sábado, abril 09, 2011

Time to Rethink Japan's Energy Future

EPIEnergy Consumption by Source in Japan, 2008

April 07, 2011
Time to Rethink Japan's Energy Future
J. Matthew Roney

Nearly four weeks after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, emergency personnel are still struggling to stabilize the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Beyond the immediate need to minimize further radioactive leakage and protect public health, the government is beginning to reconsider its long-term plans for nuclear power expansion. International media coverage has typically assumed that Japan must expand its electricity generation from coal, oil, and natural gas if nuclear is no longer an option. But the leaders in Tokyo do not have to be restricted to just these choices. A review of Japan’s geothermal, wind, and solar energy potential shows that domestic renewable resources could easily power the world’s third-largest economy.


As Japan recovers and rebuilds from the disastrous earthquake and tsunami, the country will have to decide whether to rely even more heavily on inherently risky nuclear power and imported fossil fuels or to chart a new energy course. If the nation turned to renewables instead of fossil fuels and nuclear power, it would be investing in the health, energy security, and economic well-being of its people. In addition to avoiding the risk of future radioactive contamination of air, water, and crops, Japan would save tens of billions of dollars annually on imported energy. It would also nurture its already formidable renewable energy manufacturing industries. Japan was second only to China in PV manufacturing in 2009, and, as noted, Japanese companies dominate global geothermal turbine production.

Clearly, Japan does not have to settle for sources of energy that either pose a radioactive risk or destabilize the earth’s climate. By fully committing to wind, solar, and geothermal, Japan could cancel all planned nuclear and fossil fuel power plants, replace the existing ones, and power its transportation system with carbon-free domestic energy.

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