Japan is searching for alternative fuel sources following a reduction in oil from the Middle East and a 60-day dry spell which has reduced the amount of hydro-electricity generated.
Aerial view gas rig at sea (2 shots)
SV Burning gas on rig
SV Workers on rig
SV & CU Drilling operation (2 shots)
SV Pan down drill to sea
GV Electric power plant
SV Transporter pipes
SV Interior pan along pipe lines
SV Burning gases
GV Pan across town
SV Gas meter on wall
LV Interior kitchen
CU Woman puts kettle on gas ring
CU Burning flame under kettle
Air view rig with burning waste gas
GV Coal mine at Asahikawa in winter
SV Interior miners changing shift
SV Miners in cage descending pit
GV Coal being loaded into truck
SV Pan Horse drawn sleigh delivering coal
SV Man shovelling coal into house from sleigh
GV Pan Over snow-covered mine and houses at Ishikari mine (2 shots)
TV Bull dozer moving coal trucks being loaded (2 shots)
GV Pan steam train carrying coal (3 shots)
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Background: Japan is searching for alternative fuel sources following a reduction in oil from the Middle East and a 60-day dry spell which has reduced the amount of hydro-electricity generated. In particular the Japanese are looking towards coal and natural gas to supplement the nation's energy needs.
Natural gas has been extracted from the sea bed off Niigata in the North West for five years. Drilling companies have not released production figures, but local people say it is only enough to supply the small town of Kashiwazaki (the town nearest the off-shore gas field) and a few other local towns. Other off-shore sites are being opened up - one is about 200 miles (320 kilometres) to the north-east of Tokyo.
Crude oil is also being extracted from the same sites, but only in small quantities. The total domestic production of 10,000 kilolitre (2.2 million gallons) of crude oil is only a fraction of the nation's needs, and an urgent government-funded research programme is now underway to see if production can be increased.
The Japanese government has ordered an increase in coal production to offset losses from the decrease in imported oil. But mine-owners are pessimistic. They say it will take years to increase production to the pre-war levels. In recent years, Japan's coal industry has been run down, because of the rise in the use of oil as an energy source.
There has also been opposition from the miners themselves. Now thee is an increase in the demand for their product, they are pressing for higher pay and better conditions. Many have refused to work, claiming safety regulations are not being met. This argument has been re-enforced by the death on Monday (6 January) of a miner who had never recovered from injuries received in a pit explosion in November 1963. On Monday (7 January) 1,000 miners went on a sympathy strike and pressed for revised safety regulations. The 1963 disaster claimed the lives of 458 miners.
The coal industry is faced with other problems. Mines have to be returned to working order, miners who have left the industry must be retrained, and a new work-force needs to be recruited. Also, the quality of Japanese coal is low and users are turning to overseas sources for the high-grade anthracite needed for steel-making and other industrial processes.
The expansion of atomic energy is also being considered by the Japanese. They have no uranium of their own, and are looking abroad for increased supplies. By 1985, the nation will need 12,000 tons of uranium a year -- three times current consumption.