This is testimony that the Big Island Community Coalition (BICC) steering committee sent to the Hawaii PUC earlier this month. It is in support of the implementation of 50MW of geothermal energy for Hawai‘i island.
The BICC steering committee is made up of the following, all acting on their own behalf: David DeLuz, Jr., Rockne Freitas, Michelle Galimba, Richard Ha, Wallace Ishibashi, Kuulei Kealoha Cooper, Kai'u Kimura, D. Noelani Kalipi, Robert Lindsey, HM Monty Richards, Marcia Sakai, Kumu Lehua Veincent, and William Walter.
To: Chair Hermina Morita
Commissioner Michael Champley
Commissioner Lorraine Akiba
Hawaii Public Utilities Commission
Re: Comments to PUC Docket: 2014-0183 (HECO/HELCO/MECO – PSIP: HELCO Power Supply Improvement Plan and PUC Docket: 2012-0092 (Geothermal 50 MW RFP for Hawaii Island)
Aloha PUC Commissioners,
The Big Island Community Coalition supports implementing 50MW of geothermal as soon as practicable. The high oil price case projected by the EIA 2014, predicts $150 per barrel oil by 2020. There is a direct correlation between oil usage and world GDP. A high oil price of $150 per barrel will adversely impact our tourism industry causing a severe recession.
Geothermal is one of the few ways available to mitigate high oil price. And, we need to move sooner rather than later.
Oil prices quadrupled in the last ten years and the folks who could pass on the costs did pass on the costs. Those who could not were the working homeless, kupuna on fixed income, single moms as well as others such as farmers who are price takers and not price makers.
The Big Island has the lowest median income of the counties. Our electricity rates have been 25% higher than Oahu’s for as long as we can remember. That high electricity rate acts like a giant regressive tax. We are able to turn that around by enabling more geothermal.
The 23% curtailed electricity from geothermal can support making hydrogen at an affordable cost. This will help solve the green ground transportation problem. And, curtailed electricity can be the basis for making nitrogen fertilizer, without which we cannot feed all the people.
I haven’t mentioned this yet, but we have been phasing out production of our tomatoes.
This came about because of what I’ve been saying here for years: The price of oil has raised farming costs substantially. The pluses of growing our hydroponic tomatoes were no longer exceeding the minuses.
When we started growing tomatoes back in 2002, we had been banana growers. Oil prices were low and banana prices were also low; it was hard to make a living that way. We needed to diversify, which is one of the reasons we went into tomatoes. It was a good decision.
But costs have been increasing drastically, and our tomato growing infrastructure is getting old and will start falling apart soon, so we had to make a decision. Do we take it apart and rebuild the tomato houses? Or do we replace them? Replacing them would cost an eye-opening three times what it cost 12 years ago when we put them up.
It’s a real-life consequence of what I keep saying here: The price of oil is four times higher it was 10 years ago and there are significant consequences. Everything costs so much more now. We are in the middle of major changes and most people don’t even realize it.
We took into account that our customers are under increasing economic pressure, as well—meaning they have less disposable income—and that our tomatoes are a high-end product. We also knew, as we made this decision, that oil and other costs are expected to keep rising.
Our plan had always been to take our tomato farming to the next step, which would have been to leverage our excess hydroelectricity in a controlled environment that allowed us to exclude insects and optimize light and temperature. Unfortunately, it just took too long to get our hydro plant operating.
It’s been a very difficult decision, and one that we’ve been carefully considering and making for quite some time, taking not only all these conditions into account but also our next generation. As hard as it’s been to make this decision, we all agreed it was the right thing to do. It allows us to continue farming.
We’re definitely not closing up shop; just refocusing our farming efforts based on economic factors.
We will stay in bananas. They do well in our rain and deep soil and other conditions. The banana infrastructure we have in place, such as the coolers and concrete, is good for another 20 years. The pluses exceed the minuses.
I continue to be very interested in producing a cost-effective protein source here on the farm, such as tilapia and other fish. We are currently working on the problems of protein feed and oxygenation of water, which we can do with gravity and electricity. We’re always thinking about where we need to be in 10 or 20 years.
And I’ll let you know what other interesting projects crop up along the way.
In the meantime, you’ll see our Hamakua Springs Country Farms tomatoes until the end of November; that’s when the last of them will come off the vines, go through our packing houses, and hit the supermarkets.
We thank you for supporting, and enjoying, our tomatoes all these years.
Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School Bandroom
On these dates, the Hilo Hamakua Community Development Corporation will hold a series of community meetings to discuss agriculture on the Hamakua Coast. All are welcome (and refreshments are free).
We will take a 40,000 foot view of ag and its outside influences, and then look at the resources available to help us, such as the Daniel K. Inouye-Pacific Basin Ag Research Center (PBARC), the College of Tropical Ag and Human Resources (CTAHR), and the College of Ag, Forestry and Natural Resources Management (CAFNRM) at UH Hilo.
There are many scientists researching various subjects. What do we want them to work on?
Farmers will be at the meeting to share their knowledge and experience.
Are you looking for land to farm? Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate with be there, and the Hamakua Ag Co-op has vacant land.
John Cross, former land manager for C. Brewer/Hilo Coast Processing, will attend. Did you know why all the sugar cane equipment had tracks, rather than rubber tires? Did you know that the plantations frequently planted banyan trees as significant landmarks?
Jeff Melrose will be at the meetings. He recently did a study that's a snapshot of agriculture on the Big Island. He will talk about on what is grown on the Hamakua coast and why.
Come and talk story with the presenters, learn where you can get additional information, and speak up on what you would like to know more about in the future.
This Scientific American article talks about fossil fuels, economic growth, and why I'm always talking about the importance of our (much cheaper) geothermal energy here.
It looks at the work of Charles Hall, who talks about how the energy it takes to obtain energy, minus the energy you use to get your food, equals your lifestyle. That formula - energy return on investment, or EROI - lets us compare how we live now with how Hawaiians lived in older times. It allows us to compare apples to apples.
I know Charlie Hall very well. I brought him to Hawai‘i to give talks about this at UH Hilo and Manoa, as well as to visit Puna Geothermal Venture and our farm.
Q. What happens when the EROI gets too low? What’s achievable at different EROIs?
A. If you've got an EROI of 1.1:1, you can pump the oil out of the ground and look at it. If you've got 1.2:1, you can refine it and look at it. At 1.3:1, you can move it to where you want it and look at it. We looked at the minimum EROI you need to drive a truck, and you need at least 3:1 at the wellhead. Now, if you want to put anything in the truck, like grain, you need to have an EROI of 5:1. And that includes the depreciation for the truck. But if you want to include the depreciation for the truck driver and the oil worker and the farmer, then you've got to support the families. And then you need an EROI of 7:1. And if you want education, you need 8:1 or 9:1. And if you want health care, you need 10:1 or 11:1.
Civilization requires a substantial energy return on investment. You can't do it on some kind of crummy fuel like corn-based ethanol [with an EROI of around 1:1].
A big problem we have facing the alternatives is they're all so low EROI. We'd all like to go toward renewable fuels, but it's not going to be easy at all. And it may be impossible. We may not be able to sustain our civilization on these alternative fuels. I hope we can, but we've got to deal with it realistically.
Do you think we're facing limits to growth now?
I think if you correct the U.S. GDP for debt—in other words, the debt is some kind of not-real growth—then I think the GDP hasn't grown at all since 2005. It's just grown through debt. I think clearly growth has declined; it's possible that growth has either stopped or may soon stop.
Kamehameha's Law of the Splintered Paddle has modern-day application. To those who aspire to be ali’i as they point their fingers in the air and pronounce what we must do to preserve the past: do not forget the rubbah slippah folks.
You who want to be our ali‘i, our leaders – I don't see you leading us forward, but only back. You want to keep everything the way it used to be, while we are marching into crisis.
The rubbah slippah folks have the right to disagree with the (self-proclaimed) ali’i if those "ali‘i" do not take care of the people.
Read this historical note, from Wikipedia about the "removal of chiefs" due to the mistreatment of common people intolerant of bad government:
It has been noted that Kānāwai Māmalahoe [the Law of the Splintered Paddle] was not an invention of Kamehameha I, but rather an articulation of concepts regarding governmental legitimacy that have been held in Hawaiʻi for many prior generations. Countless stories abound in Hawaiian folklore of the removal of chiefs – generally, but not always, through popular execution – as a result of mistreatment of the common people, who have traditionally been intolerant of bad government. As a shrewd politician and leader as well as a skilled warrior, Kamehameha used these concepts to turn what could have been a point of major popular criticism to his political advantage, while protecting the human rights of his people for future generations.
The price of oil is four times higher than it was ten years ago and the price of everything is through the roof (and still going up). More and people people cannot afford to live here; in fact, more Hawaiians live outside Hawai‘i than on these islands. Isn't that the same as losing our land?
