China, in quest to be more efficient, could take a lesson from Japan

China just kicked off a new $80 million venture to boost energy efficiency and slash pollution; it aims to quadruple its gross domestic product by 2020 while merely (!) doubling its energy consumption. For inspiration, China might look to its neighbor and sometime rival to the east: In Japan, energy use in industry has been flat since 1973, even as output has tripled. (So much for that “conservation vs. economic growth” chestnut.) Now Japan is going further by exhorting private citizens to do their part. They can, for example, buy highly energy-efficient new appliances, like a refrigerator that uses one-eighth the energy of a typical 10-year-old model and buzzes at energy-wasters who leave the door open more than 30 seconds. The government has also subsidized some $1.3 billion in residential solar systems, and a tax break for fuel-efficient mini-cars has been expanded to include hybrids — undoubtedly sweet news for Toyota and Honda, world leaders in hybrid automotive technology. China (and U.S.): take note.