“Yarase” Is Astroturfing Propaganda In Japanese

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.

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5 thoughts on ““Yarase” Is Astroturfing Propaganda In Japanese

  1. Kevin,

    Thanks for the info! Finding good articles about what’s going on energywise in Japan is difficult at the best of times, particularly here in the UK with the Olympics around the corner.

    I suppose on the one hand you can understand employee’s of a nuclear company showing up to such events, as after all they have a very strong opinion on the matter (that they’d like to keep their job!). But if the forum asks for an un-biased person to chair it or give an opinion, then you really should keep quiet and not volunteer yourself. If I was attending a talk on such matters here in the UK, I’d either keep quiet or upon opening my mouth I’d first point out that I had worked on renewables research (but don’t do so at the moment) so that my position and any “bias” was understood.

    Also, are these employee’s wandering in on their own initiative or are the nuke companies prodding them into attending? Sort of reminds me of this skit in the Simpson’s where Mr Burns shows up in disguise at a talk and try’s to talk the town into giving money to that nuclear plant on the outskirts. Life intimidating art I suppose!

  2. Also,

    This issue of nuclear phase out. I suppose I’d be minded to support the zero option. Indeed in my recent post on this topic I believe I showed how Japan can get by without nuclear perfectly well, without necessarily seeing an increase in carbon emissions. But the devil’s in the detail (i.e. rather than renewables being stifled by the nuclear lobby, will it just be the coal lobby instead!)
    http://daryanenergyblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/japan-a-post-nuclear-vision/

    I suppose I have some sympathy for the government’s attempts to bring about a compromise, as they don’t want to throw away the trillions of yen invested in the industry over the last few decades. But I often find that opinions on nuclear tend to be either strongly against (no nukes, period!) or strongly in favour (megalomaniac and implausibly large numbers of nuclear reactors).

    Here’s a compromise, no new reactors, complete long term phase out of all plants when they hit their retirement age of 40 years, with all of the older reactors of the Fukushima era or older closing down straight away, as well as those on or near fault lines (on which point who in their right mind build’s a nuclear plant in an earthquake zone, that’s like putting up a lumber yard across the road from a rehab centre for pyromaniacs). Or am I being way too sensible?

    If Japan does go for zero nuclear that has big implications for the rest of the world. Remember that about 60-70% of the world’s reactor cores come from that one JSW factory out on Hokkaido. If that places closes, or retools and starts churning out Geothermal/solar CSP parts instead, then global reactor output will fall significantly. Countries like the UK or US will find it impossible to build reactors quickly enough to even replace half their existing fleet, country’s like China or India will find it impossible to meet their current targets, the costs of those reactors will soar (sellers market, and the 2nd biggest facility is in Russia!) and many nations looking to build they’re first reactor will be unable to do so, as they’ll simply not be able to order the kit.

    The UK’s current delusions towards a Japanese built Fast reactor goes out the window and what about the IFMIF half of the ITER program? If that gets canned or delayed, the timetable for commercial fusion (which is dubious at best concept I would argue) goes to pot too.

    So Japan going for nuke zero would essentially spell the beginning of the end of the global nuclear industry.

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