When I think of Japan I equate it with Tokyo and the hyper-technology feel of that city. I imagine miles of buildings and skyscrapers gluttonously using energy, and of all the different electronic gadgets constantly being employed by millions of people in one of the richest industrialized nations in the world. But what is Japan’s per capita energy consumption compared to other countries?
When I learned that Japan’s per capita energy consumption is about half of the average American’s, I was shocked. How can Americans use twice the amount of energy as the Japanese?
Geography – The population density plays a role, it’s much higher than America’s. That means more demand for limited space and resources. Less need to commute long distances every day.
Lower Consumption – Material possessions fewer because of less land equating to smaller apartments and smaller cars. All this means less energy use. America more spread out and it’s harder to efficiently deliver energy to a larger, widely spread area of most cities. Canada has a higher per capita consumption in part because of geography and cold weather, so we can’t be completely to blame for our energy use.
Compared To Other Countries: However, geography doesn’t get us off the hook that easily. In fact geography can’t justify our energy use when compared to other large countries like Germany. Here’s a couple of lists on countries and their per capita energy consumption for comparison.
The United States has less than 5% of the world population but it accounts for 25% of the world’s energy use and over one-third of greenhouse emissions. Our carbon output is so high that our carbon footprints are over 5 times larger than our peers in Japan.
Cheap Energy: A big factors leading to Japan’s per capita energy consumption and a significantly higher American consumption is our being accustomed to low energy prices because of the abundance of cheap fuel sources, coal and natural gas and subsidized gasoline production.
Japan on the other hand, has fewer natural energy resources and in order to limit its dependence of imports, has long encouraged it citizens to conserve energy with higher prices. Germany and other European nations do the same and the result is the same: higher prices for energy consumption reduce energy consumption markedly. Its simple market economics. Part of its effectiveness is that this encourages people to avoid wasting energy like leaving the TV and lights on.
Higher Energy Costs Needed To Bring More Energy Efficiency Focus: As American’s see the price of gasoline approach $5/gallon, their consumption habits will fall more in line with other countries – hopefully. Gasoline in other countries is 2-3x what Americans pay, so cars aren’t used as heavily. Our addiction to driving everywhere, for everything, for any reason is a strong reason why our country consumes so much energy.
If Americans simply cut energy consumption down to Japan’s level, which is more than reasonable, it would roughly equate to 100 million less energy-hungry consumers on this planet. If another advanced country can generate less harmful CO2, with a little more self control, why can’t the United States?
All it takes is a little discipline and self restraint and we can quickly realize dramatic energy savings. We can all reduce our footprint and realize something closer to Japan’s per capital energy consumption.