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Sunday, July 22, 2012
Japan as number four
A new report on how the world's major powers use electricity found that Japan ranks fourth out of the top 12 countries in energy efficiency. While this result is not bad, it is still not good enough.
Inefficient use of energy poses a serious obstacle to economic recovery as money that could be used in meaningful areas is instead wasted on energy. The government and the private sector must do all they can to increase energy efficiency.
The new report, from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, looked at the world's 12 largest economies, which account for more than 78 percent of global gross domestic product, 63 percent of global energy consumption and 62 percent of the global carbon footprint.
The report found that the United Kingdom came first, followed by Germany and Italy, with Japan in fourth place. America ranked ninth, while France, Australia and China followed closely behind Japan.
Japan's ranking came from being second place in national effort and second place in industrial energy use, though it was ninth in buildings and eighth in transportation.
Those results point in the direction of a better energy policy, one that relies on many means of achieving increased efficiency. The national effort to reduce energy usage following the Fukushima nuclear disaster was quite successful, but without stricter regulations on buildings and transportation, Japan is unlikely to make headway.
Energy efficiency should be a more integrated part of building codes and appliance standards, although updating older buildings will be difficult. Improving Japan's electric grid infrastructure is another important element. All of these possibilities are better than simply restarting dangerous nuclear power plants.
Japan's public transportation is rather efficient, but the use of heavy-duty and passenger vehicles as well as reliance on air travel accounts for the relatively low eighth-place ranking in transportation. The Japanese government should understand how much public transportation contributes to a dynamic economy. The efficient movement of people is a double benefit if done properly because it saves energy and gets people into activities that contribute to the economy.
Improving energy efficiency is just as important to the economy as banking or financial policies. In one sense, energy is where the economy meets the reality of the material world.
Japan ranked relatively high on its overall commitment and general performance, but it must be re-emphasized that efficient energy use means an efficient economy. The government needs to help encourage better energy usage. The future of the economy depends on it.