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Sunday, 18 November 2012

Winds of long-term hope.

'A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.' And to know everything is impossible. How to find the truth, the bare objective facts gets harder every second in almost every area as new stats or discoveries are published.

Especially surrounding the secretive world of the Fukushima clean up and Japan's path toward alternative renewable energy sources. There is a massive amount of confusing data and political discrepancy about what is being planned longterm for energy infrastructure. There is no smart-grid reference, no clearly defined govt endorsed policy or map forward and we are left with all the big name industrial companies proposing agendas with diff priorities and timelines. It is so confusing.

Recently I learned that one of the leaders in our town for the promotion of wind energy was receiving threatening phone calls from citizens directly opposed to the expansion of the wind turbine program. It was just one of many incidents that have shown that the seeming solidarity of the anti nuke force has an equally solid and active opposition party.

One of the main objections to the expansion of WWS energy sources from laypeople is the initial cost and the necessary increase in electric bills needed short term in order to pay for the shift to an alternative energy network. Materials needed like neodymium for turbine gearboxes and indium for solar cells; lithium for ion batteries and fuel cell platinum. These are all metals or compounds that given funding can eventually be replaced with man made alternatives but as with almost every scientific innovation ever begun involve initial financial investment.

Surely the world and Japan needs to think long term not short term. Of course short term management and considerations are important too- dealing with the food labeling and testing of radioactivity for example, but short term projects are band aids not cures or promises that the same will not happen again.

Since 3.11 seismic activity along fault-lines under Japan, and in fact the whole world has increased dramatically. It is entirely possible that another major quake could hit Japan and another nuclear meltdown happen.

The cost of cleaning up Fukushima as well as the appalling health risks of any nuclear disaster has to be included in the package of 'cheaper' energy.

If the main public opposition to wind and solar power in Japan continues to be the initial expense we need to find a way to explain in simple terms to people the disparity of logic within the concepts of short term and long term gains.

If we continue to rely on nuclear energy in a land rocked by quakes and tidal waves (all nuclear plants in Japan are coastal) we will need - middle term- new plants, repair and huge safety reforms as well as long term the hidden costs of pollution, contamination of soil water and food supply, climate interference and more. Are the short term economic benefits really worth all this long term ecological and therefore ultimately economical sabotage? And if not, do we really care about our future as a human race?

The shift to dependency on wind and solar power is absolutely do-able. The initial expense and inconvenience is a small and reasonable price to pay. We should be embracing the idea with excitement and hope , not fear and suspicion. Japan lies under one of the highest wind density zones in the world. Wind can be harnessed at both ends of the inland sea by tidal flow turbines, generating electricity in both directions. Wind power produces zero greenhouse gases and pollutants; in terms of environmental impact, long term and middle term cost efficiency it is the top energy source available to us in Japan.

It is a crying shame that a commitment to change is so difficult to orchestrate and co- ordinate; and that we cannot widen our vision from macro to panorama.