Thursday, June 30, 2011

Big Projects Panel Let’s ‘Big Wind’ Off Easy

It’s no knock on attorney Jerry Sumida to suggest that the Big Wind segment of last week’s Big Projects panel at the Plaza Club didn’t quite match the build-up. (We would have posted about the June 23 event earlier but for a getaway week in Waikoloa on the Big Island. If any place in Hawaii deserves the “Big Wind” designation, this is it.)

Careful as always to measure his words, Sumida presented the basics of the Big Wind energy project without prejudicing the issues, going only so far as to suggest “not making or delaying a decision (on the project) is actually making a decision. Either we remain stuck in our dependence on oil as we are today or we do something about it.”

Some of the pre-event publicity implied that NIMBYism might thwart plans to build 200 megawatts of wind energy generating capacity on Molokai and another 200 MW on Lanai, but Sumida didn’t go there. He instead noted that Hawaii exports about $4 billion annually to buy the oil that runs 95 percent of the state’s economy.

“What could we do with these funds if they stayed here,” he asked, saying the choice is between exercising greater independence in our energy future or not. Big Wind could contribute to achieving that independence, he said, but questions need to be asked and answered for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Biggest of the Big

The Big Projects panel sought to understand why large projects like Big Wind, the Super Ferry and Honolulu rail seem to take forever or don’t succeed at all. In that regard, former Governor Ben Cayetano dominated the event with his recitation of why he’s fighting the rail project. We wasted no time addressing his comments at our sister blog, Yes2Rail.

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