How are you addressing that? How is trying to shut down our geothermal resource (which will substantially reduce our electricity costs), trying to outlaw our biotech options (which will substantially reduce our food costs), and trying to keep out the TMT (which will open up all sorts of new options), helping our people?
The world is changing. There is more and more homelessness. More than half of all Hawaiians no longer live in Hawai‘i. Young folks cannot find jobs. Farmers are getting older and older, because young people are not going into farming.
What will happen to the rubbah slippah folks in the face of finite resources? Those who aspire to be ali‘i, remember this: "You cannot be ali’i if you cannot feed the people."
Geothermal is a gift from Pele that will protect us from electricity and other costs that are spiraling out of control. Why would anyone aspiring to be ali’i want to take away this gift in the face of declining resources?
The Thirty Meter Telescope brings our young people great opportunity and inspiration, and it brings the island economic gain, jobs, and more than $50 million in cash to a fund for the education of our keiki. Why would anyone aspiring to be ali’i take these opportunities away from our future generations?
Biotechnology is a tool that will safely feed our people. Why would anyone aspiring to be ali’i take this tool away from farmers trying to feed the people? Farmers representing ninety percent of the farm sales on the Big Island favor using biotech tools. Why look to outsiders for advice when Big Island farmers are telling you what you need to know?
If it wasn't used in pre-contact time, it's bad? Is that really your thinking? Would Kamehameha agree?
I reread some of my posts about my Uncle Sonny Kamahele recently. The most important things I learned about farming, I learned from him down at Maku‘u. I thought I'd revisit some of that here.
Science is great, but there are kids now that go to the supermarket and think that’s where food comes from.
For me, it all goes back to Uncle Sonny and all the layers of technology that have cropped up since then.
When I first thought about farming, I spent hours and hours talking to Uncle Sonny Kamahele down the beach at Maku‘u.
I've written about Uncle Sonny here and here. He was my Pop’s cousin, and I learned the basic principles of farming from him.
I had just graduated from UH Manoa with an accounting degree. I had cost benefit volume analysis and market share on my mind.
Uncle Sonny drove to town once a week. He did not have electricity or running water, but he always had a stack of U.S. News & World Reports with the current copy on top. He made his living farming watermelon by himself.
One day he told me that he needed to open up a new plot of land because he could not stay at the same place for too long; he didn’t want to get a virus or a wilt of some sort.
Over the days and weeks, I watched him cut grass in the new plot with a sickle and pull it into a roll, and then cart the grass out of his plot in a wheelbarrow. When he wasn’t doing that, he would take a hoe and remove the roots of the grass, because he knew that otherwise it would regrow.
The other types of weed were dormant seeds of broad-leaved weeds that would germinate and pop up. Uncle Sonny would remove these with a hoe, only on dry days, without disturbing too much of the soil. After awhile the seeds would stop germinating.
Uncle Sonny knew that certain weeds could continuously regrow if the roots were not removed, and that others only grew from seed. I noticed that, after awhile, hardly any weeds grew in the new plot, and I thought about how amazing that was.
The lessons I learned from Uncle Sonny? Know what your problem is. Also: no waste time.
My grandma Leihulu lived with us for several years as I was growing up in Waiakea Uka. She grew taro and made poi, and she did the same things as Uncle Sonny. She always had a stack of California grass smoldering, even when it was raining - they were weeds she’d removed the same way he did. It was second nature to her. It was just her lifestyle.
Whenever I see a plot of ground that’s clean like that, it’s pretty obvious to me that they did that with a hoe, and that that is somebody that knows what they’re doing.
As Uncle Sonny got older, he started using pesticides, but because they cost money he was very very careful with them. It saves that part where you have to go and hoe the weeds out and go and pull the seeds out. It saved him a lot of time. It wasn’t very many years later that he started to use Roundup.
When I started farming, we were using skull & crossbones types of poisons like Paraquat. When we switched to Roundup, we didn’t have to use that anymore. It made spraying herbicides so much safer for the farmer.
When you use a chemical like Roundup in conjunction with a 100-hp tractor, you can do 1000 times more than one human can do. That means you can produce that much more food. But now that herbicides kill everything, you start losing that knowledge; you don’t have to know what the old guys knew.
When Uncle Sonny used herbicides, he always stuck the leaf into it and saw if it worked. If not, he’d add a little more.
