<From "Kiko Network News" Vol.32,September 2003>

Basic Energy Plan: No reflection on the past,
remaining longstanding government policy

Based on The Basic Law of Energy Policy making- which came into effect last year - the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) solicited public comment on the draft report on the Basic Energy Plan due for August 28 after the discussions in the advisory panel to the ministry. The Basic Energy Plan becomes basic to energy policy in the decades ahead; the principles stated therein will influence the future policy. Though energy policy has a material effect on climate change policy (energy related CO2 emissions), the priorities on the environment remains to be low on the list of priorities.

Nuclear Propulsion: ignoring waste of energy

The draft report on the Basic Energy Plan provides three basic principles, energy security, environmental protection and market mechanism. This draft calls for placing top priority on energy security, ensuring stable energy supply and confirming nuclear power as the nation's key source of supply. Environmental protection is indicated in the draft as “the base” of encouragement of nuclear power in terms of carbon-free electricity. However, the draft seems to say continuing the current policy of nuclear propulsion itself is for environmental protection, rather than, for instance,publicize energy policy in consideration of environment, focusing on climate change prevention with establishing long-term reduction targets. It is hard to say that market mechanism is a basic principle because of inconsistency with supporting nuclear power; besides, it seems to be inconsistent with reports that nuclear power is inexpensive energy as we have heard more than enough. Based on these principles, the draft indicates countermeasures for energy supply derived from each energy source. Many pages are dedicated to explain nuclear propulsion, proposing not only to construct new nuclear power plants but also to pursue nuclear power recycling lines as ever. The draft refers to few scandals and safety management of nuclear power, and preventive steps do not seem to be clarified. In addition, the draft states promotion of coal,petroleum, and natural gas respectively, taking each industry's interest into consideration, aside from policy itself. Furthermore, the draft states that the government will pursue the current policies in industrial sector, households sector, and transportation sector; and encourage technological development.

Plan wihout long-term vision

The basic conditions that the Basic Energy Plan should meet are as follows: - Setting long-term targets or vision; - Setting short-term targets or vision following the long-term vision; and - Presenting measures for the vision and announcing policies to realize it. Long-term vision should indicate a shift away from the society of mass production, mass consumption, mass destruction and mass energy consumption. The vision should consist mainly of time frame and long-term targets concerning reduction of fossil fuels consumption for climate change prevention. As mentioned later, UK's Energy White Paper (not White Paper on the Environment) covers them at the first in its long-term vision. On the other hand, the draft report on the Basic Energy Plan is characterized in that it doesn't show so-called long-term vision at all and it doesn't lay out any future vision on how to control total amount of energy in Japan and how the demand of energy should be supplied.

No review and reflection structure

A plan for political measures would propose new policies based on vision to be achieved in the future, and also based on the review and reflection of the previous policy and its results. The focus of issues to be reviewed would be: - The serious nuclear power scandals that government concerned and anxieties about energy supply; - The environmental policy being low on the list of priorities in energy policy. As a matter of fact, achievement of year 2000 target by Action Program to Arrest Global Warming ended in failure and CO2 emissions still continue to rise; - No disclosure or publication of information necessary to make decision. As to nuclear power especially, the public's mistrust has become critical and problems have been raised one after another by local governments where power plants were built and who once supported. However, the draft doesn't point out problems of the current policy and its results; it seems that resolutions of the problems have not been even discussed.

UK's Energy White Paper confirms giving priority to environment

The UK's Energy White Paper - published by the UK government at the end of February - provides:Their frank reflection that their energy policy has not paid enough attention to environmental problem;Giving their highest priority to environmental problem as a basis of new energy policy; andSetting long-tern target that they reduce CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050 to prevent adverse effects on climate change.It apparently provides proper measures to strengthen the contribution of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.Even though the UK's White Paper cannot be introduced into Japan's policy because of the different backgrounds of two countries, it is natural for a government to establish these measures and vision when they draw out a scheme for the energy policy. By the way, the paper's text, “We do not believe Government is equipped to decide the composition of the fuel mix. We prefer to create a market framework, reinforced by long-term policy measures, …” seems to be interesting as if they make an ironical remark to Japan's “Long-Term Energy Supply and Demand Outlook” which sets targets for the share of supply from each fuel.

Kiko Network gave its opinion

The local public hearings were held in time with public comment. At the public hearing on August 5 in Tokyo, Kimiko Hirata, Kiko Network, pointed out the fundamental problems as discussed above and problems on decision making, and then called for its full amendment.

Basic to future policies

This plan becomes basic to energy policy in the decades ahead. At the same time, “Long-Term Energy Supply and Demand Outlook” that provides more concrete demand and supply policy will be discussed for review, which will have a serious effect on Japanese climate change policies. The energy policy can be summarized that it basically continues the policy of mass energy consumption and plans the conventional nuclear propulsion. Also, it can be hardly said that facilities planning will be altered according to environment policies, judging from the draft of Infrastructure Development and Planning submitted to the government, which has a major influence on the climate change issues. The conventional policies are now rather supported by the government facing the review of the climate change prevention next year. It is called for citizens to check these policies and take various actions to make environmental policy reflect on other national policies such as energy policy.