Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Veto and No Override, a Molokai Puzzler, and an Energy Festival..…Playing Catch-Up with the News

We’re scrambling to mention, if briefly, the major events of the past week that seemed to pile up while we focused on other issues, including tomorrow’s Energy Futures show on Hawaii Public Radio.

The Governor’s veto of a $1/barrel tax increase on imported oil to fund renewable energy and food security initiatives and the Legislature’s failure to override will have repercussions. Supporters of the measure already are blasting both decisions and presumably are more determined than ever to see a tax succeed next year, election year be damned.

The lobbying effort that swayed legislators to vote against the veto override was led by the local airline industry, according to media reports. We failed to find any coverage of what the impact on the airlines might have been under the tax, so we asked Jeff Mikulina of the Blue Planet Foundation:

“About 25 cents per ticket. The airlines claim this will add $2,752,000 to their fuel costs inter-island (total of $2.9 million with existing 5-cent tax). Based on 2007 numbers, where 9,188,139 passengers flew inter-island, this would be $0.2995 per person. But some of the inter-island fuel cost goes to cargo, so I figure the impact on passengers would be slightly less, say 25 cents…. I still can't believe we lost this.”

Harmful to Poor?

The Governor’s veto message said the tax would hurt Hawaii’s poor by raising gasoline prices 2 or 3 cents a gallon. Mikulina commented on that reasoning yesterday at the Hawaii Clean Energy Festival, noting that residents are hurt much more by rising oil prices.

That much is irrefutable. The price of oil reached $147/barrel a year ago this month, and every Hawaii resident paid dearly -- at the pump, at the grocery store, in their electric bills, everywhere. The proposed tax increase would have slapped a big fat target where it belongs – imported oil. Yes, we’re still dependent on it, but that has to change, and two bits per passenger per flight hardly seems like reason enough to lead the effort to kill this measure.

The Molokai Puzzler

We’ll give passing mention to the alleged intention of a New Mexico company to build a hydrogen-powered generation plant on the Friendly Isle. Nearly everything about the company’s announcement was puzzling, including the media’s lack of curiosity about it.

The company said it can’t disclose the location of its planned hydrogen production plant because negotiations for the site are still under way, according to a company official. He also said Jetstream Wind Inc. hopes to break ground in 30 to 60 days. You have to wonder where in that time frame they plan to fit in an environmental impact statement and review process.

Continuing, the Honolulu Advertiser story (reprinted by The Maui News) reported that the plant would generate electricity to power 6,000 homes and businesses. Molokai’s population is somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000, so on the face of it, the company proposes to service all homes and businesses on the island and presumably replace Maui Electric as the island's power provider.

But according to the Advertiser story, Maui Electric’s parent company, Hawaiian Electric, has not been contacted by the company. That’s the most glaring point of all.

This whole endeavor reminds us of the proposal floated earlier this year to build a wind farm in the middle of the humpback whale sanctuary in the Penguin Bank region of open ocean southwest of Molokai. That company also had not yet contacted Hawaiian Electric about its plan, an obvious red flag that prompted us to ask at the time whether every proposed renewable energy project deserves community support.

Putting press releases ahead of due diligence is a sure way to not gain support for projects in the islands. You’d think mainland developers would have learned that by now.

1 comment:

KailuaKona3000 said...

I believe the New Mexico company was also looking to set up shop specifically with the expectations to get funding through the 2006 Hydrogen Fund. Excellent point about what not to do to get public support.