Taro Kono, an outspoken opponent of nuclear power in the business-oriented Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said Aug. 9 that Japan should shift to renewable energy by 2050 by reducing energy consumption and filling any power shortage with natural gas.
“I think it’s time for the LDP to leave power companies, join with the general public and seriously present an alternative to the (current) energy policy,” Kono, an LDP member of the powerful House of Representatives, said during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) in Tokyo.
“Our strategy should be to reduce energy consumption first, then cover (any shortfall) with renewable (energy) as much as possible. And if there is still a gap, let’s use natural gas,” he said of his energy program, aimed at eliminating dependence on nuclear energy.
An advocate of a nuclear-free energy policy even before the onset of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, Kono, 48, challenged his own party to drop its pro-nuclear policy — a change which he said could force the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to change its current energy policy. But he said he is not optimistic about such a change happening anytime soon.
He said he is skeptical because his own party has received huge amounts of money from power companies and the DPJ has been supported by labor unions at those same firms. “So both parties are very (much) under the strong influence of the power companies,” he added.
He asked if Japan could break up such a vicious cycle before answering himself, saying, “That’s the test we have to pass.”
During the press conference at the FCCJ, Kono expressed willingness to run for the LDP presidency again next year. In the 2009 LDP presidential election, following the general elections that drove the long-dominant LDP out of power, former Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki beat former Senior Vice Justice Minister Kono and former Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura for the party leadership.
He said he is sticking with the largest opposition LDP because there is no alternative. “So my only alternative is to stick with the LDP and take it over, or just start up a new party” like his father Yohei.
The elder Kono, also a lower house member, left the LDP in 1976 to join the breakaway conservative party New Liberal Club before rejoining the LDP in 1986. He later served as LDP president and Speaker of the lower house. (By Shiro Yoneyama, Staff Writer)