Saturday, July 26, 2008

Laying Down a Footprint During Travel Time

Our excuse for letting nine days go by without a post is twofold: Al Gore’s speech on July 17th was compelling, so our post on it lingered, and secondarily, distractions for a mainland trip got in the way. 

Other travelers include Governor Lingle, who’s on a federal government-sponsored trip; she’s in Colorado today for workshops on renewable energy.

Recommended reading for our trip and anyone else concerned about the nation’s and Hawaii’s energy issues is Freedom from Mid-East Oil by Jerry B. Brown, James A. Cusumano and Rinaldo S. Brutoco, whom we met in May at Blue Planet Foundation chief Henk Rogers’ ranch on the Big Island. From the back cover:

“Imagine a world in which America won its freedom from Mid-East oil. We can build that world within 10 years with existing technology and no new taxes.

"Imagine a world in which America resolved to overcome the energy-climate change crisis that threatens its national security. We can build that world today with informed choices and political will.

"Imagine a book with a roadmap for fighting global warming and ending America’s dangerous dependence on imported oil. This is that book!

It’s a page-turner for those whose vision includes a fossil-fuel-free Hawaii.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Gore Challenge to Cut Reliance on 'Carbon Power' Is Tailor-Made for Hawaii’s Push to Get Off Oil

Could Al Gore be more in tune with Hawaii’s energy goals and issues? 

His address today on the nation’s urgent requirement to Get Off Oil perfectly matches what Hawaii’s government leaders (Governor Lingle), entrepreneurs (Henk Rogers and his Blue Planet Foundation), UH's SOEST and just about everybody else have been saying for years.

His remarks today address more than climate control and the environment and hit hard on national security issues, warning of “climate refugees” and the country’s dangerous vulnerability due to its reliance on foreign oil.

(NOTE: New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin, who attended April’s Blue Planet Summit on Oahu, has provided an annotated version of Gore’s energy speech in the Times. Watch a video of the speech here.)

Most Vulnerable Hawaii

Said Gore: “The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk.” Drop Hawaii into that sentence and you capture the Aloha State’s gloomy predicament even now. No state is perched more dangerously on the oil bubble than Hawaii, which is massively dependent on oil for just about all of its energy requirements, including jet fuel – the mother’s milk of the tourism industry.

Media coverage of the former Vice President’s address is bound to be massive, and only the most philosophically resistant are likely to discount his assessment (as they always do).

Gore’s preference to tax sources of emissions will catch the attention of Hawaii’s congressional delegation, and one member in particular was instrumental in the 1970s in exempting Hawaii from the Congress-imposed mandate for power plants to convert from fuel oil to coal and natural gas. Hawaii is 77 percent reliance on oil for its electricity generation, and a tax on what we burn to produce it would have a severe impact.

Once Again, it’s OTEC

Gore’s focus on the threat to our country is all the more reason to accelerate Hawaii’s transition to renewable energy – especially base load sources of power. The options here are few for 24/7 base load energy, and we again suggest that ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) will be Hawaii’s ultimate energy game-changer.

Those who see Hawaii as the renewable energy model for the country and then the world would do well to enlist Gore in that long-term vision. No one speaks with greater authority in America or has wider reach on these issues than Al Gore. 

Hawaii’s aggressive energy goals will be more attainable with his enthusiastic support and the emotional lift he can provide.  Attracting his attention should be high on the to-do list.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Algae Schmalgae; if it’ll Replace Oil, WE'RE FOR IT!

We don’t know Thing One about algae; frankly, we feel a little squeamish around the stuff and wonder what happens if you get some on you. Surely someone more comfortable with algae like Jan TenBruggencate and his Raising Islands blog will weigh in on the news that a new biofuel facility will be built on Maui, displacing oil as soon as 2011.

Our simple test when reading these announcements is whether a project will reduce Hawaii’s dependence on imported fossil fuel. This will, so we’re in the cheering section here on the sidelines.

