Sunday, January 6, 2008

Japanese Ethanol

Approaching the Group of Eight summit in Hokkaido, Japan, that was to be a time to discuss the next step forward in combating global warming, the Japanese government was dealt a serious setback. The Daily Yomiuri, one of Japan's premier newspapers, is reporting that the Japanese government's plans to blend 3% ethanol into the gasoline sold on a sugar cane rich island in the Southern part of Japan has fallen through. Evidently, Miyakojima is situated in the Okinawa Islands in extreme southern Japan and has a large amount of sugar cane, which is able to grow well on the tropical island. The government wanted to blend 3% ethanol into the 19 gasoline stations on the island to help offset some of the greenhouse gases seen as contributing to global warming. However, the Petroleum Association of Japan stepped in and was able to convince Nippon Oil Corporation, the owner of 16 of the 19 gas stations on the island, to refuse to blend ethanol into their gasoline. Because of the staunch opposition from the oil industry, the government was forced to give up plans on the island for the time being.

Japan does have a problem -- because of its size and population density, biofuels simply will not work using conventional cellulosic materials on the island. That is why technologies such as electric hybrids or ethanol derived from municipal wastes are in such high demand. They simply must move towards the ideas that might cost more than the plant-derived materials the United States or Brazil can use, because they have too. Either way, I guess we better hope that the Group of Eight nations have a better plan to move forward on preventing GHG emissions at their summit because, if left up to the Petroleum Association of Japan, the Japanese will continue to drive on regular gasoline.

To follow up with the original article, follow this link to the Daily Yomiuri:

Below is a map of the Japanese Islands (Okinawa in the lower left hand corner), and the prefecture of Okinawa pictured with Miyako Island shown.


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