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Monday, May 2, 2016

Energy Policy is Cornerstone of Sustainability

The role of energy cannot be understated. 
Both internationally, and in Hawai`i, expenditures on energy account for more than ten percent of all expenditures (Energy $$$ > 10% of GDP). Energy drives commerce and industry. Energy costs are the major financial input for agriculture and moving water. See: Energy Plays Dominant Role in Hawai`i Economy

In addition, energy is the number one causer of health impacts, loss of critical habitat, pollution, and climate change. See: Energy Plays Dominant Role in Threats to Hawai`i Residents & Ecosystems

Life of the Land was founded in February 1970, one month after the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) became law, which required federal Environmental Impact Statements (EISs), and two months before the first Earth Day.

During the 1960s HECO spent money on advertisements encouraging ratepayers to increase their use of electricity. In 1971 HECO asked the Public Utilities Commission for the right to pass the advertising costs onto the shoulders of the ratepayers.
Life of the Land intervened. The Commission ruled in favor of the utility. Life of the Land appealed. The Hawaii Supreme Court reversed the ruling.

Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson (1961-1969) asserted in 1970, “Life of the Land is waging a vigorous fight against polluters in and out of court.”
Wall Street Journal (April 5, 1972. Lead story, p A1): “Lawsuits and lobbying efforts by Life of the Land are forcing the state health department and the administration of Gov. John Burns to devote increasing time to pollution matters.”
In 1972, before the only law school in the State opened its doors to its freshman class, 80 law students applied to intern for the summer. Life of the Land accepted 19 students who joined 14 attorneys.
Life of the Land`s actions led to state and federal court decisions dealing with the right of community groups to appeal cases to the courts.
Hawaii Business News (Cover Story, November 1973): “The remarkable thing about Life of the Land is the fact that it has succeeded as well as it has against such a broad and potent array of opposition.”
Star-Bulletin Editorial (May 13, 1975): “Useful Gadfly. ...Life of the Land fills a near-vacuum in the State in terms of a citizens’ lobby to challenge the establishment’s policy decisions ...particularly in the all-important areas of land use and environmental protect."

Honolulu Star-Bulletin (March 14, 1995): Key leaders left mark on the state during Hawaii’s growth years. “The effect a person can have on a place is immeasurable. Here are the 10 people or organizations who, from 1965 to 1975, helped make Hawaii what it is today.” 

The list contained 6 individuals and 4 organizations: John Burns, Tom Gill, Land Use Commission, George Helm, Dan Inouye, Patsy Mink, Bishop Estate, Unions, Life of the Land, Ah Quon McElrath. 

Honorable Mentioned: Henry Kaiser, Frank Fasi, William S. Richardson court, Myron B. Thompson, Robert Oshiro, George Ariyoshi.

HECO first proposed the Wa`ahila Ridge (Kamoku-Pukele) 138-kV Transmission Line in the early 1970s. The proposed line was finally defeated in 2002. 

The Transmission Line would have gone from the Iolani School area (Date St and Kapiolani Blvd), up Saint Louis Heights and into the mauka region of Palolo.
The fight raged from about 1971 to 2002, and involved new legislation, several Environmental Assessments, Environmental Impact Statements, and Conservation District Use Applications. 

In March 1996 Malama O Mānoa and The Outdoor Circle asked Life of the Land to join them in what would amount to the final six year fight.  

During the three decade struggle, over 10,000 residents wrote comments against the proposed line.
Life of the Land has taken a leadership role in energy policy, focusing on the Public Utilities Commission. 

Life of the Land has been an intervenor in 40 Public Utilities Commission regulatory proceedings, and as a non-competitor to HECO, has had access to confidential documents that not all intervenors get to see.
Life of the Land firmly believes that too often problems are examined using silo mentality. Artificial man-made constructs and boundaries are imposed that fail to provide a realistic picture. 

Every energy project has positive and negative economic, environmental, social, cultural, geographic, taxpayer and ratepayer impacts. Every energy project has primary impacts, secondary impacts, cumulative impacts, life cycle impacts, externalities and unintended side-effects.
Life of the Land led efforts to stop the importation of rain forest palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, to get HECO to admit that climate change is real and caused by fossil fuel use, to stop HECO and the Gas Company from importing fracked Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and to oppose invasive renewable energy projects including Big Wind, Inter-island Cables, Aina Koa Pono, Hu Honua, a second wind farm in Kahuku, and the expansion of geothermal in Puna.
Along with other parties, Life of the Land worked on Net Energy Metering, Reliability Standards, Interconnection Issues, and other policy issues.
In January 2016 Life of the Land`s Henry Curtis and Kat Brady were honored with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Lifetime Peacemaker Award for Social Justice Activism from the Church of the Crossroads.
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Energy Plays Dominant Role in Hawai`i Economy

Hawai`i's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2014 was $76.2 billion.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration updated its Hawai`i Profile on September 17, 2015.

"Hawaii's geographic isolation makes its energy infrastructure unique among the states. In recent years, more than one-tenth of the state's gross domestic product has been spent on energy, most of that for imported crude oil and petroleum products.”

