Japan from the inside out

Turn out the lights

Posted by ampontan on Friday, August 19, 2011

A year ago, (Kan Naoto) wanted to quickly build a society that wasn’t dependent on fossil fuels. When you add to that a society which isn’t dependent on nuclear energy, how are we supposed to obtain energy?
– Sengoku Yoshito, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, on 28 July

IN AN INTERVIEW published last week in the weekly Shukan Asahi, Prime Minister Kan Naoto had this to say about the world’s third-largest economy:

Put in the extreme, we must be able to maintain the survival of the nation even if the energy supply is halved from its present amount.

Yes, that’s the prime minister of Japan speaking.

And people thought Hatoyama Yukio was from outer space.

Now why would Japan wake up one day to a nightmare in which its energy supply is halved? National leaders have to be prepared for every contingency, but Kim Tubby III in Pyeongyang will not be ordering a surgically precise missile attack on the power plants on the far shores of the Sea of Japan anytime soon. The North Koreans would sooner eat the Dogs of War than unleash them.

But Kan Naoto does have a dream, and part of that dream is to end the country’s reliance on nuclear and fossil fuel power generation in Japan. He’d replace that, to the extent it’s replaceable, with the wind power that he “loves”, according to his blog posts of several years ago. He’s also cooked up a cockamamie crony capitalism scheme with Son Masayoshi to cover all the currently unutilized farmland with solar panels and harvest sun power.

But even if the prime minister’s contingency plan resembles the ramblings of a barstool philosopher from the nihilist left, other people are starting to formulate plans of their own premised on a powerless Japan. They can’t afford not to.

Yosano Kaoru, the Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy, said this about keeping the nuclear plants idled:

It can easily be envisioned this will have an effect on the Japanese economy.

It can just as easily be envisioned what Mr. Yosano would have said if he wasn’t biting his tongue as a member of the Cabinet.

Yonekura Hiromasa, the chairman of Keidanren (the Japan Business Federation) predicted that more than 40% of the country’s large corporations would leave Japan if nuclear power generation were ended. Some would suggest that Mr. Yonekura exaggerates because Keidanren represents what the Democratic Party of Japan likes to call Big Capital, and what the rest of the world calls Big Business. In fact, he may be understating the problem.

Earlier this week, the Kyodo news agency released the results of their questionnaire survey of 105 major companies. The survey found that 55 firms, or more than half, said they were accelerating plans to move operations overseas as a way to strengthen the corporate foundation. The general reason they cited was a bad business climate, but the specific reasons were the lack of sufficient electricity over the long term, the high yen, and low stock prices.

Another 47 replied that they’d stay in Japan for the long haul, 17 said they had no other option but to consider such a move, and two said they’d already done it.

An article in the 5 August edition of the weekly Shukan Post provided more specifics.

* Mitsui Mining and Smelting

The company announced in June that it will build a new production line for its primary products, materials used for smartphones, in Malaysia. Their plant in Saitama was idled for a month due to rolling blackouts. They have a market share exceeding 90% for electrolytic copper foil for smartphone use. The company told the magazine that they operate 24 hours a day, so even a two-hour production stoppage has a serious effect.

* Hoya

This major lens manufacturer will build a plant in China’s Shangdong Province for making industrial glass. They plan to begin operation there in December. The company said that a stable power supply was indispensable for melting the glass materials, and that the potential lack of a dependable power supply was the factor that pushed them in that direction.

* Renesas Electronics

The semiconductor giant is considering outsourcing all its production to Taiwan and Singapore.

* U-shin

The auto parts manufacturer has decided to shift all its production from Japan to China.

* Prime Minister Kan called for a 10% reduction in power consumption from all companies in the region supplied by Kansai Electric Power, though it was unaffected by the Tohoku earthquake. Motor manufacturer Nidec of Kyoto realized this would have an impact on their reliability testing, so they’ll move their testing facilities overseas.

