As the developed world moves farther and farther away from coal-fired energy, one major economy is breaking the trend. Japan, in a move that few could have foreseen, has opened at least eight brand new coal-burning power plants in the last two years and has plans for at least 36 more in the next ten years.
This ambitious return to coal far outstrips any other developed nation, and it’s only speeding up. Last month the Japanese government made major advancements to officially adopt a national energy plan that would see 26 percent of the country’s total electricity come from coal in 2030, directly contradicting a previous directive to cut back coal usage to just 10 percent of total electricity.
One major reason for the stark turnaround in policy is the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The tragedy provided a huge blow to the Japanese public’s support for nuclear energy. After the Fukushima disaster, all 54 of Japan’s nuclear reactors were shut down as they awaited new rigorous safety standards. To date, just seven of the 54 have reopened for business. In order to fulfill demand, the nation has turned to natural gas and, more surprisingly, coal.
Fukushima: The Story o…
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However, despite all the love lost for nuclear, there are also plenty of critics to Japan’s new direction, who say that the government is being weak on renewables and that the return to coal guarantees a major rise in air pollution, standing in direct conflict with Japan’s pledges to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. As it stands now, the country is responsible for a whopping 4 percent of global emissions, and that’s before the impending…