He followed the instructions, but he never relied on the instructions for the final result. He knew the formula, but he checked to make sure the result was what he wanted. It showed me that he knew what he was doing. He knew why that particular spreader was in there, and checked the proportions for sure. Not that he doubted, but if he wanted it to work very well, he’d check it himself.
I haven’t seen anybody, not anybody, do that. But I think it was common knowledge with the old folks.
We are so far removed from our food now that we don’t really have a connection with why we’re doing what we’re doing. But we need the basic knowledge. You’ve got to know why you’re doing what you are doing.
Tuesday morning was the groundbreaking ceremony for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). The blessing took place - Kahu Kaniela Akaka blessed the four corners of the site - but the speeches, the cutting of the maile lei and the ‘o‘o symbolically breaking the ground had to be cancelled due to protestors.
I understand and am okay with folks expressing their passionate opinions. But I am very embarrassed that they attacked the foreign dignitaries at the ceremony, our guests, yelling at them close up and calling them thieves and snakes. That was truly bad manners.
It is not Hawaiian style. That made us all shame and reflected very, very poorly on all Hawaiians.
Kaliko Kanaele of the Royal Order of Kamehameha was present at the protest. The Royal Order’s mission statement says this:
The purpose of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I as it is known today is to unite in fraternal and benevolent work, men of Hawaiian descent, of good moral character, of sound bodily health; to cultivate the cardinal principles of friendship, charity and benevolence; to aid widows and orphans; to improve the social and moral conditions of its members; to provide scholarship assistance; to preserve and perpetuate the ancient culture, customs, and traditions of Hawai’i, uplift the Hawaiian people; infuse the spirit of patriotism, loyalty, helpfulness and kindness among its members; advance the interest of its members in every rightful cause, and to encourage and develop leadership.
I don’t see how protesting the TMT uplifts the Hawaiian people. The leadership of the Royal Order needs to do some soul searching, or else they should change the organization’s mission statement.
The TMT is one way of taking care of our people and our future. It provides jobs, money for the economy, money for our keiki’s education, furthers our scientific knowledge, and moves us and our families and our island forward.
There is more than one way to respect and honor our ‘aina and our ancestors and our mauna. Our people have always been brilliant and managed to honor the past at the same time they move forward and take advantage of the best of the present. I don’t know why people now are so hell bent on fighting to stay in the past.
Mayor Billy Kenoi was there; he spoke with the protestors and handled it well, trying to find common ground. He gave the police explicit instructors that no one got hurt and there would be no arrests. He handled it very well and I was proud of him. No one felt any danger. It was the manners part that was a big problem.
One day when I was on the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board's Thirty Meter Telescope committee, along with Roberta Chu and Bob Saunders, Bob asked me what my father's name was. I told him, and he said, "I want to show you something."
He had a CD of the PBS Hawaii video called First Light, which was about the building of the first telescope atop Mauna Kea. He played it for me and then stopped it and said, "Look at that! What is that?"
I was stunned. It was a video clip of my pop operating his bulldozer on the summit.
(Used here with permission of Leslie Wilcox/PBS Hawai‘i)
Back in 1964 or so, Pop had a contract to help build the road to the top of Mauna Kea. I was away at school then, so I don't know all the details.
Here's a clip from the video. Look at the name across the top of the D-9 there: "Richard Ha." That was my pop. I'm Junior.
Life really has a way of coming full circle, doesn't it!
Hawai‘i’s utilities depend on liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a “bridge fuel,” which will allow it to lower rate payers’ costs. The cost to rate payers, though, depends on the long-term contract HECO can secure.
Canada is probably the best place for Hawaii to acquire LNG. But Canada has some important decisions ahead. Should they build LNG plants, which will require huge upfront investments in the multiple billions? They will have to make some decisions soon.
Click to read a special report on the subject from TD Bank Group (PFD):
Japan is the highest priced market for LNG, but Japan has not yet made its final decision about whether it will restart its nuclear plants. And the Russia/China natural gas pipeline could take 10 percent of Asia’s demand off line.
What will Canada do? They are wrestling with this decision right now.
Hawaii rate payers will be interested to see what price contract HECO is able to secure. Whatever it is will determine the electricity rates we pay for the following twenty years.
And we don't want to see what happened in the Aina Koa Pono docket – where the price was kept secret.
The Big Island has geothermal as a low-cost base power. What we don’t want here is for expensive LNG to prohibit the development of our low-cost geothermal.