efficiency

Escape by boat to nature sanctuary on the very far side of Tokyo

Round_window_Ogasawara_Maru

最近、東京から離れることを考えていました。3月に、小笠原の父島に旅行しました。交通は船だけで、25時間かかります。小笠原丸のデザインが好きです。逞しくて、効率的で、簡素です。

April 1 is the start of the business and school years in Japan. Recently my thoughts have turned to escaping the city, which I recently accomplished. What better than a long sea voyage to the remote island of Chichijima? Sub-tropical and isolated from continental evolution, Chichijima is part of the Ogasawara islands one thousand kilometers south of Tokyo. Administratively, they are part of Tokyo. Yet a far side of Tokyo removed from ordinary urban life.

Of the two options, we chose the 25 hour ferry boat from Hamamatsucho over the mega-cruise ship out of Yokohama. Given the amount of time in transit, the boat itself is a major element of visiting the islands. This large ship called Ogasawara Maru carries up to a thousand people as well as all supplies, cars, and even livestock for the few thousand inhabitants of this island group.

The design evokes Japanese efficiency and optimism of the 1980s, sturdy, reliable, with few frills and no luxuries. I love the dolphin artwork, and brass rails. Unfortunately, because of the weather and conditions, the captain’s tour was canceled on both directions.

dolphins_ogasawaramaru_ship

Quoted in San Francisco Chronicle article about high speed rail

The San Francisco Chronicle quoted me about what California can learn from Japan’s high speed rail. Japan’s rail success is not just about traveling quickly between cities, but the convenience and efficiency of city transit and car-free living.

A visitor’s view of “pure living” in Tokyo

PSFK and Pure Living in Tokyo

An interesting blog post about Tokyo’s environmental paradoxes by Piers Fawkes of PSFK, organizer of the Pure Living Tokyo idea salon last month sponsored by Nissan. In a very brief visit to Tokyo, Piers captures in words and photos some of the achievements in energy efficiency and resource maximization, while also lamenting wasteful consumerism and the desire to appear modern.

DPJ and the Environment

solar power

As I wrote earlier, the Democratic Party of Japan, which recently won a landslide election, is calling for major environmental changes, including significantly greater carbon emission targets than the outgoing LDP party. This week I learned that, on the premise of reviving the struggling Japanese countryside, the DPJ has also promised to reduce the gasoline tax and highway tolls. These pro-automobile ideas will not help with emissions targets.

Keidanren, the Japan Business Federation, is strongly opposed to the more ambitious emission goals. By calculating the difference in today’s prices between fossil fuels and renewable energy, numbers have been created to alarm the public about costs to consumers and businesses. A particularly Japanese explanation I heard from one Japanese corporate spokesperson was articulated as concern for the finances of business customers.

This organized resistance to change strikes me as short-sighted. According to a Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs chart based on International Energy Agency data, Japan is already the world’s most energy efficient nation (calculated as energy supply per unit of GDP): three times more efficient than the global rate, twice as efficient as the US, almost twice more than the European Union, and more than seven times India and China.

In the United States, Obama has called for 25% of electric energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. The DPJ’s solar subsidies and carbon taxes will spur adoption of solar energy, benefiting Sharp and Kyocera. In a world of climate change and peak oil, investing now in renewable energy seems vital for Japan’s energy security and global technology exports.

If the focus is strictly on carbon emissions, and not renewable energy, Japan risks further dependence on nuclear energy. Already 26% of electric power in 2007, nuclear power produces dangerous waste, all the more so in a small island nation prone to earthquakes. This makes news that nuclear industry and international energy leaders are seeking to increase operating rates. From the Japan Times,

Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the International Energy Agency, urged Japan last year to relax its “hyper cautious” atomic safety standards to increase output.

The country’s operating rate averaged 59 percent in 2008, compared with 90 percent in the U.S. and 76 percent in France, according to industry group the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum Inc.

With energy use increasing in the developing world, now is the time to debate the difference between carbon neutral and renewable energy, and the role of national governments in promoting change that can spur international competitive economic advantage.

japan's nuclear reactors

(from the Nuclear Fuel Transport Co, Ltd)

japan's nuclear ship transportation

japan's nuclear ship transportation