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Fueling the Future: Taking the U.S. – Japan Relationship to the Troposphere and Beyond

November 23, 2016

By Keida Ackerman, Senior Investment Specialist, SelectUSA

I recently had the honor and great pleasure of participating in the Washington, D.C. portion of the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (OCCI) Hydrogen Fuel Cell (HFC) Mission – part of a week-long effort to inspire an HFC conversation around ideas that not only have a positive economic impact, but also hold broader implications for our communities and our planet.

This mission – another milestone in a vibrant commercial relationship – was the result of more than a year’s work between Japan and the United States.  Thanks to the combined efforts of the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and OCCI, the delegation joined a robust, multi-city program during the week of November 14, 2016.

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Representatives from the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry; the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; and Nikken Lath Industrial try out the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

In Washington, D.C., participants toured the DOE-funded Brentwood HFC Fueling Station – the first of its kind in the region.  The group also joined briefings and discussions with the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the DOC’s SelectUSA program, and attended informational meetings with DOE’s Loan Programs Office, and Clean Energy Investment Center. The Osaka Prefectural Government shared its “H2 Vision” as part of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s national 2050 Hydrogen Society Plan, while participating Japanese companies introduced cutting-edge technologies and discussed ways to share and enhance these products with their American counterparts.  What was most striking, however, is that the events was not merely an informational seminar – but a meaningful conversation to build momentum in diversifying Japanese investment beyond traditional industries to include new growth sectors like renewable energy.

Both Japan and the United States share a strong commitment to developing and commercializing clean energy technologies.  HFC technology offers a broad range of benefits for the environment, our nation’s energy security, and both the U.S. and Japanese economies.   This challenge – and opportunity – is also inspiring initiatives for knowledge sharing, collaboration, and joint investment in innovative solutions to capture and convert the power of hydrogen as a source of clean, abundant, reliable, and affordable energy.

Take Japanese auto manufacturers Toyota and Honda, both of which have significant investments in the United States, and already offer fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).  Sales of these cars have grown exponentially over the last four years, and the U.S. and Japan are closely partnering on technology and safety data sharing.  This has significant potential for mutual commercial benefits in the next wave of future clean energy generation – and it can be no coincidence that Toyota’s FCEV model – the Mirai – is named after he Japanese word for “future.”

Today, Japan is a vital investment and trading partner of the United States.  As the second-largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI), Japan supports over 840,000 jobs in the United States.  Japanese-owned firms operating in the United States export nearly 80 billion dollars’ worth of goods from our shores, and contribute billions of dollars to innovative research and development.

As the group departed for the West Coast, their next stop, I could not help reflecting on the fact that we had done so much to make this mission a reality.  And this was just one of a wide range of collaborative endeavors between the United States and Japan in the areas of trade, investment and innovation.  We are all eager to see what the future – the mirai – of HFC technology holds.

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