* Mitsubishi Chemical has annual revenue of roughly JPY one trillion, and their electric power costs account for 3-4% of that total. This year, however, increases in the already high rates will bump that to 5%. Thus their power bill will climb to more than JPY 10 billion, equivalent to more than one-third of their operating profit.

* The Institute of Energy Economics Japan reported that industrial power fees will rise 36% year-on-year if thermal plants are used to offset the power loss from nuclear plants. The institute adds that if the energy bill Mr. Kan is pushing as a condition for his political withdrawal passes and the mandated costs for purchasing natural energy are transferred to fees, it will further boost the bills to a level 70% above current totals.

* This has the potential to wipe out entire industries. The Japan Soda Industry Association (industrial sodas) says power costs account for 40% of the production costs for the 25 companies and 30 plants in the country. An increase in power costs of just one yen adds JPY 3.8 billion to their production costs.

Why does Mr. Kan dream of everyone else’s nightmare? To cite one reason, this founding member of the Socialist Democratic Federation, who later jumped to larger parties to enhance his political viability, has never cottoned to the bare fact that socialist plans for wealth redistribution require a robust free-market non-socialist economy.

Another is Ikeda Nobuo’s theory that smashing the state is the only objective remaining from Mr. Kan’s pinkoid youth, now that history has dessicated his Italian Communist Party-inspired fantasies. Indeed, as we’ve seen before, he remains a stout devotee of the ideas of Prof. Matsushita Keiichi, which means he dislikes the idea of nation-states altogether. What he does like is community government by NGOs, which in turn would be under the thumb of coordinated by global institutions.

Former Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro wrote an op-ed published in the Yomiuri Shimbun this week that makes it plain he understands exactly what Mr. Kan was up to (as does the rest of the political class, I suspect). Mr. Nakasone’s critique of the Kan philosophy left the larger issue unstated, however, while dealing with more immediate matters, perhaps to keep the grass where the goats can get at it. Here’s an excerpt in English.

The citizen-centered government (市民主義) championed by the prime minister is a concept of government with local citizen activities at its core. It is a political concept that lacks the spirit to accept the challenge of the future with a sense of ideals…the primary focus of this citizen-centered government is a narrow one, perhaps with a view to pandering and winning elections. Its weakness is the absence of a sense of continuity as a nation with history and culture.

The limits have been exposed of the citizen-centered government of Prime Minister Kan, which incorporates no view of the state. The duty of a Diet member is to be entrusted with the conduct of the affairs of state. Each state has its own distinctive history and traditions, and all states establish their individuality in the world…Those states and ethnic groups must contribute to the prosperity of the world. The citizens who live in a state have no existence isolated from the history or traditions of the state.

The politicians responsible for the affairs of state who declare that their focus is only on citizen activities are derelict in their primary duty because they hold cheaply the state and the people which are its support. There is nothing wrong with using the word citizen in the sense of people who value the region in which they live, but Prime Minister Kan’s words and deeds, unaccompanied by a background of history and culture, lack appeal. A prime minister carries a nation’s history and culture.

The Kan administration has clarified the meaning of citizen-centered government (which should be seen as a so-called historical experiment) in a form that ignores the flow of history of the Japanese people and the state. It has been shown to be insufficient in the extreme as a governing principle of the state. The next government must put this lesson to use.

(N.B.: Mr. Nakasone’s word selection reflects the distinction in Japanese between “national citizen” and the more general “citizen”. The latter implies the resident of a municipality.)

Theories can have consequences, and the consequences of the theories of the lizard-eyed left, in Japan as well as elsewhere, are such that one is left wondering about their emotional equilibrium.

Once in positions of power, these folks always contrive a way to shield themselves from the consequences of their theories. The rest of us would have to live in their world or make decisions accordingly. Financial analyst and blogger Fujisawa Kazuki wrote this week about what his decision might be:

What would I do in the event that Japan idled all its nuclear power plants? It would be time to stiffen my resolve and move.

