As anyone who has been to Japan knows, there are strict rules about bathing in onsen, or hot springs. Bodies must be scrubbed beforehand, swimming trunks are banned and tattoos are taboo. The industry’s jurisdiction extends far beyond the tub, however.
swimming trunk 游泳裤
taboo n. 禁忌；禁止 adj. 禁忌的；忌讳的 vt. 禁忌；禁止
jurisdiction n. 管制；司法权
For decades, onsen owners have stifled development of a huge potential source of clean energy: geothermal power. They argue that the tapping of heated aquifers in volcanic Japan will drain the onsen dry, increase pollution and ruin a cherished form of relaxation. With Japan on the verge of running out of nuclear power, however, the demand for new sources of energy is becoming harder to resist.
geothermal power 地热能
heated aquifer 高温蓄水层
drain v. 耗尽；使流出
on the verge of 濒临于；接近于
resist v. 抵抗；抗拒
Three Japanese companies—Toshiba, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Fuji Electric—control more than half of the global market for geothermal turbines, yet Japan itself gets a mere 0.3% of its energy, or 537 megawatts, from its own steam. The industry’s promoters say that Japan sits on about 20,000 MW of geothermal energy, or the equivalent of 20 nuclear reactors, though not all of this could be developed. Since the disaster at Fukushima last year, all but one of the nation’s 54 nuclear reactors are now temporarily suspended, reducing Japan’s power-generating capacity by about a third. That has accelerated the search for alternatives.
equivalent n. 等价物，相等物 adj. 等价的，相等的；同意义的
nuclear reactor 核反应堆
suspend vt. 延缓，推迟；使暂停
accelerate v. 加速；促进；增加
alternative adj. 供选择的；选择性的；交替的 n. 二中择一；供替代的选择
In July the government is set to introduce a feed-in tariff that will force the ten regional electricity monopolies to buy renewable energy at above-market rates—though a price has not yet been set. At the end of March the environment ministry said it would abolish guidelines that restrict geothermal development in some national parks. Companies including Idemitsu, a refiner, have quickly announced plans to build a geothermal plant in the mountains of Fukushima prefecture, which is famous for its hot springs. But they expect it will take ten years before they start generating electricity.
tariff n. 关税
monopoly n. 垄断；专卖
renewable adj. 可再生的；可更新的；可继续的
abolish v. 废除；取消
Experts say the long time lag reflects some of the difficulties of developing new business in Japan. Tetsunari Iida, head of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, says the country needs a “strong and wise government” that can persuade the onsen owners and local communities that the industry would not spoil their spas. He also says the country needs companies with strong balance-sheets and a robust risk culture to lead the way. Having the world’s best turbine manufacturers is not enough, he says.
lag n. 落后；延迟 v. 落后于；滞后；缓缓而行 拓展 lag behind=fall behind 落后；拖欠；落在后面
persuade v. 劝说；劝服
To speed things up, Japan could also look overseas for help. Iceland, for instance, generates the same amount of geothermal energy as Japan, though Japan has 400 times more people. A Japanese expert, Hirofumi Muraoka, calculates that one mid-sized northern city, Aomori, with a population about the size of Iceland’s 318,000, could save enormously on imported fuel bills and heating costs by tapping geothermal springs nearby. Besides generating electricity, it could use the hot water from the springs to heat houses, as Iceland does.
speed up 加快；使加速
enormously adv. 巨大的；庞大的
generate electricity 发电
Iceland’s ambassador to Japan, Stefan Stefansson, says his country’s experience suggests Japan does not need subsidies to develop geothermal energy. It needs careful management of underground reservoirs, and an entrepreneurial vision. Besides heating houses, he says, Iceland’s geothermal water is used for farming tasty tropical fish such as tilapia. As for the onsen-owners’ protests, he snorts: “Go to your computer and type in “Blue Lagoon”. There you will find the biggest onsen in the world and we have them all over Iceland. How’s that for pollution?”
1. Why do onsen owners object to the development of geothermal power?
2. According to the expert, what should be done to develop new business in Japan?
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