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2013年4月 6日 (土)

海洋基本計画 資源開発へ産官学の連携図れ

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 5, 2013
Industry, govt, academia cooperation needed on resource development
海洋基本計画 資源開発へ産官学の連携図れ(4月4日付・読売社説)

The development of marine energy resources in the seas around Japan needs to be accelerated through cooperation between the industry, government and academic sectors to secure a stable energy supply for the nation's future.

The government has unveiled a draft of its "basic maritime plan," which will serve as the nation's marine policy for the next five years.

The Cabinet under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to decide on the policy within the month, making the development of Japan's marine resources a pillar of its growth strategies by considering it "an innovation to bring about new potential."

With the aim of commercializing resources such as rare earths and methane hydrate, known as "burnable ice," which contains methane gas, the draft lays out the government's plan to improve the system to develop these resources together with the private sector.

It is entirely appropriate for Japan, which lacks abundant domestic natural resources on land, to make genuine efforts to develop its marine resources.

Securing an advantage

To this end, the government succeeded last month in its experimental extraction of methane hydrate from the seabed off the coast of Aichi and Mie prefectures.

The seas near Japan are thought to hold enough methane hydrate to supply it with natural gas for 100 years at current domestic consumption levels.

Almost all of the nation's nuclear power plants have stopped operating, pushing up the cost of electricity generation.

Securing a new domestic energy source would give the nation an advantage when negotiating the price of liquefied natural gas, which continues to hover at high levels, and that of shale gas, which is expected to be imported from North America and elsewhere.

Yet these marine resources lie under the deep seafloor, and little is known about their topographical distribution. It is therefore vital to develop technologies to probe for and extract these valuable resources in a stable and economically feasible manner.

With regard to methane hydrate, the draft sets the goal of "enhancing the relevant technologies so as to commercialize methane hydrate by fiscal 2018."

It is thus seen as vital to make use of the private sector's technology and knowledge.

It will probably take a very long time for the resources to be developed on a commercial basis, and the development costs are likely to be sizable. Close cooperation between industry, government and academia is crucial.

Having attached great importance to the development of their own marine resources, China and South Korea are also making efforts through public-private sector cooperation. The further escalation of international rivalry in this field is inevitable.

Legal infrastructure needed

The draft has pointed out that to implement all relevant measures, it is necessary to create laws to support Japan's resource development activities within its exclusive economic zone.

The development of legal foundations for dealing with various issues related to marine resource development, such as the coordination of issues related to fishing rights, are also called for in the draft.

Japan is the sixth-largest country in the world in terms of the total area of its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone. For Japan to demonstrate to other countries its basic stance on marine resource development, legislative improvements are needed.

In light of China's claim to the Senkaku Islands, demonstrated by the repeated incursions of its vessels in waters near them, the draft also lists measures to protect Japan's territorial land and waters.

An upgrade to the current arrangements of the Japan Coast Guard and the Self-Defense Forces is urgently needed to reflect these changing realities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 4, 2013)
(2013年4月4日01時25分  読売新聞)


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