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Energy efficiency in Japan


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Here is an article about the effort in Japan to conserve energy and increase energy efficiency through technological innovations.

Japan imports 96% of its oil and energy, but consumes far less energy to produce the same economic output as China's.

In terms of energy consumption and efficiency, China's standards are poor compared to other industrialized nations. Any thoughts on how China might be able to improve its own energy efficiency?

Ways to decrease energy consumption in Japan based on the article:

1. Promoting hybrid cars and offering tax breaks for those who purchase them. Tax incentives are also offered in the US.

2. Improving efficiency in appliances

3. Installing solar power systems on homes


"Surging oil prices and growing concerns about meeting targets to cut greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels have revived efforts around the world to improve energy efficiency. But perhaps nowhere is the interest greater than here in Japan.

Even though Japan is already among the most frugal countries in the world, the government recently introduced a national campaign, urging the Japanese to replace their older appliances and buy hybrid vehicles, all part of a patriotic effort to save energy and fight global warming. And big companies are jumping on the bandwagon, counting on the moves to increase sales of their latest models.

On the Matsushita appliance showroom floor these days, the numbers scream not the low, low yen prices, but the low, low kilowatt-hours.

A vacuum-insulated refrigerator, which comes with a buzzer if the door stays open more than 30 seconds, boasts that it will use 160 kilowatt-hours a year, one-eighth of that needed by standard models a decade ago. An air-conditioner with a robotic dust filter cleaner proclaims it uses 884 kilowatt-hours, less than half of what decade-old ones consumed.

A number of other affluent countries with few domestic energy resources of their own are responding in similar ways.

In Germany, where heating accounts for the largest share of home energy use, a new energy saving law has as its standard the "seven-liter house," designed to use just seven liters of oil to heat one square meter for a year, about one-third the amount consumed by a house built in 1973, before the first oil price shock. Three-liter houses - even one-liter designs - are now being built.

In Singapore, where year-round air-conditioning often accounts for 60 percent of a building's power bill, new codes are encouraging the use of things like heat-blocking window films and hookups to neighborhood cooling systems, where water is chilled overnight.

In Hong Kong, many more buildings now have "intelligent" elevator systems in which computers minimize unnecessary stops. Parking restrictions encourage bus and rail transit, and authorities are also pushing hybrid cars equipped with engines that shut down when idling.

Other countries, including the United States, the world's largest energy consumer by far, have lagged behind, but even American consumers are starting to turn their backs on big sport utility vehicles and looking at more fuel-efficient cars in response to higher gasoline prices.

But Japan is where energy consciousness probably reaches the highest levels. The country has the world's second-largest economy, but it produces virtually no oil or gas, importing 96 percent of its energy needs.

This dependence on imports has prodded the nation into tremendous achievements in improved efficiency. France and Germany, where government crusades against global warming have become increasingly loud, expend almost 50 percent more energy to produce the equivalent of $1 in economic activity. Britain's energy use, on the same measure, is nearly double; the United States nearly triple; and China almost eight times as much.

From 1973 to today, Japan's industrial sector nearly tripled its output, but kept its energy consumption roughly flat. To produce the same industrial output as Japan, China consumes 11.5 times the energy....

But Japan's flattening of industrial energy consumption has not been matched in the transportation and residential sectors, where energy consumption has more than doubled since 1973, roughly pacing Japan's economic growth over the period.

Japan may be a mass transit nation, but now there is also a car for almost every Japanese household. Since 1970, the number of buses in Japan increased 23 percent, the number of trucks doubled, and the number of passenger cars increased more than sixfold, to 56 million.

During the 1990's, Japan's average fuel consumption per mile fell 13 percent. But since then, with more Japanese driving bigger cars, fuel efficiency growth has stalled...

In hopes of working the same engineering magic on cars, Japan has extended its minicar tax breaks to hybrid cars - fuel-efficient vehicles that rely on a combination of a gasoline engine and an electric motor. Hybrid sales, while still relatively low in Japan, are growing fast. And in this environment, Toyota and Honda have become the world leaders in hybrid technology.

"We're entering the age of hybrid automobiles," Hiroyuki Watanabe, Toyota's senior managing director for environmental affairs, recently told journalists at the 2005 World Exposition Aichi, in Nagoya. "I want every car to have a hybrid engine."

After $1.3 billion in subsidies, about 160,000 homes have solar power systems. Solar power remains two to three times as expensive as the electricity supplied to households. But homeowners say that with time, the "free" electricity pays for the high installation costs. And the government is willing to devote taxes to the effort, preferring to spur rural employment through solar power installations to help reduce payments for foreign oil, coal and gas."

