Japan's gas prices fall as prices soar

Japan's gas prices fall as prices soar

The cost of gas is rising due to the increase in energy prices caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and weak yen.

The price of gas has remained the same for 10 years in Mobara City and surrounding areas of Chiba Prefecture, and is now at around 60% of the prices in Tokyo and elsewhere thanks to locally produced natural gas. The government subsidies are helping to keep rates in check, and household gas bills are set to become even cheaper from February to October. Local governments in the area are trying to draw people to their municipalities by promoting reasonable gas prices.

Kaoru Suzuki, 50, who operates a Japanese-cuisine restaurant in Mobara, said restaurants need lots of gas. I am very grateful that bills don't rise. Otaki Gas Co., a Mobara-based gas company that supplies gas to more than 170,000 households in and around the city, has not changed its gas price since 2013.

A monthly gas bill for an average Mobara household is $5310, which will fall by about 1,000 from February when the subsidies kick in. The average monthly bill for a household supplied by Tokyo Gas Co. was about 5,410 in December 2021 - about the same as Otaki Gas - but 7,630 for January. Natural gas is a key factor in holding down gas bills. In the town of Mutsuzawa, variously sized bubbles can be seen floating on the surface of a river. The Otaki Gas official said that natural gas was bubbling up from the ground.

The gas bubbles are caused by a leak in the Minami-Kanto gas field that runs mainly beneath the Boso Peninsula, which spans most of Chiba Prefecture. The gas field contains methane dissolved in underground water. The field has about 368.5 billion cubic meters of potentially extractable gas - an amount that can support natural gas consumption for the whole of Japan for three years.

To avoid ground subsidence, only about 400 million cubic meters of gas are extracted each year. Most of the gas is consumed locally. People in the area have been using gas since the Meiji period of 1867 -- 1912 and many use it in their homes.

While it may not be possible to extract large amounts of gas, it is important that the area has a source of energy that can be produced and consumed locally, said Tomochika Tokunaga, professor at the Graduate School of Frontier Sciences at the University of Tokyo. It is important to think about how to use it effectively so that it becomes an appealing feature of the area. Neighboring cities and towns are trying to make the most of the locally extracted gas a local energy source. The Michi-no eki rest area facility in the town of Mutsuzawa uses the gas to generate electricity. In the year 15 hit the area, the facility offered local residents free hot showers and cell phone battery charging, in effect serving as a town-based disaster response center.

An official at the Mobara municipal government said that it was a plus point for Mobara to have a cheap and stable supply of gas. We d like to beat the drum about our gas at events that promote relocation.