Shinji Sato, minister of international trade and industry, pledged his support Feb. 13 for efforts by gas utilities to shift from petroleum gas to natural gas, which is kinder to the environment. “The government will promote the use of natural gas by utilizing both the national budget and (the) treasury investment and loan program,” he said.

Sato’s remarks came during his meeting with representatives from the gas industry, headed by Hiroshi Watanabe, chairman of Tokyo Gas Co., a MITI official told reporters.

Natural gas is one of the preferred energy sources because it emits no sulfur oxides and only small amounts of carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Out of a total 244 gas utilities, 125 firms have already shifted to natural gas, representing 81 percent of the total city gas supply, according to the ministry. The initial cost required to make such a shift has been an obstacle for the remaining 119 companies, which are all small and medium-size, the MITI official said.

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