Now, with oil prices hitting dizzying levels and the world struggling to deal with global warming, Japan hopes to use its conservation record to assume a rare leadership role on a pressing global issue. It will showcase its efforts to export its conservation ethic - and its expensive power-saving technology - at the summit meeting of the Group of 8 industrial leaders that Japan is playing host to, starting Monday.
"Superior technology and a national spirit of avoiding waste give Japan the world's most energy-efficient structure," Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said in a recent speech outlining his agenda for the summit meeting. Japan, he said, "wants to contribute to the world." ...
Japan, by many measures, is the most energy-frugal country among the world's developed nations. After the energy crises of the 1970s, the country forced itself to conserve with government-mandated energy-efficiency targets and steep taxes on petroleum. Energy experts also credit a national consensus on the need to consume less.
It is also the only industrial country that sustained government investment in energy research even after oil prices fell.
"Japan taught itself decades ago how to compete with gasoline at $4 per gallon," said Hisakazu Tsujimoto of the Energy Conservation Center, a government research institute that promotes energy efficiency. "It will fare better than other countries in the new era of high energy costs."
According to the International Energy Agency, based in Paris, Japan consumed half as much energy per dollar worth of economic activity as the European Union or the United States, and one-eighth as much as China and India in 2005. While the country is known for its green products like hybrid cars, most of its efficiency gains have come in less eye-catching areas, for example, by cutting energy use in manufacturing.
Corporate Japan has managed to keep its overall annual energy consumption unchanged at the equivalent of about 200 million tons of oil since the early 1970s, according to Economy Ministry data. It was able to maintain that level even during the country's boom years of the 1970s and 1980s, as the economy doubled, when adjusted for inflation, to $5 trillion.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Japan: The model of energy efficiency
The International Herald Tribune reports that Japan is a model of efficient energy use: