Last week Japanese authorities approved the restart of two reactors at the Ohi nuclear powerplant in Fukui prefecture. All but one of Japan’s 54 nuclear powerplants are currently shut down and the last one will go offline next month. Although full completion of safety upgrades to comply with lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster will take a few years, it may be possible to restart some of the reactors in the interim. Public reaction to the March 2011 disaster heretofore has made it impossible to restart any reactors after they have been taken offline for previously scheduled maintenance. Thus, it is not clear when or whether the reactors at the Ohi complex actually will be go back online.
On Friday April 13 I participated in a Symposium on “Green Technology Law and Policy” at the Georgetown University Law Center. The Symposium was sponsored by the Georgetown International Environmental Law Review (GIELR). After opening remarks by Georgetown Professors Edie Brown Weiss and Peter Byrne, I was on the opening panel on how government regulations and incentives can promote greater use of green technology. Jim Connaughton, the former chair of the Council on Environmental Quality during the Bush administration discussed the factors that influence Exelon, his current employer, in choosing its generation mix. Sara Hayes from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy and Derek Dorn, a partner at Davis & Harmon compared the strength of different incentives offered to promote energy efficiency and different renewable technologies. I emphasized that fluctuations in petroleum prices had taken a toll on efforts to promote green technologies as oil prices fell throughout most of the decade of the 1980s. I advocated a petroleum price stabilization tax that would establish a predictable floor under oil prices without imposing any initial tax increases.
Elizabeth Littlefield, president and CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), gave a luncheon keynote address that outlined OPIC’s push to promote the development of green energy technologies. She noted that OPIC will never fund any new coal-fired power plants, something that the Export-Import Bank has been taken to task for doing. Ms. Littlefield also explained how micro finance is helping promote small renewable energy projects in developing countries. In the afternoon I moderated a panel on the Role of Green Patents & Technology Transfer in Global Sustainability. Dr. Stuart Graham, the chief economist for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) presented data from a survey the PTO had done concerning the importance of patents to startup ventures.
My last class of the semester will be held on Wednesday. On Thursday I will be returning to China where I will be teaching a short course on Principles of Environmental Law at Shandong University Law School in Jinan.