Friday, 24 September 2010

Reclaiming Environmentalism: Environmental Entrepreneurship Contra Environmental Regulation

The following letter expands somewhat on the same topic as my most recent published letter. I won't be surprised if the eds refuse to publish it given that it is essentially repetitive, but I wanted to write something in response to their printing of George the Moonbat's latest rant and I know they never dare publish anything challenging on the environment (hence "Timid" Times), and I felt that the earlier letter didn't quite make good enough use of the 500 word limit, so...


As the expiration date for the Kyoto protocol looms ever closer, environmentalists like George Monbiot will predictably pin much of the blame for the failure of Kyoto on the government in Beijing. They will find themselves in the position of arguing for more regulatory oversight to be imposed upon businesses by precisely one of the world's most desperate, least trustworthy and most abusive governments. Moreover, in the event of further natural disasters within the next decade, it is quite likely that the government in Beijing and its subordinate parochial departments may struggle to cope and that the human and environmental costs will be staggering.

Perhaps, however, an alternative frame of mind may afford an opportunity here for environmentalists along with human rights advocates and entrepreneurs.

The commercial development of clean, efficient and independent energy and water technologies is a relatively high-tech affair but one which entrepreneurs in Taiwan, with the wealth of high end research, development and engineering expertise here, could be well placed to successfully exploit and eventually introduce to Chinese consumers and businesses located in China at some economy of scale. Worthy of particular attention are the already developed nano-scale water filters which eradicate all known virus and bacteria particles by virtue of filtering water at the molecular level, and radioisotope batteries which generate electricity from the temperature differential across a magnetic field caused by the radiation from small and easily shielded quantities of plutonium 238.

Both of these technologies offer the possibility of sustainable, portable, cheap and network independent supply and resupply of both clean water and clean electricity.

There are however, several institutional barriers to entry into this potential market. The domestic market demand for both water and energy in Taiwan is distorted by a combination of monopoly supply, farming and manufacturing subsidies, and especially the burdening of private externalities on the list of public liabilities. Were a courageous set of politicians to attempt to reform this list so that manufacturers, farmers and domestic consumers had to deal with real prices, then the common demand for clean, efficient and independent water and energy technologies would improve significantly. Even without such political retreat, it is likely that market demand for these technologies will improve over time as more money is wasted on environmentally destructive dams and centrally-networked renewable energy sources that deliver energy on only the slightest of margins.

The commercial development of such technologies in Taiwan and their appropriately scaled introduction to market demand in China would not only be a boon for Taiwanese business, Taiwanese consumers and the environment in Taiwan, but it would also be a boon for Chinese businesses, Chinese consumers and the environment in China. Not only that, but the flowering of Taiwanese enterprises in this field would allow people in both Taiwan and China a much better recovery from natural disasters when demand for energy and clean water hits instant peaks. Such technologies would also undermine a not-insignificant arm of that routine human-rights abuser, the PRC.

Yours freely,
Michael Fagan.

(Sent: Friday 24th September 2010. Published in the Taipei Times Tuesday 28th September 2010).

Oh, in case anyone is interested, here is the first part of Peter Robinson's interview with T. J. Rodgers - the founder and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor Corp in the U.S. - from back in April 2008. Rodgers is exactly the type of guy that young Taiwanese entrepreneurs could look up to. Here are the second, third, fourth and fifth parts to that same interview.

Update: 800+ views at the TT after less than only one day of publication is a pretty good turnup.

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