Japan Defies Obama — Plans On Building 43 Coal Plants

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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As Japan promises the United Nations it will cut carbon dioxide emissions, the country simultaneously plans on building 43 coal-fired power projects to make up for shuttered nuclear power.

Japan told the reporters it would cut carbon dioxide emissions 20 percent below 2013 levels by 2030, reports AFP. It joined a U.S.-led effort to build support for a global warming treaty to be approved this December in Paris. It’s an issue President Barack Obama has staked his legacy on, and is using whatever diplomatic tactics he can to get other countries to join him.

So far, only 35 parties (when the EU is included) have submitted plans to the U.N., detailing how much carbon dioxide they plan to cut in the coming decades. Japan has not officially submitted its plan to the U.N., but environmentalists are already fretting the country has no intention of meeting its goals.

Japan’s Kiko Network, an environmental group, says there are 43 coal projects under construction or planned to be built in the coming years to make up for the loss of nuclear power capacity after the Fukushima disaster.

Kiko says these new coal projects would emit 127 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — about 10 percent of Japan’s pre-Kyoto Protocol emissions. It worries this will impair Japan’s ability to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050.

“These projects, which may still be operating in 2050, run counter to Japan’s efforts to tackle climate change and should be quickly reviewed or stopped,” the Kiko Network said in a statement.

The Fukushima nuclear plant disaster prompted Japan to shutter most of its nuclear power capacity — some of which had been damaged by the tsunami and earthquake that hit in 2011. Before the Fukushima incident, nuclear power helped Japan generate 20 percent of its own power. After the disaster, Japan only generated 9 percent of its own power.

This forced the country to begin importing more coal and natural gas to make up for the lost power. The U.S. Energy Information Administration notes Japan “spent about $270 billion, or around 58% more, for fossil fuel imports in the three years following the Fukushima accident.”

‘[T]he yen’s depreciation and soaring natural gas and oil import costs from a greater reliance on fossil fuels and sustained high international oil prices through the first half of 2014 continued to deepen Japan’s recent trade deficit,” EIA notes. “The trade balance reversed from a 30-year trade surplus, which was $65 billion in 2010 to a deficit that reached $112 billion in 2013.”

While falling oil prices in the latter half of 2014 helped out Japan’s trade deficit, it still has to import lots of fuels to keep its power system going.

Environmentalists initially pushed for the country to use more green energy, but the variability of green power meant Japanese power operators weren’t willing to rely on them for baseload power. But with the growing amount of fossil fuels being used to meet energy demands, eco-activists are now pushing for Japan to rebuild its nuclear power capacity.

“When you come to Japan, [South] Korea or China, there are so many energy needs, and it’s probably the case that nuclear energy fills the important needs,” economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, told Japan News.

“Japan should use the nuclear power plants that are verified as being safe, away from natural hazards and with a strong regulatory system,” Sachs said. “But Japan should also deploy other low-carbon energy technologies as well.”

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