Now when it comes to other forms of renewable energy like ocean thermal energy conversion, we grab a flag and march out there in front of the band along with the ROTC color guard (something we actually did a thousand years ago).

We try not to let more than two posts go by without mentioning OTEC, which was the original inspiration for this blog right from its start. So in addition to algae, we hope you’ll consider what OTEC could do for this island state, which is 92 percent dependent on fossil fuel for its energy and 77 percent on oil for electricity generation.

The price of oil may have fallen more than $6/barrel today, but it’s not a trend. Put your money on OTEC -- along with algae, of course.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Plug-ins Touted for Hawaii’s Transition Off Oil

Advertiser Columnist Jay Fidell makes a strong case in his "Think Tech" piece today for the adoption of electric plug-in vehicles – including the high-powered Tesla Roadster (right). We’ll keep this post short and recommend Fidell’s column for everyone concerned about Hawaii’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Letter to Oilman Pickens: ‘Look to Hawaii for Significant Impact in Reducing Oil Dependence’

We listened with fascination yesterday to NPR’s report on oilman T. Boone Pickens and his plan to develop the world’s largest windfarm in the Texas panhandle – 4,000 megawatts of clean juice.

Now comes friend Bob Smith – recently of Hawaii but returning to his Texas home next week – with the online link to the Pickens Plan. We encourage clicking on it for some renewable energy inspiration.

First, you have to hand it to Mr. Pickens; he looks as cool and comfortable giving a seminar on the downside of fossil fuel use as Al Gore. This 80-year-old legend in his own time is moving too fast to let any moss grow, and on the Internet at that.

Next, hooray for this oilman's clear declaration on what importing petroleum is doing to our country. When he speaks, industries listen, and he’s speaking now about developing America’s abundant wind energy potential in the heartland.

Thinking Outside the Continent

Now, all we need to do is “ride the horse the direction it’s going,” as someone we know used to say. Mr. Pickens is already riding hard toward a renewable energy future, so here’s our hope:

T. Boone Pickens will discover that Hawaii is 92 percent dependent on imported oil for our energy, including a whopping 77 percent for the state’s electricity generation. Wind, solar, geothermal, coal and a smidgen of hydro power make up the rest of our power generation, but oil is the big contributor.

Hawaii is arguably closer to becoming 100-percent fossil fuel free among the states for one reason – the tropical ocean in which this fleet of islands is anchored. If Mr. Pickens were to write another renewable energy equation using ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) power out here in Hawaii instead of wind, we could be on our way to eliminating fossil fuel use in the Aloha State.

OK, not in this decade or the next, but by 2030 we could be getting close, maybe even surpassing the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative goal to be 70 percent reliant on renewable energy by then.

What’s with the Waco Connection?

We’re curious why this blog has been visited dozens of times in recent days by computers using the domain. We’re happy you’re here and invite you to clue us in on this sudden interest in Hawaii Energy Options. Please leave a Comment below or send an email to Mahalo.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hawaii’s Changing Demand Side Use Highlighted as Consumers React to ‘Breathtaking’ $350 Power Bill

The Honolulu Advertiser delves into how Hawaii’s electrical energy consumers are adjusting to the new reality of $140+/barrel oil. Eliminating “phantom loads” by unplugging electronics when they’re not needed, switching to CFL bulbs and other tactics are trimming both kilowatthours and dollars from bills.

Elsewhere, analysts are assessing the pause in the spiraling oil price increase, with some suggesting the market’s just taking a breather before pressing on to the $150 “barrier,” which isn’t.  Hawaii consumers are looking for more than a "breather." How about Time Out!?

Adding to our apprehension is the latest news about what's happening to the ocean around us.  The Star-Bulletin has a story on research by University of Hawaii scientists that's reported in the July 4th issue of Science magazine.  It makes us wish we had done more for the planet over the long holiday weekend....

