Japan Turns to Biofuels to Curb Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By Randy Chen

Hong Kong - In an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Japan is launching a new biofuel campaign in an effort the Asian Island nation hopes will reduce air polution.

Part of Japan's goal is to reduce dependence on foreign oil in its move to convert up to 40 percent of its automobiles to biofuels within five years.

Vehicles account for 20 percent of Japan's oil consumption in a nation that is totally dependent on foreign energy imports. Japan's Environment Ministry said it is launching a campaign to manufacture ethanol from sugar cane produced on Miyako island in Japan's southern island chain of Okinawa.

Sugar cane can produce more ethanol than corn, which is the production plant of choice in America. Japan hopes to have gasohol, a blend of ethanol and gasoline, being used in 40 percent of its vehicles by 2010. The Japanese government is investing 300 billion yen (2.4 billion dollars) into the ethanol project.

Japan has been a big advocate of the campaign against global warming and is the home of the Kyoto Protocol, the first treaty mandating cuts in greenhouse emissions. With Japan's recent economic boom, many businesses there are unable to meet the mandate of the treaty that requires them to cut green house gas emissions six percent by by 2012 from the 1990 level.

Japan's investment in the ethanol project is expected to boost the economy of Okinawa substantially, which has the highest unemployment rate in the country and is heavily reliant on tourism and US military bases.