The Japanese government has begun a series of formal public forums ostensibly to gain consensus on three proposed medium-term energy scenarios. The first two meetings were held last weekend and have led to public outrage over alleged astroturfing propaganda, called yarase (pronounced yah-rah-say if you’re American) in Japanese.
Two forums held in Sendai and Nagoya included high level power industry employees that were supposedly chosen at random from the public to speak out on the energy scenarios in the public forum. The forums are supposed to be fair and represent general public opinion.
At the Sendai forum one of the panel members announced his employer’s outlook on nuclear power – his employer is Tohohoku Electric Power. Another panel member was from a nuclear power association. The revelations lead to understandably extreme outrage from the members of the audience and the discussion had to be cut short.
In Nagoya, a similar situation occurred as well. The most pro-nuclear panel member announced that though he is an employee of Chubu Electric Power, he going to state his own opinions. Needless to say, his “own opinions” were that Japan should have as much nuclear power as possible. As in the Sendai forum, the Nagoya forum ended in extreme outrage.
The outrage was reported on most major Japanese television news networks including NHK, TBS, Asahi and others. TV Asahi’s superb “Houdou Station” (News Station) 10PM news show devoted over 40 minutes to the nuclear protests and yarase public opinion manipulation issues on Monday night.
It was revealed that a major Japanese advertising agency was managing the public forums for the government. In Japan, the advertising agencies are highly vested in protecting the existing electric power companies as they are the largest advertisers traditionally and pundits (very accurately) state that it is impossible for them to build fair public forums.
Japan’s government is proposing three energy scenarios for the year 2030. The “Zero” scenario calls for the elimination of nuclear power by 2030 to be replaced aggressively with renewable energy and efficiency improvements. The “15” scenario calls for 15% nuclear, and the “20-25” scenario calls for 20% to 25% nuclear in 2030. The 20-25 scenario would definitely require new nuclear plants to be built, and the 15 scenario would realistically require new plants.
The forums call for public volunteers to speak on their choice of scenario. Each scenario is to have three randomly chosen representatives who speak in front of a public audience. The system is a completely new methodology for Japan in an attempt to regain public trust.
It was revealed by several news reports that the vast majority of panel volunteers were for the “Zero” scenario. There were relatively few volunteers for the “15” and “20-25” scenarios. In fact over two thirds (68%) of the volunteers support the “Zero” scenario. Less than 13% supported the government supported “15” scenario, and less than 20% supported the “20-25” scenario.
News commentators indicated that the relatively larger percentage of applicants in the “20-25” scenario compared to the “15” scenario represent efforts by the power companies to infiltrate the forums, or the cooperation between the government and the power companies to create the image of an actual fair forum.
Outraged citizens are now calling for a total rethinking of the public debate system. Some commonly mentioned points include:
– the three scenarios themselves are irrelevant, there are really only two choices: nuclear or no nuclear
– the even representation of the three scenarios do not represent public opinion as the vast majority of the public wants an immediate or timely elimination of nuclear
– the people on the panel should be randomly chosen, but were obviously manipulated by the government
This is not the first time that the nuclear industry and the government has heavily manipulated supposedly “fair” public hearings. Since the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe a large number of manipulated public hearings have been revealed in the news.
In any event, the Japanese public is no longer docile, nor willing to unquestioningly accept what the government and electric industry say. Massive protests are occurring weekly in Tokyo and politicians are terrified of the next national elections scheduled for next year. This yarase scandal is throwing even more fuel into a raging fire, the exact opposite of what the government and it’s pet industry expected.