March 17th, 2011
03:41 PM GMT
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(CNN) - Within hours of the Japanese earthquake, natural gas price futures for summer delivery started to rise. Within three trading days, Barclays reports that UK natural gas prices have shot up more than 13%. It's only a matter of time before the suppliers pass that rise onto customers.

Why should this happen?

Simply put by Tom Wallin of Energy Intelligence: "This is a game changer on a number of levels for nuclear and secondarily for gas and oil too."

Here's why. Japan had counted on nuclear power for 30% of its electricity generation. While much of that has not been knocked out, in the short term Japan will have to find a way to replace the lost energy. It's already the world's biggest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and of coal. It's also the world's third-largest importer of oil.

Shell for one says it already re-routed some LNG to Japan. The theory is prices will have to rise and more LNG heads to Asia and less to Europe.

Coal prices are also up strongly in just a few days, even though "it can take some three to five years to build a coal-fired power plant," according to Hayden Atkins of Macquarie Securities. "I think in a country like Japan where they now have to think about a change in the generation mix, it's not clear where coal is going to fit in from that perspective."

Interestingly fuel prices, especially natural gas, tend to follow oil prices. But oil fell immediately after the earthquake for several reasons: Japan lost a number of refineries, and factories that are damaged or destroyed won't need the amount that would normally be imported; the economy will slow and demand in the medium term will shrink.

Of course it's not just the plight in Japan. China and Germany have already pulled back on existing or planned nuclear power plants. If energy demand in these countries continues apace (ie: Japan does not lead to a global recession) then other fuels will need to be sourced and shipped immediately. Many are betting on coal. Barclays says that means CO2 emissions will rise strongly in Europe this spring, making it harder for countries to meet targets and adding pressure to Europe's troubled emissions trading scheme. "The events of the past few days have fundamentally shifted the outlook for European energy and carbon markets," Barclays warns.

It may be politically palatable to pour scorn on nuclear. But how will countries meet their emissions targets for 2020?

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Filed under: BusinessEnergyenvironmentJapan

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. cailyn

    i really dont know about the question at the end how will countries meet there emissions targets for 2020 ?!?!?!?!?!?!? hm i guess we will find out -tatum.

    March 17, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  2. Eddie

    Article states, "Japan relies on nuclear energy for 30% of its nuclear energy, while much of that has been knocked out..."
    Huh... 2 out of 55 plants... Is that really "much" ?

    March 17, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  3. BigJimMcMoustach

    The article title should really read: "Japan nuclear crisis creates great excuse to raise energy prices"

    March 17, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  4. Daniel

    Israel also pulled the plug on a nuclear power plant today.

    March 17, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  5. coder

    this kind of greed will ultimately kill the human race.... all for the love of money

    March 17, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  6. GT

    Tomorrow's headline will read, "Bird killed after landing on live electrical wire; oil prices surge 25%."

    March 17, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  7. Daniel

    BigJimMcMoustach your exactly right.

    March 17, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
  8. Max

    In a crisis, speculators should be shot.

    March 17, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  9. wei han

    I really don't now how about 2012? That was really scare .

    March 18, 2011 at 12:55 am |
  10. waynebernard

    Here is an article that outlines Japan's nuclear industry, the country's plans for growing reliance on uranium as a fuel source and how this could impact the world's energy markets over the long term:

    March 18, 2011 at 1:25 am |

    Nope. Not a "game-changer" just greed. There's no need for energy companies to jack prices because of the disaster in Japan. Please stop the fraud before it even starts. Do try really hard to know that people are smarter than you think. Remember, now most are business people like no other generation in history. Fools.

    March 18, 2011 at 1:55 am |
  12. JesusNeedsABreak

    don't pee down my back and tell me its raining, they use ANY excuse to raise prices, truck on mother heads you days are coming.

    March 18, 2011 at 2:41 am |
  13. 豚姦

    You really make it appear

    September 17, 2012 at 7:33 pm |

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