Japan’s Energy Obsession

Japan is fast becoming the most energy efficient country in the world. Since the Tohoku Earthquake in March 2011, Japan has increased its efforts decrease its dependence on nuclear energy. A radiation scare has forced the Japanese government and the world to seriously question the merits of nuclear energy while taking into account the potential risks. The earthquake suspended the use of 35 nuclear reactors, leaving only 19 reactors to supply the country with electrical power. However, with stringent energy conservation rules from both the federal government and private companies, the Japanese have found a way to operate at capacity using 20% less energy.

Japans conservatiionist mindset stems from both necessity after its major natural disasters this year and from governmental intervention. Japanese gasoline sells for $5.20 a gallon, twice as much as in the United States and way above international market levels. This price forces individual homes as well as business and corporate offices to find numerous and creative ways to conserve.

In offices, air conditioning is substituted for fans, electronics are turned off during lunch breaks and heavy curtains are used to block the suns rays. In the winter, Japanese businesspeople are encouraged to wear long johns and sweaters under their work clothes to save on heating bills. Additionally, the government has pushed appliance manufacturers to increase energy efficiency in devices like air-conditioners, dishwashers and freezers.

Meanwhile at home, families and individuals are investing in highly efficient fuel cells – devices that convert natural gas into hydrogen that in turn, create electricity. There have been 1,300 fuel cells sold to private homes since 2005 and hopefully more as production costs decrease and the units become more affordable. The “conservation mindset” applies beyond just unique devices like the fuel cell though. Many Japanese families practice energy saving habits like reusing warm bath water to wash laundry or bicycling to do errands.

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