Archive for June, 2008

Q&A: does renewable energy threaten KIUC’s reliability?

kiuc keeps the lights on

When KIUC Board chair Dennis Esaki sparred with Governor Linda Lingle last week on energy security versus reliability, there was much more not said than said.

Wot Esaki didn't say is that renewable energy is viewed as "unreliable."

Wot Esaki also didn't say is that "unreliability" is only a problem in the old paradigm of centralized power generation.

Nor did Esaki say that the definition of "reliable" is changing as we speak.

Let's hope Esaki and the rest of the KIUC board can be relied on to think about this challenge in new ways and tweak its strategy and practices.

Published by Ken on June 29th, 2008 tagged Energy, HI-specific | Comments Off

energy and sustainability on Kauai council agenda

HI island energy flow, click for larger

Last Summer, Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura asked for help with an energy sustainability plan, and now it's on the Council agenda. Yeah!

Never mind that this resolution is just now popping up. Nor is it clear wot might be done with the $200,000 the Council has set aside for these planning purposes. Let's hope that's not intended for some outside consultants. (Note that the Hawaii Island plan, on which this is modeled, required less than $100,000, in part because much of the work was done by Yale grad students.)

Still, it's vitally important that our island's energy unsustainability gets addressed...like yesterday.

Published by Ken on June 29th, 2008 tagged Energy, HI-specific | Comments Off

Q&A: RU ready to spend 20% of income on $7 gas?

chart of gas cost per vehicle from CIBC forecast

Thirty five years ago, during the first OPEC embargo, I watched Americans switch 10% of their food budget into their driving budget...and decided I didn't want to play that game. I have not owned a car since.

Soon thereafter, as an elected official (in New Haven), I advocated a sharp increase in parking rates to explicitly discourage driving into downtown, and I have long hoped for a significant jump in gas prices to goad Americans into smarter transport choices.

Finally, I'm getting my wish, and it will be interesting to see how Americans...and Kauaians...adjust, following decades of heavy investment in auto-dependence.

Published by Ken on June 28th, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | 1 Comment »

Q&A: where are gas prices headed? wudja believe $7?

EIA laffable gas price forecast

You might think a reliable prediction of future gas prices would be mandatory for policy wonks now trying to figure out the economic costs of 'peak oil'.

Try telling that to the feds' Energy Information Administration (EIA), whose predictions are simply laffable, prolly ‘cause they’re still trying to debunk the oil shortage thang..

So says Eric de Place, who's been tracking this stuff (via sightline).

Wudja believe we won't see $4 gas until sometime around 2030? Yup, that's EIA's official forecast...just released here.

Uh, with gas now averaging $4.13, de Place notes that we can only come to one of two conclusions…

Published by Ken on June 27th, 2008 tagged Energy, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

how does KIUC define ‘prior year’? on missing fuel mix data

KIUC and fuel mix disclosure

Don't go looking for the 2007 data on KIUC's fuel mix, 'cause it's not yet been disclosed, despite a clear mandate to provide this info to members by June 1st.

Instead, members received a "Fuel Mix" insert last month that purported to comply with the disclosure law, yet provided data only through 2006.

Having politely inquired of KIUC by email, I was assured this info was available on the website, yet when I responded that it was not, I got no reply.

Why should this matter? Aside from its legal defects, this lag in reporting hinders our ability to make smart energy decisions.

Published by Ken on June 27th, 2008 tagged Energy, HI-specific | Comments Off

Q&A on sustainability: wot are we supposed to do now?

penguins watching wot humans do

One consequence of our country being so far behind the curve on sustainability is the slow awakening to the magnitude of our task at hand amid lots of flailing about this or that do-list for 'saving the planet'.

Sadly, yet gratefully, we can look to other countries for advice and strategic guidance on sustainability matters, since many nations are by now way on down the road.

I've previously blogged about New Zealand, Britain, and other places (like Townsville, Australia) with leading edge sustainability strategies and policies.

By looking over their shoulders, we Americans might just leapfrog some of this learning curve.

Published by Ken on June 26th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

Carlin left the planet on a bad Kauai day for dying

george carlin smiling down from heaven

Dontcha hate it when two famous people die on the same day...especially one ya can't ignore and one ya can't live without.

