What would have happened had petrochemical industry ceased to exist in Taiwan? The Industrial Development Bureau (IDB) under Taiwan's Ministry of Economical Affairs has tried hard to convince Taiwanese citizens that if Taiwan does not build more petrochemical industrial plants, its economy will collapse and people will suffer. On the other hand, environmentalists, activists, and bloggers are looking forward to seeing the end of such a polluting industry destroying the island's lands, water, and air.
On September 6 and September 7, 8 half-page advertisements were published in the four major newspapers in Taiwan, telling the readers that “Without petrochemical industry, we won’t have new toothbrushes, new bicycle tires, new umbrellas, and new ink to print newspapers.” The IDB is the mastermind of the advertisements, and also plans to publish thousands of handbooks for demonstrating the value and benefits petrochemical industry has brought to Taiwan. This series of propaganda aims at persuading Taiwanese to support the government's decision to build the new Kuokuang petrochemical plant on the biggest wetland of Changhua County[en].
So far, IDB has spent TWD 3 million (about USD 100,000) of taxpayer’s money on the ads to defend private corporations’ interests. Environmental groups[zht] and media and press watch organizations[zht] reacted to such an abuse of public expenses by making open statements, while bloggers and online activists adopted a different approach.
Wenli Xu, a well-known Nintendo collector and online activist, designed another set of ads to tell his readers his vision of Taiwan without petrochemical industry: [zht]:
Umi Wang on Facebook followed Wenli and designed four other ads to mock at IDB's propaganda. Below are two of them:
A Facebook fan page has been set up to invite people to share their vision of Taiwan without petrochemical industry.
Hedula Lee: 沒有石化業，石油要怎樣消耗殆盡？
Dailin Lin 林黛羚: 沒有石化業，抽煙才吸得到煙味。
The output value of petrochemical industry accounted for TWD 1.3 trillion (USD40.6 billion) in 2009, showing its undeniable economic contribution. However, independent environmental news reporter Shuchuan, quoted statistics from the Energy Bureau under the Ministry of Economical Affairs, which indicated that in 2009 petrochemical industry and other high energy consumption industries together used 36.3% of all energy in Taiwan, while generating less than 4% of the island's GDP[zht].
So why is the government still eager to expand such an inefficient industry? Munch provided us with a deliberated answer[zht]:
However, Munch believes that Taiwan government’s plan is a mere fantasy:
Apart from fighting against the ever expanding petrochemical projects in Taiwan, the Environmental Protection Union of Changhua[zht] works to prohibit the government from selling the large piece of wetland in Changhua to Kuokuang petrochemical plant. It has initiated the first environmental trust in Taiwan[en] by urging citizens to collectively buy in the piece of wetland and become shareholders[zht]. More than 30,000 citizens have pledged to join online.