Friday, July 4, 2008

Editorial Cartoonists Capture Spirit of Hawaii’s 4th

Hawaiian Electric's rate increase request is both papers' top page-one story (here and here). They must have wanted the exposure, 'cause it sure looks like they timed it that way.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

We’re in an Energy Crisis, but Installing Hundreds of Megawatts of Intermittent Power Won’t Solve It; Murdock Calls It Emergency, Marshall Islands Act

Lanai owner David Murdock is in town and attracting page-one treatment in the Honolulu Advertiser by asking the Governor to declare an energy emergency in Hawaii. Others have been saying the same thing (including this blog), but when you’re one of the world’s richest men, you get more ink than the rest of us for some reason.

Murdock specifically wants to fast track his proposed 400-megawatt wind farm on Lanai and send most of its output to Oahu via undersea cable. Others are chiming in about whether suspending regulations is a smart thing to do.

Our point is that without a capability to store lots of energy, a wind farm won’t “solve” Hawaii’s dependence on fossil fuel. The wind won’t always blow, and the sun won't always shine (he also has a solar farm under development).

As we’ve pointed out on numerous occasions (first here, then here), Lanai is surrounded by the world’s largest energy collector – a tropical ocean. Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) could be put to excellent use on Murdock’s island paradise for eventual expansion around the state and the world.

Murdock obviously is passionate about Hawaii’s energy crisis; you can hear and see it in an online video post next to the Advertiser story. But if he is so attuned to the state’s energy problem, we have to wonder why he rejects OTEC out of hand.

That’s what we hear – that if he can’t own it, he’s not interested in it, and he apparently isn’t interested in owning an off-shore OTEC project. That’s a shame because OTEC is increasingly seen as a long term, big picture “solution” to energy, global warming and hunger issues because of its ability to manufacture electricity, hydrogen and pure water using the inexhaustible supply of solar energy stored in the ocean.

If anyone out there has influence with David Murdock, please talk to him about OTEC. We’ve tried going through his subordinates without success.

About those Future Bills

Finally, it would be good to know just how much energy cost relief Murdock has in mind for Lanai and Oahu. A kilowatthour costs 44 cents on Lanai, among the highest rates in the country, and about 25 cents with a bullet on Oahu. If exemption from existing rules and regulations to speed his energy projects is being requested, we at least should know what kind of a break we’re supposed to get thanks to Murdock Power.

Wind farms and undersea cables don’t come on the cheap, and we have to believe Murdock’s not willing to lose money on the venture. So as just about everybody says these days:

“What’s in it for me?”

The Honolulu Advertiser asked a different question of the Governor and State Legislature in today's editorial: "What is your plan?" Here's yet another: Why not hold an energy summit with the US Department of Energy, the State, private sources like Murdock and sustainability advocates like the Sierra Club and the Blue Planet Foundation? Get everybody in the same room and hammer out an updated plan that takes $145/barrel oil into account.

Remember late January? That's when the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative was launched -- back when oil cost less than $100/barrel. Murdock, the Advertiser, Maurice Kaya and the rest of us are right: This is a train-wreck crisis that requires even bolder action than anything we've yet seen. What indeed is the plan?

And Deeper into the Pacific...

The Marshall Islands has declared a state of economic emergency due to the rising cost of energy. Now, that's taking action!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Can OTEC Save the Earth and End World Hunger?

That’s a fascinating prospect outlined in a new article in Renewable Energy Naval architect Christopher Barry goes beyond energy production to examine ocean thermal energy conversion’s (OTEC) potential to sequester carbon, reverse carbon’s effects on global warming and manufacture fertilizers to enhance agriculture.

As Barry notes, this potential isn’t without potential unintended consequences that need to be addressed. But as the price of oil hovers above $140/barrel (the tracker at right may seem obsessive, but it focuses the mind), OTEC deserves all the attention it can get. (Keep $143.67 in mind as you watch the graph; that was the all-time high reached on June 30.)