March 24, 2011
Energy Shortages In Japan

We all take electric power for granted (survivalists excepted). But as the Japanese are finding, we are one disaster away from electric power shortages.

The first pitch of Japan's baseball season has been pushed back so that people don't waste gasoline driving to games. When the season does start, most night games will be switched to daytime so as not to squander electricity. There'll be no extra innings.

Tokyo's iconic electronic billboards have been switched off. Trash is piling up in many northern Japanese cities because garbage trucks don't have gasoline. Public buildings go unheated. Factories are closed, in large part because of rolling blackouts and because employees can't drive to work with empty tanks.

Just what disasters could cause severe power shortages varies by country. Nations differ greatly in the extent of their vulnerability. But a solar Carrington event would leave many countries short on electric power.

TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) used to average 51 million kilowatt hours on average but now tops out at 35 million kilowatts. Summertime needs are at about 60 million. Living in Tokyo this summer won't be pleasant.

Since Japan is divided between 60 Hz and 50 Hz grids with little connection between them the western 60 Hz grid has lots of power while the 50 Hz grid (which has Fukushima and Tokyo in it) has a severe electric power shortage. The rolling blackouts make electric train commuting intermittent and this disrupts work schedules.

In order to rebuild areas damaged by earthquakes and the tsunami Japan's steel mills need to ramp up production. But while the mills suffered little damage they lack sufficient electric power to operate at maximum capacity. Since the Japanese are steel exporters they can probably compensate by exporting less steel.

You might think the Japanese could save electric power by rapidly switching to more energy efficient appliances. But their standards for appliance efficiency are already very high (higher than the United States) and they've already made many of the easy changes for boosting energy efficiency. High energy efficiency has a curious side effect: If a single unit of energy enables production of a large quantity of goods and services then elimination of that unit of energy causes a larger reduction in total output than would happen in a less energy efficient economy.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 March 24 11:46 PM  Energy Shortages

Gulfcoast said at March 25, 2011 2:15 PM:

Actually, many who live where hurricanes hit don't take it for granted. We realize our personal dependence on electric power already. We went 4 weeks without power after one storm - food preservation is impossible, cooking a challenge (you can cook pizza on the grill), better know where the flashlights are before dark and books instead of the internet or tv, cell phone systems patchy or down, atm's and gas station pumps don't work without power etc.

Kathy Kinsley said at March 25, 2011 2:41 PM:

Another gulf-coaster here.

What Gulfcoast said. We weren't ever out quite that long, but even a week or two is plenty long enough. But believe me, everyone around here that lived here when Charley and/or Wilma hit us has stashes: (canned/dried, etc.) food, extra water, batteries, flashlights, battery-operated radios, etc. We learned.

Kathy Kinsley said at March 25, 2011 2:43 PM:

Oh and extra cash - those ATMs were out long enough after Charley that we had to go way out to get cash. Only problem was, there wasn't much gas available either.

Greenie Yanker said at March 26, 2011 6:53 AM:

Don't worry, Japan. Idiotic Americans will tonight at 8:30 make the stupid gesture of shutting off all of their electricity for 1 meaningless hour to demonstrate "solidarity" with Mother Earth. These self-righteous lefties will likely chant and imagine peace for the world, including Japan. That should be a big help. You're welcome.

Teri Pittman said at March 26, 2011 10:57 AM:

Food preservation impossible without electricity? No, you just don't know how it's done. I did 80 quarts of peaches one summer, canned water bath style over a campfire. I've used the old "larding" technique to preserve meat. Lacto-fermented and dried veggies are another option. If you have a UPS system for your computer, you can plug in a light and you'll have light enough at the start of the outage to find those flashlights. Purchase emergency supplies with an eye towards those that don't need refrigeration and learn how to cook with them before you need to.

Mthson said at March 26, 2011 11:04 AM:

Greenie Yanker,

Isn't it in our self-interest for leftists to voluntarily reduce their resource consumption? Reduced power-usage & vegetarianism, etc. are good for the world, even if we don't participate.

Lono said at March 29, 2011 9:34 AM:



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