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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF JAPAN?



BLEAK!  Not only is the entire country in the "Ring of Fire" where they almost surely will again be devastated by another earthquake (there is a 70% chance a 7.0 or larger will strike the Tokyo region within the next 30 years), this weekend in a man-made landslide by the lowest voter turnout since the postwar, Japan indirectly elected the worst possible Prime Minister imaginable.  The Liberal Democratic Party will select Shinzo Abe this week.  He already got booted as prime minister in 2007 after serving less than a year for this party, which performed so poorly, that it was replaced by the Democratic Party of Japan in 2009.  Abe indicated that he will partner with the New Komeito Party, which brings some troubling religious implications to the table.  This is almost (although, admittedly, a huge exaggeration) like Barack Obama linking with the Muslim Brotherhood, if this were possible.

The new Liberal Democratic Party (which has conservative, or "Republican", views) will be much more nationalistic, and is almost certain to royally piss off China even more.  This would not be wise, for the Chinese government controls industry and holds sufficient influence over local consumers such that trade with Japan's biggest partner will be severely compromised.  As poorly as Sony, Panasonic and Sharp are now doing, it will get much worse.  Toyota is particularly being targeted by Chinese protesters, with boycotts coming.

About the economy, Japan is in its fifth straight month of trade deficits, with November of this year 38% worse than last year.  But this is not a big deal because the USA hasn't had a positive balance of trade for the year since 1975.  If you're counting, that's 37 years.  Confused?  Read this.  Then, Japan's public debt to Gross Domestic Product ratio is about a world worst 200+%.  Bad?  Not really, for most of this debt is to its own people.  Take a look at the interest rate to the right.  America's ratio is in the range of 100%, which scares a lot of people, but we too are getting by on low interest rates.  However, wars cost money:


Note how our debt jumps during all our wars.  While interest rates are less than 2%, its smart to borrow.  When inflation occurs, we become a lending nation, using the low 5-10 year loans from China, etc., as the base.

All this posturing will be played out over a few tiny islands that could well be a source of future oil and minerals.  What does the headline say on Abe's first day on the job?

  New Japan leader vows no compromise on islands

Unfortunately, too, these attitudes will only mean increasing military expenditures for these two countries, money that could be put to better use for domestic needs.  If only China could surprise the world by hosting an Asian Summit to equally share these islands.  Such a simple, but, apparently, impossible, solution!

Then, of course, there is Fukushima.  While being adjacent to the sea could make this very difficult, rather than remove all the radioactive material over the next forty years (and to where??), it might be best to build a super sarcophagus over the entire nuclear site, such as is being currently accomplished at Chernobyl (left) at an estimated cost of only a little more than a billion dollars.  Tokyo Electric Power Company is seeking $125 billion for clean-up.  That whole region around the reactors should be converted into a national park, sort of a mega Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear peace park.  That giant concrete grave would then serve as a symbolic warning to humanity.  Don't want to get too ghoulish about this, but from cataclysm can come a major tourist attraction.

Ironically enough, Prime Minister-to-be Abe will also restore nuclear power, and, more so, murmur thoughts to build new ones.  Japanese nuclear-related stocks are now rallying.  All this will certainly tick off many LDL voters.  Frankly, Abe has no other option.  Japan has not much sun, wind and land, with limited geothermal potential.  Odds are that Germany, too, will within a few years rescind their no nuke policy.  For the transition, humanity is stuck with fossil fuels and nuclear power, with Japan choosing to import more liquified natural gas and hydrocarbons.  Fine, for now.  What else can they do?  What else can they do?  Better than  coal.  Global heating?  It will still only worsen.

But the clear solution for Japan in the long term is the ocean around them.  Click on my Huffington Post article:


Their Exclusive Economic Zone is twelve times larger than their land area.  While marine methane hydrates are also at the sea bottom, this fossil fuel is quite dispersed and economic harvesting will be problematic.  And you don't want to wake up a sleeping dog, for the Venus Syndrome could be catalyzed. Thus, the various renewable marine energy options must be developed.  With the Blue Revolution, a cornucopia of sustainable products can be produced.  Should they succeed, and this will take a quarter century, then, when global warming finally forces governments to agree on a carbon tax, Japan will be way ahead of the world.

Thus, I repeat, the next decade will be bleak for Japan.  Shinzo Abe will do well to survive 2013.  Remember, he is the seventh prime minister since 2006, so this would not be particularly embarrassing.  Don't be surprised if he is replaced by a female, Seiko Noda (left) or  Yuriko Koike (right).  Like the USA, Japan has never had a female leader.  Geun-Hye Park (below) could well become the first South Korean female president, and voting has just started at this posting.  Anyway, if Japan takes the smart steps on domestic spending and sustainability over the next ten years, they could well, in time, return to a world economic leadership role.


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