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Monday, July 5, 2010


This is the final installment in my series on The Future of Energy, with a focus on Hawaii.

Hawaii is blessed with the Sun, tradewinds, heat of the Earth, ocean resources and sufficient rain to grow biomass on irrigated lands recently vacated by the sugar industry.  We pay the highest energy prices in the Nation.  Ninety percent of the energy we use comes from petroleum, which is destined to skyrocket in price when Peak Oil occurs.
How are we doing on the development of renewable energy relative to other states?  First of all, for the nation at large, EIA 2007 data (2008 information will be released later this month) indicates that hydroelectric power is at 2.4%, while wind and geothermal are both at 0.33% and solar at .04%.  These numbers are higher today, especially for wind power, but not by much.  I selected a cross section of states and here are the percent of electricity from renewable resources (the numbers in the parentheses represent the renewable energy mix percentages):
Washington     73.9  (93% hydroelectricity)
Oregon           61.0  (hydro 88%)
New York        21.2  (hydro 85%)
California        21.2  (hydro 65%, 
                             geothermal 12%, 
                             wind 15%)
Alaska            16.2  (hydro 99%)
Colorado          9.2  (hydro 38%, wind 61%)
Nevada            8.5  (hydro 80%)
Hawaii          7.5  (hydro 11%, geo 14%,                                              
                                  wind 28%,MSW &
                                  biomass 48%)
Wisconsin        5.2  (hydro 59%, 
                             MSW/bio 35%)
New Mexico      5.1  (hydro 14%, wind 85%)
Texas              4.2  (hydro 13%, wind 83%)
Louisiana         4.2
Florida            2.0
New Jersey      1.4
Thus, when you deduct hydro, Hawaii is doing as well as California and Colorado, but better than all the others. Yet, with the element of desperation, we should have been a lot more progressive.
Into the future, Governor Linda Lingle proclaimed the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, touting 70% renewable energy by 2030. However, also stipulated was 40% of all electricity by 2030, which is confusing, for aviation (about 30%) might well be close to zero and ground transport mostly unknown.  Anyway, this agreement was signed by a Republican governor with the former Republican White House, so, politics being what they are, you can expect some important adjustments when the next governor, who will be a Democrat, takes office after this Fall election.
Here is my recommendation to our next governor (Mufi Hannemann below left and Neil Abercrombie below right):
1.  Your undersea cable project should include the Big Island because geothermal energy, a baseload power source, should be included in the future mix.  Be sure to in advance scout for ideal ocean thermal energy conversion (also baseload) sites so the cable can be conveniently tapped at these locations.  This electrical lifeline will then cost from $2 billion to $3 billion.  Can we afford this?  Well, capital improvement projects get close to $2 billion annually, so spread over a decade, maybe.  There, too, are bonds to float.  However, the most sensible proposition is to have our congressional delegation and the White House, co-sponsored by Texas, introduce the National Grid Act of 2011, using Hawaii as the first experimental site, with Texas as the wind power demo.  Utility scale solar and wind farms will best compete if there is an accessible smart grid system.  I would think that at least a billion can come to Hawaii for this pioneering effort.
2.  A larger problem will be ground transportation.  Plug-in electric cars seem to be the vogue today, but a direct methanol fuel cell powered transport system makes more sense in the long run.  Immediately delete ethanol and terrestrial biofuels (too slow growing, very inefficient and uses too much water).
3.  Our most vulnerable point is aviation.  Tourism is about our only real industry, and when the price of petroleum jumps to $150/barrel, jet fuel will become so expensive that our tourism rate will drop by 50%.  Our local economy will go into and stay in deep depression for many decades, for there are no substitutes on the commercial horizon.  Do everything in your power to insure for both a substitute jet fuel and a next generation sustainable aircraft.  The former will take more than a decade, and the latter, maybe a generation.  We might have time, as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange lists the price of crude oil at $88.36/barrel in December of 2018.  But how often have we been surprised by sudden spikes?  And, Peak Oil is coming.
Hawaii is that proverbial canary in the coal mine, so what  happens to us will in time affect the U.S. and entire planet.  Hawaii is an ideal site to institute these changes because we represent less than one-half of one percent of the Nation, making the cost of implementation affordable.  More so, energy prices are higher here than elsewhere so any new energy technology can more quickly be commercialized.  We also welcome the World as an active partner, for our effort will be shared in the global economy.

The earlier storm went right through the oil spill area and is heading inland.  The second one, though, might be going more eastward than earlier predicted.


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