TSMC needs 156 million liters of water per day to purify its chips. This approach has created water recycling methods to manage establishment risk, but as Ng says, the ability to expand production at an unprecedented time of demand is limited. TSMC was contacted for comment.
Last year, more than 1 trillion semiconductor chips were shipped worldwide. Compared to the proportion of people who buy consumer electronics, this is more than 300 chips produced per person per year.
These small chips, made of silicon, refined by robots, are filtered in water and locked in filtered air. They are essentially networks of switches that allow different parts of everyday devices to communicate. . They are made in factories that are very brutally competitive and the cost of capital is so high that they have to work 24 hours a day.
Few companies are eager to raise the estimated $ 25 billion to build one of the world’s top chip mills. Few are still willing to accept the cost of being replaced by competitors.
The result is one of the most concentrated industries in the world. Now with $ 645 billion in industry centered on Taiwan – a place threatened not only by drought and climate change but also by China’s superpower neighbor. To complicate matters, supply chains have been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 epidemic, which has kept people locked in and stimulated consumer electronics demand.
Technical crunch goes to the shops
The effects are now pouring into Australian shops. The Australian Motorcycle Dealers Association announced in March that delays in some car models could be as long as six months.
“It’s a real bottleneck,” said Bruce Kasman of JP Morgan.
“Severe shortages in semiconductors have affected global automated production,” he added.
JB Hi-Fi warned consumers in February that there would be a shortage of TVs in the foreseeable future, while Sony and Microsoft have cut production of game consoles.
Ng said in the short term, the industry is facing a complete storm of threats. “This chip shortage could fundamentally undermine the path to global recovery,” he said.
Ben May, director of global research at Oxford Economics, said COVID-19 has kept consumer prices largely low.
“But the big fear is that, of course, a wide range of factors associated with the epidemic will eventually lead to massive price increases,” he said. “These include higher input costs as a result of rising commodity prices, very high transportation costs and a shortage of essentials such as semiconductors.”
If Taiwan can sustain its production, overcome the drought and control its current outbreak of COVID-19, then the post-COVID economic outlook is strong. Demand for its major exports shows no sign of declining, due to strong global demand for those precious chips supplied by remote operation, 5G deployment and high-performance computing. Exports rose almost 40 percent in April.
“Amid the global recovery, we are optimistic about Taiwan’s export growth and forecast that it will grow by more than 20 percent in 2021,” said Lloyd Chan of the Oxford economy. “We have also raised our GDP growth forecast for 2021 to 7% from the previous 5%.”
The battle for brain power
But part of it also depends on its ability to maintain its intellectual property in this important industry.
China is determined to pursue semiconductor dominance – a key region that lacks the skills to compete with Taiwan despite being the world leader in technology. China imports more than $ 388 billion worth of semiconductors each year if it is vulnerable to trade strikes Its relations with Taiwan and the West are deteriorating.
Tech giants such as Intel, Apple and Samsung often work with TSMC to create parts or different types of semiconductors before merging them.
“It’s really like a symphony, because not even a single economy can produce everything on its own,” Neg said. “It’s about putting together the benefits of different economies or different actors.”
Aware of its vulnerabilities, China is recruiting for its semiconductor industry by illegally hunting down key Taiwanese technicians.
This issue has become so sensitive that job search sites, companies and homeless people can be fined more than $ 23,000 for advertising semiconductor engineering jobs in the mainland. Taiwan’s Ministry of Economy official Huang Chiao Ting said the fines could facilitate up to 10 times the cash fines – $ 231,000 – to facilitate employment in mainland Chinese companies.
Nikki reported In April, job search site 1111 removed nearly 3,000 job listings, and researchers have visited the local offices of four Chinese companies over the past two months to investigate allegations that they hired engineers illegally.
Greenhouse gas conundrum
The combined threat of a semiconductor crisis and drought has also intensified greenhouse gas emissions in Taiwan’s high-tech manufacturing industry. Taiwan is one of the largest producers of greenhouse gases per capita in the world.
Based on Release Database for Global Atmospheric ResearchTaiwan’s per capita carbon dioxide emissions in 2018 were 12.01 tons, which is 25th in the world, more than double the global average of 4.97 tons and higher than Singapore (9.65 tons), Germany (9.15 tons) and China (7.95 tons)). Less than Australia with 16.8 tons.
Climate researchers in Taipei have warned that its biggest economic asset is global warming, which threatens to push storms away from the Pacific Northwest and create the conditions for drought. Rising sea temperatures in other places have removed the epicenter of these storms from their dependent populations.
Hsu Huang-hesyung, a climate researcher at the Academia Sinica in Taipei, told Asia News Channel If current greenhouse gas emissions have not declined, “the Pacific Northwest is expected to have the largest tropical cyclone activity decline in all of the planet’s oceans.”
Dr. Hiroyuki Murakami, a climate researcher at the University for Atmospheric Research, found that while the number of tropical cyclones originating in the North and Central Pacific over the past four decades, fewer are being produced off the coast of southern China. Is.
This effect is most common in Taiwan’s Moon Lake. Once blue, Vista, surrounded by forested peaks, has been transformed into a 15-kilometer-long cricket ground with dunes left behind in the drought. Other areas of the island report that massive fish deaths are similar to those that occurred in Menindee in westwestern NSW.
Zhudong Tao City Secretary Gang Sheng Told the CNA In April, when such mass deaths had never occurred before in the Zhongxing River – 1,600 kilograms of dead fish had just been washed ashore.
As farmers watch their pastures dry up and households reduce their water consumption, so do international investors.
Taiwan’s prolonged drought showed how water stress and changing rainfall patterns could pose financial risks – highlighting governments’ firm choice of water rationing between households and industry – Fitch said on May 4.
“Fitch expects climate change to make these challenges more common over time and more difficult globally,” said director Nneka Chike-Obi.
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