“Eco-Points”: Not so eco-friendly

Have you ever wondered just how eco-friendly “Eco-Points” are? After all, the Japanese government has specifically articulated that only eco-friendly products will merit “Eco-Points,” a new form of government subsidy.

If one really thinks about it, the “Eco-Points” system isn’t environmental friendly at all. It’s not in the least bit green; it’s a total farce.

According to JapanTimes, the Japanese government has installed the “Eco-Points” system to:
1) stimulate consumption
2) to promote [the] use of energy-efficient goods

This should be revised to say:
1) to stimulate consumption, especially household consumption
2) to promote the idea that Japanese citizens are buying themselves into being environmentally conscious citizens

More on #2 later. For now, lets concentrate on #1.

So, just how green are “Eco-Points?”
Let’s take a look at TV’s for example (one of the 4 products where “Eco-Points” can be redeemed- the others are refrigerators, air conditioners, and cars).

“Eco-Points” can be redeemed for TV’s that have high energy efficiency. So far, so good.
You get more “Eco-Points” for bigger TV’s. In other words, the bigger the TV, the more “Eco-Points” you get.

Ah, now we begin to see some contradictions. Obviously, if the TV is bigger, there will be greater energy consumption. A household that originally intended to buy a 32-inch TV may decide to swap their old TV for a 40-inch instead, an increase in energy use caused by the warping of consumer preference by none other than “Eco-Points!”

 To give you an idea of what this implies, here’s a little graph to help you visualize just how eco-friendly “Eco-Points” really are:

This graph makes the whole “Eco-Points” sham glaringly obvious in all it’s notorious glory. The government isn’t really trying to make Japan greener (though just like any other country, it certainly loves proclaiming to be eco-responsible.)

It’s basically just trying to get consumers to spend their hard-earned cash on not just a new TV, but a bigger TV. Not just a new refrigerator, but a sleeker, air-brushed steel door refrigerator. Not just a new air conditioner, but an air conditioner that dispenses negatively-charged ions that refreshes the room’s air.
In other words, “Eco-Points” is an attempt to jump-start the economy. It is, in fact, nothing short of and nothing more than a government-sponsored defibrillation of an increasingly floundering economy.

In the JapanTimes article List of goods qualified for Eco-points now out, there’s a Q&A which reads:
Why are the points being awarded only for air conditioner, refrigerator and TV purchases?

The government is focusing on those appliances because half of total carbon dioxide emissions from households are produced by these three products alone, according to the Environment Ministry.”

Notice how the answer state “carbon dioxide emissions from households.” If there’s any room for opposition left, here’s the knock-out kick statistics:

Japanese households consistently make up less than 20% of total CO2 emissions.

If the Japanese government really wanted to get serious about cutting down on CO2 emissions, then they would enact regulations on the industrial sector, by far the biggest pollutor. But that would hamper GDP growth, the government’s primary objective.

Why aren’t “eco-points” being applied to say, greener production lines or greener smelting equiptment? The answer is simple: the government wants to put an end to consumer frugality and stimulate domestic demand.

Let’s review.
Publically, the government has stated it has launched the “Eco-Points” system to:
1) stimulate consumption
2) to promote [the] use of energy-efficient goods

And I argued,
This should be revised to say:
1) to stimulate consumption, especially household consumption
2) to promote the idea that Japanese citizens are buying themselves into being environmentally conscious citizens

From everything I’ve written thus far, #1 is quite obvious: The government wants to jump-start the economy by having consumers literally buy themselves out of a decade-long recession.

Now on to #2. The evidence for #2 has already been mentioned, but what good is there in coupling a system that rewards more expenditures with something like eco-friendliness?

In a previous article, I wrote about how we’ve entered an era of “symbolic consumerism.”

The fact is, we now live in an advanced capitalist paradigm in which we can buy ourselves into a new image of ourselves, including the view that we’re environmentally conscious, no matter how preposterous and paradoxical that may be in reality.

But I’ll give it to the DPJ. Their a wily lot, and while “Eco-Points” hasn’t made the world a greener place, it has certainly dethawed many people’s wallets.

So, all in all, I’ll give it to the DPJ: a party doing a splendid job spurring GDP growth under the banner of being green- since 2009.

//By Ryo TAKAHASHI

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