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Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011

EDITORIAL

Warm Biz warming up

With the relatively successful Super Cool Biz campaign over for the autumn, the next drive for saving energy is already under way. Warm Biz is the latest campaign to save energy after the March disasters in Tohoku left dozens of nuclear reactors offline and potential electricity shortfalls looming. Government officials in the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) are asking people to heat their homes and offices no higher than 20 degrees Celsius and to conserve energy through the winter.

In typical government fashion, the recommendations extend to all facets of life — clothing, diet and transportation. Recommendations on the MOE homepage advise people on how to dress, what types of foods warm the body and that hopping off the train a stop short of one's commuting destination and walking boosts the body's circulation. Perhaps they are secretly hopeful that "warming up the old-fashioned way" will also increase the country's birthrate. Call that "Super Warm Biz."

As silly and obvious as the advice of putting on an extra layer after the evening bath or savoring the steam from a nabe hotpot meal may sound, the campaign is on target. Greater awareness and small practical steps can help save energy. Keeping thermostats low and adding layers of clothing are simple actions that even children can manage. If implemented consistently and collectively, those actions add up to significant savings, just as they did during the summer months.

Of course, "Biz" means business. Spending a bit for sweaters, thermal underwear and cost-effective heaters helps the sluggish economy. Simply spending money is not a way out of the current economic doldrums, but energy-saving expenditures conserve energy as well as stimulate the consumer sector.

In addition to smaller-scale actions, the government should encourage more ecologically efficient housing, buildings and appliances. Government subsidies for shifting to better materials, insulation and electrical usage may be expensive in the short run, but they make solid economic and ecological sense in the long run.

Unless the MOE helps homeowners, businesses, transportation networks and industries make the transition to efficient winter energy practices, electricity shortfalls could be in store this winter. If that happens, people will not only be uncomfortable but risk danger when temperatures drop to the lowest levels.

Without energy, business would come to a stop. A good first step toward keeping Japan's future energy policy moving in safer and healthier directions — away from nuclear energy — is Warm Biz.



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