I am currently in Japan on personal business. This morning, I checked my English-language copy of a local Japanese newspaper to see what sort of stories are dominating the discussion in a nation that is not concerned about primaries, Trayvon Martin, or the constitutionality of the individual mandate.
I was surprised to learn that Japan is preparing for power shortages in the summer because of the tsunami and earthquake that took place last year. Here is the lead story from the Daily Yomiuri's Business section:
Staying cool in the heat: Drink, ice-cream makers bracing for summer power shortages
When the summer heat arrives, you will still be able to reach for an ice cream or a chilled beverage to stay cool.
Although this summer could bring an even more severe power shortage than the one that gripped Japan last year, beverage and ice-cream companies have been taking steps to ensure they will not have to reduce capacity during the high season for their products.
These manufacturers have been preparing power generators and energy-efficient facilities at their factories.
Kirin Brewery Co., for example, is installing a natural gas power generator at its factory in Taga, Shiga Prefecture. After being completed by July, the 700 million yen facility, which can generate 3,650 kilowatts per hour, will be operated around the clock to cover about 60 percent of the plant's power consumption.
However, the nation's power supply capacity has significantly declined since then because Kansai Electric Power Co. and Chubu Electric Power Co. have suspended operations of their nuclear reactors.
There is no prospect that these nuclear reactors will be restarted in the immediate future. This has sparked concerns that Japan could suffer a power supply shortage for an extended period.
Asahi Breweries President Akiyoshi Koji said making a capital investment in energy-efficient facilities now will pay off in the long run, considering that electricity charges are expected to be increased nationwide.
In the same newspaper, a short story about why it is taking so long to restore nuclear power to Japan:
"Local governmentts unhappy about nuclear plant restart policy:"
Local governments in and near Fukui Prefecture, which hosts the Oi nuclear power plant, are critical of the central government's inconsistency over procedures to restart operations of the plant's Nos. 3 and 4 reactors, located in the town of Oi in the prefecture.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda instructed relevant Cabinet ministers to draw up new safety criteria for restarting idled reactors.
Oi Mayor Shinobu Tokioka maintained a cautious stance, just saying, "I'm not in a position to comment."
But Oi Town Assembly Chairman Kinya Shintani criticized the central government for its inconsistency.
"The government changes its views in the morning and in the evening, and different people say different things. I want them to unify their views," Shintani said.
Political dysfunction: not just an American problem!