George Carlin would be in the latter category, and news of his death Monday has pretty much wrecked my whole week. Never mind that our island lost its Mayor the same day (via planetkauai).

I wanna mourn Carlin, who seemed (and looked, some say) like my older brother, and who got me through lots of years with guaranteed ROTFL at his pokes and prods.

Yikes! First Vonnegut, now Carlin...how the bleep are we gonna slice and dice this crazy America!

Published by Ken on June 26th, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

Hawaii energy security trumps reliability: does KIUC disagree?

dennis esaki, kiuc board chair

Governor Linda Lingle recently told Kauai business leaders that oil-burning systems can no longer be considered the most dependable form of generation (via kauaiworld).

KIUC Board Chair, Dennis Esaki, replied that Hawaii's reliance on oil is better than coal and reliability remains the top concern.

Reporter Blake Jones got in some editorializing, noting that "the KIUC board of directors has consistently responded that it has an obligation to keep the lights on, which it couldn’t guarantee if it hastily invested in new technologies that have not been thoroughly vetted."

Did they say that? Does Esaki disagree that security is the dominant threat?

Published by Ken on June 25th, 2008 tagged Energy, HI-specific | 2 Comments »

ecological footprint depends on location and income

coolclimate footprint calculator

New results of an ecological footprint calculation for Canadians shows the obvious link between spending and emissions. Sure enough, the richest Canadians spew 2/3 more carbon than the average household (via CBC).

Especially in transport, the footprint of top Canadian earners is almost nine times the lowest-income households, given the richer households' heavier reliance more on bigger carsd and more air travel.

Similar results for Hawaii from the CoolClimate calculator show that island households emit 20% less carbon than the US average, given our paucity of industry and lighter reliance on electricity to heat or cool our homes.

Published by Ken on June 24th, 2008 tagged Ecological Footprint, HI-specific | Comments Off

is Hawaii sustainable? ‘peak oil’ actuary has major doubts

gail tverberg, actuary

When Gail Tverberg writes about sustainability in Hawaii, folks listen...and not just because she's the "actuary" over on The Oil Drum.

Tverberg, who does risk assessments for the insurance industry and recently visited Hawaii to participate in a Kohala Center energy forum on the Big Island, couldn't help reflecting on our vulnerabilities. Not surprisingly, she's not sanguine.

Says Tverberg, "If Hawaii's problems become clear before those of the rest of the US, it is possible that quite a few people currently living in Hawaii will move to the mainland," adding "it seems likely to me that Hawaii's tourist industry will largely disappear in the next few years, as oil prices rise."

Published by Ken on June 24th, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Sustainability Science | Comments Off

Q&A: wot’s that beautiful tree with the wide flat top?

albizia tree

Albizia keeps coming up, as when good buddy Ben Discoe popped by the treehouse while visiting from Hawaii to participate in Waipa's Ho'oulu 'Aina and asked about those "beautiful" trees coming through Kalihiwai.

Naturally, Discoe wrinkled his nose when I answered: Albizia. We all know this tree is a wicked invasive that, perhaps more than any other single tree, poses a threat to our remaining rainforest.

Also, in response to my earlier Albizia posts, Melissa Fischer (a participant in my sustainability seminar) wanted to know how we might balance the Albizia negatives against the biomass positives. So, here's some further thots.

Published by Ken on June 24th, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Island Ecosystems | Comments Off

Q&A: wot does cheap fuel mean?

cane worker

Wanna go green at low prices? Get yerself some of that famed Brazilian biofuel.

Yet, dig deeper into how this fuel can be so cheap and you run smack up against the reason we gotta think about all three spheres together.

Howzat? A large part of the reason this fuel is cheap has to do with labor conditions on the Brazilian plantations, that's how.

Says Patrick McDonnell, "Biofuels may help reduce humanity's carbon footprint, but the social footprint is substantial" (via latimes).

"A lot of the competitive edge for biofuels is due to worker exploitation -- from slave work to underpayment".

Published by Ken on June 17th, 2008 tagged Energy, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

Q&A: wot should Obama do in the first 100 days?

policy question

Say Obama wins amid myriad signs of a coming climate catastrophe. Wot's the first move to get the US in the game?

Sure, Kim Stanley Robinson covered this scenario in his latest book in the capitol trilogy. And his new president Phil Chase came to office as a darkhorse in troubling times.