These figures are consistent with international figures.

World energy consumption refers to the total energy used by all of human civilization. Typically measured per year, it involves all energy harnessed from every energy source applied towards humanity's endeavors across every single industrial and technological sector, across every country. … In 2011, expenditures on energy totaled over 6 trillion USD, or about 10% of the world gross domestic product (GDP).”
Energy drives the world economy at $190,000 per second, $600 million per hour, $15 billion per day. A small fraction of this offers plentiful funds to pay speakers, sponsor conferences, underwrite studies and give out awards.
The world economy grew since 2011. In 2015 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that global fossil fuel subsidies are $5.3 trillion/year. This represents 6.5% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 
“Just over half the figure is the money governments are forced to spend treating the victims of air pollution and the income lost because of ill health and premature deaths. The figure is higher than a 2013 IMF estimate because new data from the World Health Organisation shows the harm caused by air pollution to be much higher than thought.”


Life of the Land estimated the energy sector as 10 percent or more of the Hawai`i economy. The calculations are crude and are summarized below

During the past decade the State imported about 40 million barrels of petroleum per year. The cost per barrel has ranged from $30 - $145. 

Each barrel is imported by a petroleum refinery. The fuel is processed and sold to middle men (electric and gas utilities and gas stations).

The middle men then sell electricity, gas, gasoline, and diesel to end-users. About a third of the petroleum is refined into jet fuel which might be sold directly or indirectly to airlines. Thus each unit of imported petroleum energy is sold two or three times.

Renewable energy produced by an Independent Power Company is sold to an electric utility which sells the electricity to end-users. Thus it is sold twice. 

Rooftop solar is not sold at all. Even under net energy metering, it is traded with, but not sold to, the utility. The cost of rooftop solar is reflected in the cost to buy and install solar panels.

Vehicles are fueled by gasoline and diesel. Pump prices are volatile.  

The petroleum numbers exclude coal imports, bottled gas, on-site renewable energy installation and production, and the cost to install energy efficiency devices designed to decrease energy bills.

The total amount of money spent on energy in Hawai`i ranges approximately from $7.5-10 billion/year.

Energy is a major cost factor in agriculture and the movement of water. 

Fossil fuel use is the number one global cost factor in health impacts. 

Fossil fuels rank number one globally in producing air, water and land-based pollution and in heating up the planet. See: Energy Plays Dominant Role in Threats to Hawai`i Residents & Ecosystems

Without fossil fuels the First and Second Industrial Revolutions (c. 1750, c. 1870) would never have occurred.

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Energy Plays Dominant Role in Threats to Hawai`i Residents & Ecosystems

Fossil Fuel use is a threat to every form of life.  

Honolulu Harbor Oil Tanks

A National Academy of Science Study, conducted at the request of U.S. Congress, analyzed energy-induced health impacts. “Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of EnergyProduction and Use” (2010) found that in the U.S. 20,000 people die prematurely each year from fossil fuel air pollution, and that U.S. health impacts cost $120 billion/year. 

The study excluded health impacts associated with global warming; burning oil for trains, ships and planes; coal mining; and coal byproducts dumped into streams and rivers.

Waiau Oil Spill

A Chevron pipeline ruptured on May 14, 1996, discharging 41,000 gallons of No. 6 bunker fuel oil into Waiawa Stream adjacent to HECO’s Waiau Power Plant.

Being slightly heavier than fresh water, the oil slowly sank through the Waiawa Stream water table, contaminating life forms along its spread and descent.

Being slightly lighter than salt water, when it reached Pearl Harbor, the oil slowly rose through the water column once again killing life forms.

Pools of submerged oil contaminated the ten acre Waiawa Marsh, a restricted wildlife area and home to the state's four endangered species of water birds, the Hawaiian stilt, coot, duck, and the moor hen.

Oil covered approximately 90,000,000 square feet of open water in Pearl Harbor during the first six days after the spill.

Areas impacted included freshwater and saltwater wetlands, shorelines and intertidal areas including mangroves, mudflats, rocky shorelines, sandy beaches, riprap, seawalls and piers.

Regulators estimated that 77,965 linear feet of intertidal habitat was oiled.
The clean-up resulted in the repeated, episodic high-pressure washing of the Pearl Harbor shoreline, which destabilized and eroded shoreline soils. The shoreline continued to emit an oil sheen for more than a month.

This pollution had a devastating impact on egg, larval, juvenile and adult stages of recreationally and commercially valuable finfish, invertebrates, green turtles, and birds.

Initially federal and state regulators estimated that the habitat would take ten years to recover, but later revised estimates upwards to fifteen to twenty years.

Rainforest Biofuel

Palm Oil is principally produced in one area of the world: Indonesia and Malaysia. Just a few years ago Indonesia and Malaysia accounted for 88% of world production and 91% of world trade in palm oil.

The Wall Street Journal ran a front page lead story on the palm oil scandal.

Wild fires were being set in Borneo to clear land for logging and planting of palm oil plantations.

