Skip to main content

The Japanese Double Whammy

Hekinan

Haninonen, Japan's largest coal facility

A double whammy for energy companies in Japan: it’s really breathtaking:
Japan's new tax on carbon emissions will cost utilities about 80 billion yen ($1.02 billion) annually from 2016, adding to their already high costs of running power stations after the Fukushima crisis shut most of the country's nuclear plants, a government backed think-tank said.
Leaving aside the value of a carbon tax, about which reasonable minds can disagree, that’s a lot of money. For a country that has recently had to switch on some coal and oil plants to spell the nuclear energy shutdown, it just feels – mean. And as long as the companies pay the levy, it doesn’t actually help reduce carbon emissions.

Now, to be fair, the government wants to put the money into renewable energy sources. I don’t really understand well enough where the government’s interests intersects with those of industry. Furthermore, the story doesn’t explain whether this money will subsidize industry efforts in a public-private partnership or go forward as a government project. I read a report suggesting that the government could lower other taxes, but it was speculative. Other details just, um, detail the pain.
A nationwide safety shutdown of the country's nuclear power plants since last year has added an estimated 3.1 trillion yen to the cost of importing fuel for oil, gas and coal power stations in the 12 months through March next year.
And if a country is importing its energy resources, what’s the result? 

These rising costs may cause a trade deficit for the second straight year through March 2013, the institute said.

And ratepayers?
Utilities have mostly funded their energy purchases through debt, and have avoided passing on the cost to consumers, except for Tepco which was nationalized this year, but the new taxes could force a change of heart.
 That could be bluster on the part of the energy companies, but the money does have to come from somewhere. Again, there are some plausible relief notions mentioned here and there, but very vaguely. It’s really all bad all the way through.

Don’t get me wrong. Carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, even the flow of free enterprise can bring about carbon emission reductions while limiting the financial pain caused to ratepayers.

But Japan has a viable solution – not a total solution, but a good one. To paraphrase the sheriff in the John McCain ad a couple of years ago, Turn on the dang nuclear facilities.

Comments

SteveK9 said…
I would guess this was part of a long-term plan that began when they still expected to increase nuclear's contribution to 50%. Now that they have shut down the reactors, this will be much more painful. I would expect a reversal, although they may have to admit they are abandoning all pretense of CO2 reductions.
Anonymous said…
Which is in itself quite ironic. This is the "home country" of the Kyoto agreements. The country whose city is the namesake of global CO2 emission reduction is abandoning the principle entirely.

Popular posts from this blog

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…