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Oil Security Index — Who Is at Risk? (October 2014 Update)

November 18, 2014 Comments off

Oil Security Index — Who Is at Risk? (October 2014 Update)
Source: Securing America’s Future Energy

When launched in October 2013, SAFE’s Oil Security Index was hailed as an essential tool for those seeking greater insight into both what constitutes oil security, and which countries are most oil secure. The Index included then-current and historical data tracing national rankings back to 2000.

In this update, SAFE adds data through Q2 2014 and revises the rankings accordingly. The Index’s seven metrics capture three core aspects of oil security: the structural dependency of countries’ economies on oil, the economic exposure of countries to oil prices and the changes in those prices, and the physical supply security of a country’s domestic and imported oil.

This most recent update features a special focus on Japan, the Index’s most oil-secure country. Japan ranks highly in spite of its minimal domestic oil resources and high import levels, which are offset by several other indicators. Most notably, Japan’s high oil efficiency and its role as an international storage hub work in favor of the county’s long-term oil security.

The latest Index update also shines a light on India, where burgeoning demand has driven oil consumption up 75 percent since 2000. Amidst rising demand for gasoline and increasing incomes, India struggles with a heavy reliance on Middle East imports and low overall efficiency, leaving it suspended at 11 out of 13 in the Index rankings.

New Comparative Law Report — Approval of Medical Devices

November 14, 2014 Comments off

Approval of Medical Devices (PDF)
Source: Law Library of Congress

This report describes the approval process for medical devices in the European Union and fifteen countries, and also indicates whether or not an expedited approval procedure is available. Many of the countries reference EU law, including France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Israel more readily approves devices with a CE mark (indicating approval in the EU) or an indication that they are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In many nations, particularly those influenced by the EU, part of the review process is conducted not by the government but by private, independent organizations called “notified bodies.” These organizations are designated by EU Member States.

In most of the countries in the survey, medical devices are categorized based on the risks associated with their use, and the approval process varies by category. For example, in the United Kingdom, manufacturers of low-risk devices may register with the government agency and simply declare that the devices meet the requirements to be approved. Devices classed as higher risk must undergo more detailed review, by a notified body.

On the question of an expedited approval process, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Spain, and Switzerland permit some sort of rapid review in particular cases, often when a device is required for an individual patient and no substitute is available. Mexico has provided for more rapid approval of devices if they have already been approved in either Canada or the United States. No such procedure exists at present in Brazil, France, Israel, the Russian Federation, or the United Kingdom. The Russian Federation did have a rapid approval system in place prior to August 2014. Germany provides for temporary approval of devices in limited circumstances. South Africa is now considering draft legislation that would include expedited procedures in specified situations.

Interim Report of the U.S.-Japan Guidelines for Defense Cooperation Released

October 10, 2014 Comments off

Interim Report of the U.S.-Japan Guidelines for Defense Cooperation Released
Source: U.S. Department of Defense

The United States and Japan today jointly released the interim report of the ongoing review of the U.S.-Japan Guidelines for Defense Cooperation. A full copy of the report can be found here http://www.defense.gov/pubs/20141003_INTERIM_REPORT.pdf.

Transforming the Electricity Portfolio: Lessons from Germany and Japan in Deploying Renewable Energy

October 1, 2014 Comments off

Transforming the Electricity Portfolio: Lessons from Germany and Japan in Deploying Renewable Energy
Source: Brookings Institution

Amid an ongoing international debate on the reduction of carbon emissions, Germany and Japan are undertaking a dramatic shift in their electricity portfolios. The 2011 Japanese earthquake and the subsequent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility accident have sparked both Japanese and German energy policy to shift away from carbon-free nuclear energy and towards renewables. However, despite large gains in market share by renewables, these two countries have seen increases in both fossil fuel usage and carbon emissions as the market share of nuclear energy has declined.

