Name of article: Surplus green energy eyed for fuel cell cars in Japan
My article is about a model project started by the Environment Ministry of Japan in which surplus electricity generated from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power will be utilized to produce hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles. A growing number of companies in the solar and wind power generation industries have established their business bases in Hokkaido, whose wide, open spaces are well suited to the setup of solar panels and wind turbines. It also highlights the benefit of utilizing power from renewable energy sources, stating that this would result in “lower carbon dioxide emissions than producing hydrogen from fossil fuels.” The government has set a target of building 100 hydrogen filling stations by the end of fiscal 2015, and also plans to install solar panels at these stations so hydrogen can be produced on-site. This project also coincides with Toyota’s introduction of its fuel cell vehicles on the market by 2015. Executives at Germany’s Volkswagen have also said that fuel cell vehicles are unlikely to catch on outside Japan, where the government wants a “hydrogen society” with fuel cells powering offices, homes, and cars.
In doing this, Japan perpetuates its “green” image by showing its aim to maximize the use of green energy and even using surplus power, as well as spreading the use of fuel cell vehicles. It paints a very idealistic picture of the project, only presenting the ministry’s plans and ideas in a positive light, without any mention of any possible problems or setbacks this project might face, or the responses of Japanese society. This also helps to boost the Japanese government’s public image, through demonstrating their efforts in becoming more environmentally friendly and the increasing use of renewable and greener energy sources, especially with the controversy over nuclear power. However, it remains to be seen whether Japan’s society will embrace fuel cell vehicles.
Also, although using renewable energy sources and producing hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles may appear to be more environmentally friendly as compared to using fossil fuels or nuclear energy, the establishment of solar panels, wind turbines and business bases by companies in places like Hokkaido with an abundance of wide open spaces are affecting nature and the environment. This echoes Kalland and Asquith’s point that “environmental features falling outside the valued aesthetic and symbolic boundaries tended to be ignored, considered irrelevant, or judged unappealing”, and “Japan’s appreciation for nature was limited and idealized.” This is demonstrated in how Hokkaido’s green plains are not seen as “aesthetically pleasing” in any way, and hence conveniently ignored, eventually being removed and replaced by industrial companies and solar panels or wind turbines. It accentuates the contradictory stance Japan has towards nature, where they ironically destroy nature to appear “environmentally conscious and friendly” by establishing alternative energy sources.
Asquith, P. J. and Kalland, A. 1997. ‘Japanese Perceptions of Nature: Ideals and Illusions,’ in Japanese Images of Nature: Cultural Perspectives ed. Asquith, P. J. and Kalland, A., Curzon Press, UK: 1-35.