Japan to propose lower use of fossil fuels at APEC forum

Japan is expected to propose a long-term vision for energy security, to include reducing the uses of fossil fuels, when energy ministers from the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meet in Japan this weekend.

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, June 18 -- Japan is expected to propose a long-term vision for energy security, to include reducing the uses of fossil fuels, when energy ministers from the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meet in Japan this weekend.

“Japan will propose a long-term vision for energy security,” said a spokesperson of Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), who said the long-term objective is to find “practical ways” of reducing dependence on fossil fuels and developing alternative energy sources.

The METI official said the task facing the energy ministers is how to solve the “trilemma” of balancing energy demand, economic growth, and protecting the environment.

The official’s comments followed approval by the Japanese government of METI’s 2101 Energy White Paper, which commits the Asian nation to an energy policy that underlines the need for a broad vision of energy security to include increased emphasis on renewable energy sources.

Middle East dependence
APEC ministers are expected to focus on the same themes due to concerns that competition among APEC's advanced and emerging economies can only lead to high and volatile prices for oil and gas along with reduced energy security for everyone.

“All APEC members are trying to diversify dependence from the Middle East,” the official said, adding that Tokyo is especially sensitive to energy security due to the large number of choke points that oil and gas have to pass through on their way to Japan from the Middle East.

Japan's self-sufficiency ratio for primary energy, at 18% of total supplies is one of APEC’s lowest and compares unfavorably with 72% for the US and 96% for China.

According to the METI White Paper, possible supply threats include “political and military situations, crude oil embargoes, stopping of gas delivery via pipelines, resource nationalism, levies, export regulations, and a scramble for resources among consuming countries.”

The METI paper notes that under Tokyo’s new energy policy, Japan will aim to reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels to 30% from the current 70% between now and 2030, while also increasing its supply of energy from alternative sources by a corresponding amount.

The proposed shift away from fossil fuels will entail major new investment in nuclear power, involving the construction of nine new reactors by 2020 and 14 by 2030, while also stepping up the operability of all existing and planned reactors.

Japan also is expected to launch a more aggressive program of energy diplomacy, which will aim in particular at securing uranium supplies from Central Asian countries for Tokyo’s stepped up nuclear program.

Under its new program, Japan eventually aims to raise its energy independence ratio—meaning the supply of domestically produced energy plus independently explored resources elsewhere—to 77% from the current 38%.

Earlier reports said energy ministers from the 21-member APEC forum, along with representatives of the International Energy Agency, will meet in Japan on June 19 to discuss ways of ensuring a stable supply of energy for the region.

Industry sources said the meeting is likely to take up points raised by the APEC Business Advisory Council earlier this year, concerned by what it called “the continuing challenges we face in strengthening energy security throughout Asia Pacific (OGJ Online, June 16, 2010).”

APEC members include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the US, and Vietnam.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

More in Economics & Markets