Saturday, August 25, 2012

An Election Looms, Making EPCO Shareholders Happy/Less Unhappy?

I was about to put down my thoughts, briefly, on why LDP leader Sadakazu Tanigaki should be under siege when a snap election was just around the corner with the LDP in the lead. Instead, it morphed into a prediction on the future of the existing nuclear power plants. Go figure.

If you believe what the media is telling us, the LDP and Komeito will:

(1) pass the bill to enable prefectures to set up Tokyo-like special wards in place of cities (to make Osaka warlord Toru Hashimoto happily busy and hopefully keep national politics free of the Ishin-no-Kai for the time being );
(2) pass an upper house censure resolution against the Noda cabinet (as political prelude to (3)); and
(3) boycott the rest of the current Diet session (extended to September 8) (most importantly to deep-six the deficit bond authorization bill.

Presumably, this will set the stage for a brief September extraordinary session where the LDP and Komeito let the deficit bond authorization bill pass the upper house to become law and the Noda cabinet obliges by dissolving the lower house for a general election to be held sometime in October. A few knickknacks are likely to be thrown into the pre-election kitbag, including a possible minimalist five-seat single-member district reduction to take care of the constitutional breech* and the bi-cameral vote on the candidates for the new Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

It what I’ve been expecting for some time, which makes me suspicious: Have I been unconsciously influenced by the media reports colored by their desire for political theatrics? I just have to hope that my conscious search for the counterintuitive makes my thought come out even.

Anyway, I’ve punted on a post-election “g”rand Coalition and I’m sticking with it. One market-relevant implication that no one will notice until it actually comes to pass: Nuclear power will end up as 15% of the electricity supply projection for 2030, the Noda administration’s most likely preferred conclusion, an outcome that had been placed in some doubt by the government surveys conducted in the deliberation process that show a growing preference for the zero-nuclear option as a general election loomed over the horizon. But the LDP is collectively more pro-nuclear in the sense that it is more mindful of conventional industry and business concerns, and Motohisa Furukawa, the cabinet minister who has been the Noda administration’s point man on this item is strongly pro-renewables, but he is highly unlikely to survive the post-election, musical chairs, battle royal to set up the post-election cabinet. This will make electric power company shareholders less unhappy but disappoint fossil fuel power plant manufacturers and disappoint renewables equipment manufacturers including Chinese solar panel suppliers unhappy. The Noda administration might allow the Energy and Environment Council, where Furukawa is in charge, to come forth with a conclusion before the election, but I doubt it; there are several significant DPJ players who should dislike the zero-option, and it’s too divisive a wild card for the cautious and deliberate Noda to inject into the election campaign.

: I’ll believe this when I see it, though. The shmonstitutional concerns are real, but I’m not convinced that the logistics around the reduction can be engineered in time for the election, even if the interested parties have most likely done most of the work sub rosa on the ward-by-ward specifics of the redistricting.

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