Mr. Kan wants to conceive of ways to maintain the nation’s survival with only 50% of the energy. He has to be aware that the nation which survived would be an entity far inferior to the Japan of today.

People should be excused for thinking that is the rest of Kan Naoto’s dream.


It’s not just Japanese private sector corporations that are concerned:

Pharmaceutical and chemical giant Bayer on Saturday issued a warning that it my leave Germany because of rising electricity prices linked to Germany’s decision to end its nuclear energy program.

Bayer employs 35,000 people in Germany, but CEO Marijn Dekkers told the German weekly business magazine Wirtschaftswoche that energy prices posed a genuine threat to the company’s manufacturing operations in the country.

Nevin wrote in recently to ask if Kan Naoto was really all that bad. Here are some additional data points to help answer that question.

Matsumoto Ken’ichi, a Cabinet Secretariat advisor, gave an interview published in today’s Sankei Shimbun that helps explain the delay in the Tohoku recovery.

Mr. Matsumoto said that Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku Yoshito directed a team that formulated his own proposal for a reconstruction vision, which was finished in March. He says that Prime Minister Kan initially liked it, but wound up “crushing” it.

Mr. Kan later created his own council to draft a redevelopment vision, which was submitted on 25 June (three months later), but in Mr. Matsumoto’s words:

Not one aspect of their proposal exceeded anything in our proposal.

The reason? Kan Naoto didn’t want Mr. Sengoku to get the credit. Explained Mr. Matsumoto:

The prime minister wanted the spotlight on himself and the applause for a job well done. He essentially ignored the people.

Now no one is applauding him for a job well done. Who says there’s no justice in the world?

Mr. Matsumoto added that he argued against a universal tax increase to fund the recovery because it wouldn’t be fair to take funds out of the Tohoku region. He suggested long-term bonds instead. Replied Mr. Kan:

I wonder if the Finance Ministry would go along with that.

The prime minister insisted on a universal tax.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press interviewed retired American diplomat Kevin Maher, who coordinated U.S. assistance after the earthquake. Said Mr. Maher:

Early in the Fukushima nuclear crisis, U.S. officials felt that nobody in Japan’s government was taking charge, and Washington considered evacuating American troops in a worst-case scenario, a retired U.S. envoy said Thursday.

As we’ve since learned, Mr. Kan and his Cabinet did take charge, but the American misperception was understandable. When they take charge, it just looks as if no one’s in charge.

If a no-nuke, wind/solar energy policy is adopted, this will be the last song they play on the radio before the station shuts down.

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3 Responses to “Turn out the lights”

  1. Shimshon said

    So polls show that people are becoming more and more anti nuclear energy. Fossil fuels are not endless and bad for the environment (and people will start complaining once they realize that air is getting worse).

    At least it is possible to improve the greentech and hopefully at some point it would be as efficient as other types of energy.

    What do you suggest?

    It seems that all those companies are just bitching to get something back from the government…
    S: Thanks for the note.

    Since I have no problem with nuclear power, and the polls in Japan will gradually revert with the passage of time…

    What do you suggest?

    I suggest the libertarian solution, which looks better the more I think about it.

    Eliminate all government nuclear regulatory agencies, and enact a law that all nuclear power plants must be insured by private sector insurers for damages up to X amount of yen, or whatever currency is applicable.

    With private sector insurers on the hook for the bill, nuclear plants would be modernized, improved, made safer, and built in better locations so fast it would make the national head swim.

    On a lesser level, the same principle could be applied to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Other than requiring insurance to drive and setting the amount of liability insurance, government doesn’t have to be involved at all.

    – A.

  2. Marellus said


    What about cold fusion ???
    M: I don’t know, and I suspect Kan Naoto doesn’t want to know.

    – A.

  3. Tony said

    My understanding is cold fusion, while theoretically possible, has thus far been been impossible to do. Consequently, most physicists have given up on it. Bill, size 13 1/2 right?
    T: No, it’s 12 1/2.

    I don’t need a codpiece this trip.


    – A.

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