The Washington Post reports on comprehensive energy-saving measures being taken in Japan in response to a “national battle cry against soaring energy prices.”
The small mountain town of Kamiita—chosen as an exemplar by the Japanese media—shut off the heating system in the town hall this winter. Employees work bundled in coats and wool blankets. Most of the town’s 13,000 citizens are strictly obeying a nationwide call to turn off car engines while idling, particularly when stopped at traffic lights.
Takao Iwase, Kamiita’s husky administrative director, joined other locals in switching off the heat at home, too—leaving his family to quickly hustle from steaming nighttime baths to the warm comforters on their traditional futons. "We’re saving [$100] a day at city hall by shutting off the heat,” Iwase, wearing four layers of clothing and a winter coat inside his office, said proudly. “But we no longer see this as just an economic issue. Japan has no natural resources of its own, so saving energy has become our national duty.”
As President Bush calls on Americans to break their addiction to oil and increase energy efficiency in the face of soaring prices, perhaps no people serve as better role models than the energy-miser Japanese.
A pervasive approach to energy conservation, from reduced-power consumption in consumer and business electronics to intelligent machines from subway far changers to elevators that automatically shut off when not in use has contributed to the fact that Japan’s energy consumption per person is almost half that of the US.
Conservation fever swept the nation after the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 treaty written in Japan that aims to reduce greenhouse gases. The United States has not ratified the treaty.
But Japan’s transformation, experts note, dates from well before the Kyoto treaty—and was rooted more in economics than environmentalism.
After the 1970s oil crisis, Japan “went into a panic. We have no oil of our own, and are completely dependent on imports,” said Takako Nakamura, an official at the Global Environment Bureau of the Environment Ministry. “That weakness changed the way we looked at energy.”
Low-emission vehicles account for almost 11 million (21%) of all autos on Japanese roads.
(A hat-tip to Harvey D!)