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Japan Biofuels Activities

Outline map of Japan.

Here you'll find information about Japan's work in biofuels. Learn more about its:

Background

Increasing oil prices and global warming prevention are the key drivers in Japan's biofuels campaign. Biofuels are also seen as an opportunity for business development and vitalization of rural and farming communities. The government strongly supports the development of innovative technologies for low-cost fuel ethanol.

Production and Feedstock

Japanese fuel ethanol production is in an experimental stage, and the current production level is 30,000 liters (April 2006). Figure 1 below depicts the location of the existing biorefineries. Sugarcane molasses in Okinawa, wheat and corn unsuitable for food in Hokkaido, sorghum in Yamagata, and wood residues in Okayama and Osaka are the raw materials used for ethanol production. To further promote domestic ethanol production, the government hopes to use abandoned arable land (Koizumi and Ohga 2007). It also will rely on technological breakthroughs in lignocellulosic ethanol in the near future, which would allow the use of waste material such as crop and wood residues.

A map showing current biorefineries in Japan, including top down, Tokachi area, Hokkaido; Shinjo city, Yamagata; Maniwa city, Okayama; Sakai city, Osaka; le village, Okinawa; and Liyako island, Okinawa.

Figure 1 Current Biorefineries in Japan (Koizumi and Ohga 2007)

Biodiesel doesn't receive as much attention as ethanol in Japan. Current annual production from used cooking oil is estimated at nearly 3 million liters. In 2006, Nippon Oil Corporation and Toyota Motor Corporation announced development of a palm oil-based biodiesel that performs comparably to petroleum diesel. They claim to have removed the oxygen from the palm oil, which would normally cause the fuel to degrade. Nippon Oil aims to develop a commercially viable biodiesel by 2010 (USDA 2006).

Economics

The following charts show specific economic statistics for the member economy.

EthanolUS$/liter
From sugarcane molasses1.20
From wheat1.26

BiodieselUS$/liter
From rapeseed2.9

Source: Koizumi and Ohga 2007

Biofuels in Use

Japan began testing E3 (3% ethanol and 97% gasoline) and ETBE (ethyl tertiary butyl ether) in 2007.

Infrastructure and Vehicles

Japan started to offer E3 at two gasoline stations, one in Sakai City and the other in Daito City, in October 2007. E3 is also offered in Osaka but is limited to about 100 cars registered in advance with the local government. Japan is gradually increasing the number of E3-supplying gas stations to sell the product to the general public in 2008. There are about 50 stations in the Tokyo metropolitan area offering ETBE blended gasoline. Their number is expected to reach 100 during 2008, increasing to 1,000 nationwide in 2009 (Asia Times 2007).

Trade

Japan imports ethanol (mostly from Brazil and China) to supply its beverage, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries. Brazil has the world's largest ethanol export potential, and it is seen by Japan as its major source of the alternative fuel. Last year, the governments of Japan and Brazil set up a study group on trading in the fuel. It is expected that large amounts of fuel ethanol will be imported from Brazil in the coming years (Ohmy News International 2007).

Policy

In 2002, the Biomass Nippon Strategy was published, which recognized the need to halt global warming, encourage recycling in Japanese society, and foster alternative energy industries. As a signer to the Kyoto Protocol, Japan has pledged to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% from 1990 levels by the year 2010. To reach that goal, the Japanese government plans to replace fossil fuels with 500,000 kiloliters of ethanol for the transportation sector by 2010. In addition, the new National Energy Strategy, compiled in 2007 by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), set a goal of reducing the nation's reliance on oil for transport to 80% from the current 100% by 2030.

A preferential tax system for gasoline blended with ethanol is expected to be introduced in 2008, when tariffs may also be lifted on imports of ETBE. Under the planned tax system, biofuels mixed with gasoline will be exempted from the gasoline tax — currently 53.8 yen (US$0.48) per liter — in proportion to the amount of biofuels included. For example, E3 will be taxed 1.61 yen less per liter than pure gasoline. There is no tax break for gasoline mixed with biofuels, regardless of the ratios involved. The government is also expected to make imports of ETBE tariff-free, removing the current 3.1% import tax (Asia Times 2007).

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Sources

  1. Tatsuji Koizumi and Keiji Ohga, "Biofuel Programs in China, Malaysia, and Japan," 2007 (PDF 106 KB)
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture, GAIN report, 2006 (PDF 42 KB)
  3. New and Renewable Energy Division, Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), February 2007 (PDF 2.3 MB)
  4. Asia Times, "Japan steps up its biofuel drive," December 2007
  5. Ohmy News International, "The goal of saving 500,000 kiloliters of crude oil by 2010 is not easy to reach," May 2007