July 4, 2008

Japan Promoting Energy Frugal Ways

Green, of course, is in, and with the high energy and food prices, Americans and others around the globe are looking to find new ways to reduce greenhouse emissions and to conserve energy. Apparently Japan has been a leader in conservation ever since the oil shocks of the 1970's, and they are now set to become a leader in teaching the world to conserve.
Japan is by many measures the world’s most energy-frugal developed nation. 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 when energy became cheap again.

The last paragraph is ironic for those who have followed Thomas Friedman's columns. Friedman has been advocating a gasoline tax for years in order to finance investment in green technologies and to encourage Americans to conserve. But of course the Bush administration didn't have the foresight to heed his advice (though Bush said many times that we were "addicted to oil"), and now we're stuck with high prices without the benefit of the research tax.

I hope that Japan is successful in sharing their conservation culture with the world. One thing I noticed when living in Japan was that the Japanese do tend to have a more holistic view of society. When you thank someone for going out of their way, for example, Japanese people usually don't say "no problem" or "don't mention it," they usually say, "just do something good for someone else sometime." There's more respect for society and a greater appreciation for the symbiotic relationship between parts of society. Perhaps this mindset allowed the conservation meme to spread quickly in Japanese society.

In any case, America will have to adjust its culture to the new reality of global warming. Hopefully we can learn a thing or two from Japan, an island country which has managed to do very well without natural resources. From the experiences of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, it looks like the high energy prices are forcing us to reconsider the way we produce, and hopefully we'll take it to the next level by altering our culture to work in a way that is more beneficial to the planet and others who live on it.

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