LDP planning major energy policy rethink

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

The Liberal Democratic Party, which promoted nuclear power during its postwar reign of nearly five decades, launched a special committee Tuesday to draft a new comprehensive energy policy that its members say could lead to a drastic shift in thinking.

“A key point of (discussions) by this committee will be that all energy policies will face a zero-based review,” said panel head Ichita Yamamoto, LDP deputy policy research council chairman, at the group’s first meeting.

On short-term issues, the panel will discuss how the party deals with a bill to promote renewable energy, which Prime Minister Naoto Kan is eager to pass, and restart nuclear reactors that have been shut down in various parts of the nation either before or amid the current crisis.

In the process of drafting the party’s new long-term energy policy, the committee plans to discuss whether it would really be possible to drop atomic power. It will also review past LDP nuclear policy.

The party long promoted construction of nuclear plants as pork-barrel projects, so it is unclear if it can come up with a new policy free of past constraints.

With the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant accident, the energy issue, especially what to do with atomic power, is the focus of strong public attention.

In its campaign pledges for the 2010 Upper House election, the LDP said nuclear power is essential to mitigate global warming and vowed to pursue construction of more plants, while it also said it would increase the ratio of renewable natural resource energy to 20 percent of Japan’s total energy consumption by 2020.

Also, since Kan hinted energy policy may be a key factor in the next general election, the issue is drawing strong media attention.

Kan has shown keen interest in renewable energy sources, including solar, wind and thermal, and could call a snap election and seek a voter mandate for a shift away from nuclear power.

Yamamoto said the committee will compile an interim report in a month.