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Concurrently Asia Times also published an article.


"...First of all, there is a huge problem of energy being used inefficiently or wasted outright. Statistics show that the energy consumption per unit of output in China is about 40% higher than that in the average developed country. For instance, a coal-fired power plant in China has to burn 404 grams of coal, or the equivalent, to generate one kilowatt-hour of electricity, far greater than the international standard of only 317 grams per kilowatt-hour. Also, every kilogram equivalent of coal only produces a gross domestic product of $0.36 in China, vastly lower than Japan's $5.58 and the world average of $1.86.

One major reason for such figures is that officials are pressured to produce ever-greater economic output while at the same time, power prices are held artificially low - a situation which virtually guarantees overuse of energy resources and chronic shortages. An obvious solution is to free energy prices, which would simultaneously encourage efficiency and provide energy producers the resources they need to meet demand. But there is virtually no prospect of such a step being taken, at least in the short term, because the assumption of low energy prices is so deeply ingrained in China's entire economic structure. Public education as to the value of energy conservation, and improving the technology of older, fuel-wasting power plants, must also be part of any solution. But accomplishing these goals in the short term appears to be a Herculean task..."

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the Japanese have had some fantastic energy saving ideas, and Japan has been a great leader in technology and some of their products have fantastic efficiency

However Energy saving in Japan has some fundamental flaws

-Street adverts, blaring loudspeakers and heaps of bright neon signage

-Homes are badly insulated, so energy is wasted as they get real cold in winter and over-heat in summer, however I think the homes have to be built a certain way as Japan is an Earthquake zone.

-Daylight saving time, for some reason the Japanese have constantly rejected the idea of winter/summer time savings.

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Homes are badly insulated, so energy is wasted as they get real cold in winter and over-heat in summer, however I think the homes have to be built a certain way as Japan is an Earthquake zone.

Hot summers and very cold winters are also not uncommon in Korea. Like Japan, many of the old apartments in Korea have poor insulation. However in Korean homes, they use a heating system called ondol, which is a system of hot water pipes running under all the cement floors in every room. So it gets very warm inside despite the weather being minus 10 degrees outside.

Since Koreans have a habit of sitting together on the floor around a table while eating hanjeongshih, it gets really comfortable due to this heating system.

I heard that very few homes or apartments in Japan, even the most modern ones, have no heater or air-conditioning built into them. You have to purchase your own heater or air-conditioning unit.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here are two good articles.



Today about 40% of all the fuel that Brazilians pump into their vehicles is ethanol, known here as alcohol, compared with about 3% in the United States. No other nation is using ethanol on such a vast scale. The change wasn't easy or cheap. But 30 years later, Brazil is reaping the return on its investment in energy security while the U.S. writes checks for $50-a-barrel foreign oil.
With the help of public subsidies and tax breaks, farmers planted more sugar cane, investors built distilleries to convert the crop to ethanol and automakers designed cars to run on 100% alcohol. The government financed a mammoth distribution network to get the fuel to gas stations and kept alcohol prices low to entice consumers. It worked. By the mid-1980s, virtually all new cars sold in Brazil ran exclusively on ethanol.
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One of these days Toyota and Honda might be the saviors of the US's disastrous foreign policy. More usage of hybrid and fuel cell cars can help reduce dependence on Middle Eastern oil, and thus less wars in the Middle East.

A Korean company has created a car engine that runs on compressed air and an electric motor. No fuel is needed. The compressed air powers the acceleration while the electric motor takes over at cruising speed.


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It would be good if the G8 would put some serious effort into transferring energy efficiency technology to China and INdia, or any other country that wants it for that matter.


US may help India conserve energy

June 17, 2005 12:06 IST

Observing that much of the current and projected rise in oil prices is due to increasing consumption in Asia, US President George W Bush has stressed on the need to help India and China conserve energy in order to reduce the global demand for petroleum.

"Much of the current and projected rise in gasoline prices is due to rising oil consumption in Asia. These are emerging economies that are consuming more natural resources, one of which is oil. As Asian economies grow, their demand for oil is growing much faster than the global supply is growing. And that drives up prices", he said while addressing the 16th annual Energy Efficiency Forum in Washington.

"It is in our interest to help countries like India and China become more efficient users of hydrocarbons. That will help take the pressure off global supply. It will take the pressure off gasoline prices here", Bush said.

The US President said he would ask world leaders at the G-8 meeting next month to join America in helping developing countries find practical ways to use cleaner and more efficient energy technologies.

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