Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Geothermal Energy Gains the Spotlight Amid New Assessments on the Views of Key Communities

Power from Mother Earth has been quietly contributing to the island of Hawaii’s energy requirements for decades, and now geothermal energy is producing eye-catching headlines that seem to presage either new developments in the industry or new public attitudes about its acceptance, or both.

Pacific Business News’ contribution in its October 11th issue was headlined “Geothermal energy holds vast potential to power Big Island.” Hawaii Business magazine’s piece in the November issue, “Geothermal’s Second Chance,” focuses a great deal on the concerns expressed by the Native Hawaiian community and others over the years.

A quick read of the magazine’s piece leaves us wondering whether attitudes truly have changed about geothermal’s impact on the community or whether there’s a new “what’s in it for me?” vein running through all of this.

It's understandable that various communities would have something to gain by allowing geothermal to expand. The state as a community has much to gain by reducing our collective dependence on fossil fuels, and geothermal power potentially could make a huge contribution.

It’s just that there may be reason for a go-slow acceptance of this implied new well-spring of support for geothermal among key constituencies, such as the Native Hawaiian community.

A Little Perspective

We wish we had been akamai enough to know how to preserve the weekly Energy Futures programs on Hawaii Public Radio that we produced and hosted from July 2009 to this February. (The show's no longer on the air.) We got smart enough to save just one – with a Nobel Laureate at that, the late Dr. Stephen Schneider. The program originally aired in August 2009 and was rebroadcast in November.

Had we known how to preserve those programs we'd invite you to listen to the July 27, 2009 edition of Energy Futures that was devoted to Native Hawaiian perspectives on renewable energy. Our guests that day were Dr. Daviana McGregor (at right) and Ramsay Taum of the University of Hawaii.

That said, we have the next best thing to offer – a transcription of Dr. McGregor’s comments a few weeks earlier at a similar discussion sponsored by the Sakamaki Extraordinary Lecture series at UH.

We recommend spending some time with Dr. McGregor’s views before assuming, based on the recent journalism, that the coast is clear to expand geothermal energy’s contributions to the state’s energy grid. We doubt that it's as clear-cut as some would have you believe.

We bring this up only because it’s critical to have a clear-eyed assessment of the challenges and opportunities before Hawaii as we do everything we can, including expanding geothermal energy, to Get Off Oil!

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