From Earth Common Journal VOL. 4 NO. 1
Opportunities and Challenges of Allocation of Alternative Energy Resources in Japan
Global Views of Energy Resources
Sustainable energy technologies are important to develop because they have potential to mitigate climate change (Balachandra, Kristle & Reddy, 2010, pp. 1842-1851). There are many criteria that need to be met for efficient and useable sustainable energy technologies, such as accessibility to remote locales, user friendliness, adaptability to local conditions, efficiency and reliability (Balachandra et al., 2010, pp. 1842-1851). Countries that attribute large portions of their gross domestic product and gross national product on oil and petroleum will face problems in the future.
Population growth and consumerist societies are increasing the need for oil and gas; a need which is outpacing availability. Known petroleum reserves in the world will likely only last for forty to sixty years, according to the World Energy Council (Podobnik, 1999, pp. 155-172). For this reason, resources such as petroleum are both economically and environmentally unsustainable. Early development of alternative technologies is important in ensuring that the future economy and environment of a country is secure. Development of alternative energy sources should be a global priority, as the present overuse of fossil fuels are resulting in global warming which poses negative consequences to the environment internationally.
In December of 2009, world leaders assembled at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to discuss possible plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The main agreements were that renewable energies are necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and crucial for an infinite availability of electricity supply. Major concerns for selecting an appropriate alternative energy source are safety of humans and care of the environment (Lee et al., 2012, pp. 1271-1291). Global warming and diminishing fossil fuel supplies are forcing other countries, not just Japan, to reconsider the energy resources that they are consuming and developing. In the United States, coal and natural gas account for seventy percent of electricity generation. The development of new technologies is essential for energy use that moves away from fossil fuels (Ansolabehere & Konisky, 2012, p. 61). In a series of public opinion surveys carried out at Harvard and MIT Universities, individuals were found to hold beliefs about fuel resources that did not accurately reflect the true benefits and harms of each energy source in both economic and environmental terms.
Additionally, individuals value both the environment and affordability of fuel resources (Ansolabehere & Konisky, 2012, p. 61). Because of the inaccurate beliefs held by individuals about energy resources, further education to individuals should be a priority, so that people may make informed decisions about what type of energy resources they would prefer to have in place. Governmental and non-governmental organizations that are concerned with climate change and its relation to fossil fuel burning would be a beneficial resource to provide accurate and non-biased information to the public on the topic of energy resources. Solar power is one of the more popular choices for alternative energy following Fukushima.
Solar power is a clean, quiet and sustainable energy source that is gaining popularity due to high potential for emissions savings (Chen & Riffat, 2011, pp. 1-13). Photovoltaic power is expected to account for one percent of the world’s electricity generation in 2030, an increase from 2009, in which it accounted for 0.1 percent of worldwide electricity generation. This growing global popularity is driven by falling costs of solar power, introduction of new technologies, interest from investors, and strong policy support such as the feed-in tariff program in Japan (Lee et al., 2012, pp. 1271-1291). Now, more than fifty nations have implemented feed-in tariff programs to promote the use of renewable resources, such as solar or other applicable options, which have had more success than tax-based incentives (Frishberg, 2013, pp. 5-6).
Discussions of alternative energy resources have been encouraged recently in Japan. While other countries have been cutting back on incentive programs, Japan has not (Frishberg, 2013, pp. 5-6), making the country an example of both the problems and opportunities that are associated with policies that explore the implementation of alternative energy sources. While the environmental positives associated with alternatives such as solar power and nuclear power are globally beneficial, public opinion must be in support of these alternatives in order for them to become viable options. While nuclear power was quite a viable alternative, the accident at Fukushima shifted the public opinion and Japanese policy makers have been pressed to explore alternatives such as solar power.
Japan, like the rest of the world, must consider different options regarding energy generation and consumption for the future in order to mitigate the problems associated with energy resources such as oil and coal. While these have yet to be phased out in any country, Japan will be ahead of the competition in the future if they continue to explore alternative sources of energy. The increasing use of alternative energy resources in both Japan and in the rest of the world appears to be gaining popularity among the public. Development of efficient technology is globally essential in order to mitigate climate change and keep up with changing economies that will eventually feel pressure to move away from excessive use of fossil fuels. On a more individual scale, actively pressuring the governments to decrease use of petroleum products, as well as decreasing the use of these products when possible, can create a positive impact on global warming from decreased burning of fossil fuels.
Karin Snyder is in her final year of a Biological Sciences degree at MacEwan University
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