Japan has ambitious plans to be entirely carbon-neutral by 2050. Trouble is: It has no clear vision of how to get there. Japan’s nuclear industry was gutted by the 2011 tsunami in Fukushima and may never fully recover given widespread public concern over safety. The mountainous and densely populated Japanese archipelago has limited room for large solar farms. Its narrow continental shelf poses complications for offshore wind turbines.

The government hopes hydrogen can be part of the solution, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will be trying to position the country as a laboratory for an important new source of clean energy when he meets President Biden in Washington on Friday.
Toyota unveiled the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell car in 2014 and launched its second-generation Mirai (Japanese for “future”) last year. The government subsidizes 135 hydrogen refueling stations around the country, the largest number in the world.

Japan will further trumpet its plans to build a “hydrogen society” at the Summer Olympics, where the gas will fuel the flame in the Olympic cauldron and help power the Olympic Village. Hundreds of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles will ferry people around during the Games.

Japan’s hydrogen plans begin, ironically, at Australia’s huge lignite coal mines and a coal-fired power station in Victoria state’s Latrobe Valley.