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May 8, 2012 - Ambassador of Iceland urges Japan to use its own geothermal technology
Ambassador Stefansson speaks at Peace Boat's 76th Global Voyage Departure Ceremony
In 1908, an enterprising farmer in Iceland began tapping into the country's geothermal resources to heat his farm, and others began to follow suit. After World War I, with energy needs pressing, geothermal energy began to be used to heat entire districts, and after the oil shock crisis of the 1970s, Iceland made a strong commitment to expanding this form of energy to a national level. Today, approximately 90 percent of the homes in Iceland are heated geothermally and in 2009, the National Energy Authority reported that Icelanders have saved USD 7.2 billion through geothermal heating since 1970.

Arguably, Japan has much greater geothermal capacity than Iceland, stated Ambassador Stefan Larus Stefansson of the Embassy of Iceland in Japan at Peace Boat's 76th Voyage Departure Ceremony in Yokohama on May 8, 2012. Yet, after the oil shock crisis of the 1970s, Japan opted to expand its nuclear energy program, and today is paying a heavy price for taking that course. More than a year after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis began, the country is still struggling to prevent further explosions at the plant, respond to the demands for compensation from the multitude of farmers and fishermen who have lost their livelihoods, and provide a stable future for the tens of thousands of evacuees that have resulted from the problem.

Ironically, however, Iceland built its clean geothermal industry by combining Japanese technology and Icelandic know-how, and 100 percent of the geothermal turbines used in Iceland are Japanese according to Ambassador Stefansson. Despite this, Japan has not built its own geothermal plant since 1999. Moreover, he pointed out, the geothermal power stations in Japan kept running without issue after last year's catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, while all of Japan's nuclear reactors had to be shut down for safety concerns.

During the last three and a half years in Japan, Ambassador Stefansson said he has been dedicating the work of the Embassy of Iceland in Tokyo to making the the Japanese people, technological leaders and decision-makers aware of the huge potential that Japan has to develop its own geothermal resources, and in 2010 organized The Japan-Iceland Geothermal Forum. While citizen opposition to nuclear energy in Japan continues to grow however, the government has yet to make a firm and clear commitment to ending nuclear power and expanding its renewable energy capacity.

On the 76th Voyage, Peace Boat participants will have the opportunity to visit countries such as Iceland, Sweden and Nicaragua, which have made great advances in sustainable, non-nuclear energy, and learn directly from their experiences

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