This shift raises fundamental energy policy questions: how can countries simultaneously decarbonize their electricity mix while phasing out nuclear energy? What are the costs and challenges of large-scale renewable integration? Who will bear these costs? In the Energy Security Initiative’s latest policy brief, authors John Banks, Charles Ebinger and Alisa Schackmann seek to answer these questions while identifying potential relevant lessons for large-scale deployment of renewables in the United States.

Country Analysis Brief: East China Sea

September 18, 2014 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: East China Sea
Source: Energy Information Administration

The East China Sea is a semi-closed sea bordered by the Yellow Sea to the north, the South China Sea and Taiwan to the south, Japan’s Ryukyu and Kyushu islands to the east, and the Chinese mainland to the west. Studies identifying potentially abundant oil and natural gas deposits have made the sea a source of contention between Japan and China, the two largest energy consumers in Asia.

The East China Sea has a total area of approximately 482,000 square miles, consisting mostly of the continental shelf and the Okinawa Trough, a back-arc basin formed about 300 miles southeast of Shanghai between China and Japan. The disputed eight Senkaku islands are to the northeast of Taiwan. The largest of the islands is two miles long and less than a mile wide.

Though barren, the islands are important for strategic and political reasons, as sovereignty over land is the basis for claims to the surrounding sea and its resources under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. China and Japan both claim sovereignty over the islands, which are under Japanese administration, preventing wide-scale exploration and development of oil and natural gas in the East China Sea.

CRS — The U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and Futenma Base Controversy (August 14, 2014)

August 26, 2014 Comments off

The U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and Futenma Base Controversy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Although the U.S.-Japan alliance is often labeled as “the cornerstone” of security in the Asia Pacific region, local concerns about the U.S. military presence on the Japanese island of Okinawa have challenged the management of the alliance for decades. The Japanese archipelago serves as the most significant forward-operating platform for the U.S. military in the region; approximately 53,000 military personnel (39,000 onshore and 14,000 afloat in nearby waters), 43,000 dependents, and 5,000 Department of Defense civilian employees live in Japan. With the United States pledging to rebalance its defense posture towards Asia, the uncertainty surrounding the medium and long-term presence of American forces on Okinawa remains a critical concern for national security decision-makers.

Due to the legacy of the U.S. occupation and the island’s key strategic location, Okinawa hosts a disproportionate share of the continuing U.S. military presence. About 25% of all facilities used by U.S. Forces Japan and about half of the U.S. military personnel are located in the prefecture, which comprises less than 1% of Japan’s total land area. Many Okinawans oppose the U.S. military presence, although some observers assert that Tokyo has failed to communicate effectively to Okinawans the benefits of the alliance. However, Okinawa has received billions of dollars in subsidies from the central government in recognition of its burden of hosting U.S. troops.

CRS — “Womenomics” in Japan: In Brief (August 1, 2014)

August 14, 2014 Comments off

“Womenomics” in Japan: In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Confronted with decades of economic stagnation, strict immigration controls, and a rapidly aging population, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has launched an ambitious plan—widely known as “Abenomics”—to restart Japan’s economy. The program has three main components: a large fiscal stimulus that was injected into the economy in early 2013; expansionary monetary policy that also began in 2013 and continues today; and a series of planned structural economic reforms, many of which have yet to be announced or implemented, that ostensibly will boost Japan’s productivity.

One of Abe’s planned structural reforms is a strategy to persuade more Japanese women to join the workforce, to remain in the workforce after they have children, and to advance higher on the career ladder. Japan’s gender gap is one of the largest among high-income countries, and some economists have argued for many years that narrowing this gap is a potential source of economic growth for Japan as well as a way to help offset the long-term demographic problems facing the country. Although some are optimistic that Abe’s government will be able to drive progress in the participation and advancement of women in Japan’s workforce, other observers believe that elements of Japanese culture, including office customs and traditional beliefs regarding gender roles, pose challenges for the success of the policy.

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