Dr. Kent Calder, the Director of Asia Programs and Director of Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Students at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, moderated the discussion. Panelists included Admiral Dennis Blair, Chairman and Distinguished Senior Fellow at Sasakawa USA; Tom Cutler, an energy consultant specializing in Asian energy security and trade; Jane Nakano, Senior Fellow, Energy and National Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Dr. Michael Smitka, Professor of Economics at Washington and Lee University; and Nobuo Tanaka, the Chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and former Executive Director of the International Energy Agency.
The panel, reflecting the core themes of the book, touched on the many energy security policy challenges Japan has faced since the Fukushima disaster, with emphasis on Japan’s decreased energy self-sufficiency; its ninety percent dependence on imported fossil fuels; a deteriorating trade balance; high electricity tariffs; and increased CO2 emissions. The discussants sought to root many of these issues in the aftermath of the 3/11 Fukushima nuclear disaster, and established the disaster as one of the catalysts for the change in Japan’s energy relationship.
At the discussion’s start, Calder stated that “the relationship of Japan’s energy security is inevitably intertwined with broader security issues,” which perhaps encompassed the broad nature of the book itself. Each panelist discussed their own research on topics including energy supply and markets, energy demand and productivity, transportation, supply and demand management, and geopolitics. Japan’s Energy Conundrum attempts to provide a more comprehensive background and context for a subject not widely understood in the United States, though many panelists agreed it would be quite applicable to the U.S. energy-security relationship as well.
Yoshida argued that the crux of Japan’s energy conundrum lay in its inability to determine “how to provide an affordable and environmentally friendly energy supply that is still resilient to the unexpected,” and perhaps most importantly, politically achievable. Although many countries and regions are faced with a similar conundrum, Yoshida and Nakano noted that Japan is “unique” given its size and almost complete lack of domestic fossil fuel resources, in addition to the aftermath it faced after the 3/11 disaster.
The question and answer portion of the discussion focused more on the geopolitics of the energy-security relationship and, in particular, the role of Russia in the energy security balance in Asia.