behind the planned petrochemical complex was to increase Taiwan’s capacity in those areas and keep the island’s petrochemical industry competitive, especially against stiff competition from Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.

l  Over the past year, environmental groups claimed that the complex would create losses, particularly to the Dacheng wetlands and wild habitats it hosts, that outweigh its potential economic benefits. There were also concerns that the Kuokuang Complex would damage the local agriculture sector and pollute the surrounding environment, including water, while putting the health of local residents at risk.

l  On the other hand, many local residents and environmental groups were against building the petrochemical complex in Changhua County because of concerns over land cave-in. The county currently relies on groundwater for most of its water usage, which stands at 370,000 tons a year. The Kuokuang Complex, meanwhile, needs about 400,000 tons of water annually to operate, which will cause the county to pump up more groundwater and possibly lead to a deterioration of the land's stability.

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