Still, Chase didn't have a war to contend with, and this is Obama's avowed first priority, with universal health care a close second.

So, where's global warming in Obama's plan and wot might he do in the first 100 days? Start with turning science into policy, says here...says Robinson.

Published by Ken on June 14th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

wanna know econ impacts of climate change? so do we

HI econ forecast results vs actual

Chief economist Paul Brewbaker at BOH regularly tracks Hawaii's forecasts versus actual growth for key economic indicators.

Good thang, too, 'cause more folks now wanna know how good these forecasting models are.

Peter Dorman, who’s involved with economic analysis for the Western Climate Initiative, asks "is there any evidence that such models add value—that their predictions are any better than those derived from...even a random walk?" (via EconoSpeak).

Says Dorfman, " I think these models are so dubious theoretically and unreliable in practice that there is no case for using them." Let's have a look at the Hawaii models, shall we?

Published by Ken on June 9th, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

this just in: my institute gets business coverage

tki on pbn

With the headline "Kauaian Institute paints green picture", today's Pacific Business News carries a great little piece penned by Jon Letman.

"Ken Stokes helps businesses figure out what green looks like", says Letman.

"Whether it's surveying the impact of vacation rental units on Kauai, Maui and Oahu or urging the Legislature to revisit laws governing environmental impact statements, he sees a need for an entirely new way of assessing how Hawaii residents affect their environment."

Published by Ken on June 6th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

America’s monster footprint: seeking an 80% reduction

american footprint shares

No need for technical jargon here: our American ecological footprint is twice that of the EU and Japan, and six times our global share.

Sustainability in America means cutting our footprint by 80%, and we know where these cuts must come, thanks to the Cool Climate Calculator (via bie).

Energy tops the list with 30% of our footprint, since average household energy emits 11.7 tons of CO2, and this must go down to 2.3 tons.

Transport and food are second and third, with 25% and 20% footprint share, respectively, or 9.8 tons and 7.8 tons, going down to 2.0 and 1.6 tons. So, 75% of our footprint comes from these 3 sectors.

Published by Ken on June 5th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Ecological Footprint | Comments Off

obstacles to collective action: why Obama’s voice matters

win win saving earth for humans

Disturbing results from a 'climate game' created by Germany's Manfred Milinski raise serious questions about our human capacity for taking collective action in time to avert catastrophic climate change.

Milinski's ‘collective action’ experiment found that "people do not act rationally, even to protect their own interest" (via ipsnews).

Despite advance knowledge that all lose if the collective "climate account" does not grow fast enough, players in half the groups kept too much in their private accounts. Seeing others greed, some players stopped contributing to the collective account.

So, we'll need help rising above personal interests...and that's where Obama comes in.

Published by Ken on June 5th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Community Initiatives | Comments Off

how green are biofuels? only footprinters know for sure

biofuel footprints by jorgen vos

By now, we know enough about this new kind of sustainability thinking to look beyond the emissions reduction claims of biofuels in considering their full environmental impacts.

Two recent studies show how dramatically the assessment of biofuels can change when all impacts are considered.

A Swiss research team found that U.S. corn ethanol, Brazilian sugarcane ethanol and soy diesel, and Malaysian palm-oil diesel have far greater aggregate environmental costs than do fossil fuels (via presidiomba).

Good buddy Jørgen Vos (now at Natural Logic) also found that corn ethanol is much worse than gasoline, and even Brazilian sugarcane ethanol is slightly worse.

Published by Ken on June 4th, 2008 tagged Ecological Footprint, Energy | Comments Off

bioenergy from algae in Hawaii? Cole says maybe

HI bioenergy logo

Since last we commented, the outlook for biofuels has darkened as more robust assessments are made of its net impacts.

Thus, I was delighted to note that Hawaii BioEnergy (HBE) is turning more toward algae, instead of sugarcane, according to David Cole at last week's Bioenergy Summit on Oahu.

Despite HBE's claims that sugarcane can be advantageous, two recent footprint studies fail to bear this out.

Says Cole, "HBE is a member of two teams that have advanced to the award consideration phase with DARPA to develop bio-jet fuel from algae in Hawai`i, fed by CO2 emissions from our power plants."

Published by Ken on June 4th, 2008 tagged Energy, HI-specific | Comments Off