Energy efficiency has been a buzzword for years now, but it seems no matter how many Hybrid cars are on the road or how many Energy Star appliances are sold, we still can’t seem to kick the fossil fuel habit. Perhaps it’s time to take a page out of our friend Japan’s playbook. Japan is fast becoming the most energy efficient country in the world by using a combination of government regulations, business policies and necessary individual dedication.
In the face of multiple natural disasters endured this year, the Japanese people have taught themselves to make due with less, including electricity. The latest Japanese tragedy, the earthquake in March, shut down the majority of Japan’s nuclear reactors, making a major energy shortage a realistic threat. However, with just 19 of its 54 reactors in operation, the small island country has done well for itself.
Individual households are quickly adopting energy efficient technology like washing machines and hybrid cars while business are substituting fans and blinds for air conditioning and turning off appliances during lunch breaks. Meanwhile, the government has placed gasoline at $5.20 a gallon, making fuel consumption undesirable. The government then turns around and uses this tax revenue to subsidize things like highly efficient fuel cells that can power an entire house on natural fuel at a fraction of the cost. The government hopes that with mass production this technology will become more affordable for the majority of Japanese. Additionally, as the Japanese move away from nuclear power, they are investing solar and wind technology. The country hopes to see a massive decrease in dependence on nuclear power in the near future.
A typical Japanese household uses only half of what its American counterparts do - an accomplishment worthy of noting. As we strive to use our energy (and our money for that matter) as efficiently as possible, the Japanese example can be a working model on both the individual and corporate level. Japan has proved it can be done, now it’s up to the international community to follow suit.