Huge releases of greenhouse gases were being emitted from burning peat soil. In the late 1990s Indonesia was briefly the #1 greenhouse gas emitter in the world.

The Wall Street Journal article also pointed out the environmental destruction, the loss of ecosystems, the displacement of native peoples, and the man made cloud which shrouded the region.

Under international pressure, the palm oil industry adopted 39 weak standards.

Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) proposed importing palm oil from producers who adhered to just six of these standards as long as the producer was working towards “no child labor” and working towards “free, prior and informed consent” of native peoples at the particular plantation where the biofuel would come from, regardless of what the producers did on their other plantations.

Borneo is the third largest island in the world with an area of 287,000 square miles.  Borneo is divided three ways: 73 percent is Indonesian, 26 percent is Malaysian and one percent is the sovereign country of Brunei.

The Borneo rainforest is 140 million years old, making it one of the oldest rainforests in the world. There are about 15,000 species of flowering plants, 3,000 species of trees, 221 species of terrestrial mammals, 420 species of resident birds, and 440 freshwater fish species.

The Borneo rainforest is one of the few remaining natural habitats for the endangered orangutan. It is an important refuge for many endemic forest species, including the Borneo elephant, the eastern Sumatran rhinoceros, the Bornean clouded leopard, the Hose's palm civet and the dayak fruit bat.

Borneo has significant cave systems. Clearwater Cave has one of the world's longest underground rivers. Deer Cave is home to over three million bats, with guano accumulated to over 330 feet deep.

Military Oil Spills

The Navy’s Red Hill facility is leaking into the ground near or over the aquifer.

The 20-mile Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants pipeline connected the Air Force`s Wakakalaua Fuel Storage Annex in Wahiawa and Kipapa Gulch Fuel Storage Annex in Waipio with Hickam Air Force Base.

Over a half century timeframe, 18 billion gallons went up, and 14 billion gallons came down. The system is empty. The remaining 4 billion gallons leaked, evaporated, was stolen and/or was an accounting error.

More Oil Spills

Dead oiled birds and tar balls came ashore at Kauai's Barking Sands, Polihale, Nukoli, Fujii, and Kipu Kai beaches in September 1998. The U.S. Coast Guard determined through chemical analysis, that the oil was from a Tesoro hose failure between the Barbers Point shore at the oil/chemical tanker OVERSEAS NEW YORK.

Exxon Houston spilled about 117,000 gallons of oil in March, 1989, threatening beaches on the island of Oahu. Exxon sought to shift damages. Exxon lost in district court, at the Ninth Circuit in 1995, and before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996.
Another Tesoro Leak at Barber`s Point occurred in 2001 involving the oil/chemical tanker OVERSEAS CHICAGO.

While in route from Barbers Point to Ulsan, South Korea, the U.S. tank vessel SS OMI YUKON suffered major explosions and fires in the starboard fuel oil storage tanks and engine room. 

The Coast Guard determined that the 1986 accident had two causes: “contamination of the vessel's bunkers with flush oil during bunkering through a subsea pipeline and the absence of a flame screen in the after starboard fuel oil tank vent.

The Hawaiian Patriot was carrying 99,000 of oil from Indonesia to Honolulu. During February 23-24, 1977, the tanker leaked 50,000 tons of oil, caught fire, exploded, burned for hours, and then sank. The oil plume occurred 300 miles west of Hawaii and moved away from the islands. By contrast the Exxon Valdez had only 35,000 tons of oil (11 million gallons or 257,000 barrels).

AES Coal Plant, Campbell Industrial Park


HC&S burned bagasse to generate power for its needs. HC&S wanted to sell surplus power to MECO but MECO needed steady output (firm power). So HC&S added 40,000 tons of coal per year to their bagasse, and sold electricity to MECO as “renewable energy.”

Cane burning and ccoal-bagasse air pollution impacted Maui communities. 

Puna Geothermal Ventures


Tropical Storm Iselle devastated Puna on the night of Thursday, August 7, 2014.

Puna Pono Alliance described the chain of events.

Puna Geothermal Ventures (PGV) and Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) made a commercial decision to keep PGV operating during Tropical Storm Iselle.

It was plainly foreseeable that the storm would damage trees and HELCO transmission lines, as it did, and that PGV would need to shut down on an emergency basis, as it did, and that complications of the storm situation would interfere with any response to the upset condition, as they did.

In fact, electric service was seriously disrupted around much of the Island as storm damage brought down trees and branches and disrupted utility infrastructure on a wide scale. Even ordinary rain storms have caused such damage on a smaller scale.

Civil Defense gave an alert for community members to evacuate if they felt symptoms from PGV's hydrogen sulfide release and dispatched the hazardous materials response team to PGV.

Storm damage to trees and utility lines made the roads dangerous and impassable for the attempted HazMat response, and they turned back before reaching the site. The same conditions made it dangerous and impossible for residents feeling symptoms from PGV's H2S release to evacuate from their homes.

The County but not the State reacted to community concerns and passed geothermal-based health-related ordinances. The 2016 State Legislature proposed stripping the county`s ability to enact health ordinances related to geothermal emissions.

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