Loss of Nuclear Has Cut Japan's Energy, Increased Carbon Emissions
The loss of nuclear power has shredded Japan's economy, turned it into an importer instead of an exporter and ended any aspirations it had for lowering its carbon emissions.
Fukushima's four reactors are no longer functional but the government has taken more than 40 other reactors offline as well because of public anxieties about nuclear power. The result has been a return to fossil fuels, particularly imported oil. Forecasts for next year are that coal imports will rise 5.3 percent, gas imports 16.1 percent and oil imports an incredible 77 percent. Energy imports will increase 25 percent overall. These imports, coupled with the loss of industrial capacity, have completely reversed Japan's balance of trade. After running a trading surplus of over $100 billion annually for the last decade, Japan ran a negative balance of $32 billion in 2011.
As industries cut back and the government encouraged conservation measures, total energy consumption fell 9.8 percent from November 2010 to November 2011. Despite this drop in energy consumption, carbon emissions have risen sharply because of the loss of no-carbon nuclear. As the graph shows, energy consumption and carbon emissions have tracked each other very consistently since 2008. After Fukushima, however, they diverge. Carbon emissions have risen 15 percent year-on-year, from 2.01 metric tons CO2 per terawatt of energy in November 2010 to 2.31 in November 2011.
The Breakthrough Institute reports that Japan's leaders have virtually conceded that they have no hope of meeting near-term carbon targets anymore. In addition, they have refused to sign onto any new binding agreements for emissions reductions.