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Monday, November 12, 2012


In a three day period I suddenly lost two of my closest friends and associates.  They were both healthy and active.  I was supposed to have golfed with Paul Yuen on Friday and have a dinner meeting involving Guy Toyama later this week.

Paul Yuen was the most important person in my professional life.  He was 84 and I am 72.  We're dragons.

I first met Paul when I interviewed for a College of Engineering position at the University of Hawaii forty years ago.  He hired me. 

Paul grew up in Honolulu and went to Roosevelt High School and the University of Hawaii, obtaining his B.S. in physics from the University of Chicago and PhD in electrical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.  While in Chicago he met Janice, and they this year celebrated their 60th anniversary.  Family matters drew him back to Hawaii.

In the early eighties, as he was about to become dean of engineering, he visited my D.C. office when I was working for U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga.  We thought it would be a great idea to invent our own funding agency.  We thus (with the help of a lot of peoplecreated the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR), which succeeded during our ten year period with them to draw $50 million of funding, mostly for ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) and biofuels development.  He was a co-founder of the International OTEC Association.

We became internationalists and traveled the world for PICHTR, one good reason why I have two million flight miles with United Airlines.  While we must have done wonderful things for PICHTR and Hawaii on these trips, what I most remember is that he liked to shop for his family:  $12 Rolexes from a street blanket in Taipei, almost genuine Louis Vitton bags from Hong Kong and $1 "Italian Silk" ties in Itaewon.

I actually don't remember meeting him much in our PICHTR and UH offices.  We did most of our talking on the golf course.  He picked me up on Saturday mornings, and it was during this ride and back that we made most of our decisions.  The breakthrough for PICHTR was a golf match with Counsel General Mitsuro Donowaki, who thirty years later still returns to Hawaii for PICHTR Board meetings, and golf at Waialae.  This Saturday group has had various deans and even one president, Al Simone.  While the people have changed, the Saturday golf group still tends to play at the Ala Wai Golf Course.

Paul was one of the leaders of PEACESAT, the engineering lead for the team that drilled the hottest geothermal well in the world, and served as President of PICHTR, Acting President of the University of Hawaii and on the boards of Hawaii Electric Company and Cyanotech.  We even started a company with former Governor George Ariyoshi, Hawaii Cultured Pearls.  He still went to his office on the Manoa Campus and, among other things, dabbled in day trading.  

In the DEDICATION to my first book, SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth, he is the first person I mentioned: particular, I would like to thank my fellow Dragon and co-conspirator, Paul Yuen, who served to mentor and guide many of the things we initiated.

Paul was a patient and loving father.  He put his daughters, Marcia and Sandy (left to right in this photo), first.  According to Sandy, the Big Bang Theory was his favorite show, and he related well to Sheldon.

We were opposites.  He was steady, careful and very smart.  I was more adventuresome and took risks.  He had this innate ability to read people.  We made a fine team. 

Guy Toyama was perhaps even more the polar opposite of Paul. First, Guy was exactly half Paul's age, so his death is especially tragic, for he had a lot more to accomplish.  He grew up on Maui and obtained a marketing degree from the University of Oregon.  He worked for a while in Japan, married Rika and spoke the language fluently.  He was an entrepreneur and initiated various start-up companies.  Here he is to the left on a hydrogen motorscooter as co-founder and chief executive officer of Hydrogen Technologies.  He was the chairman of the Hawaii County Mayor's Energy Advisory Commission and executive director of the Friends of the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA).

Guy's legacy might well be Blue Revolution Hawaii and the Pacific International Ocean Station.  A couple of years ago, we were having lunch in Kona when he mentioned how billionaire Gordon Moore had provided funds to initiate the Thirty Meter Telescope Project.  As Guy had an office at Keahole Point at the entrance of the NELHA, why not the Blue Revolution with support from a billionaire?  Thus was born Blue Revolution Hawaii, which proposed the Pacific International Ocean Station.  Guy created the presentation for PIOS, which I presented at the Seasteading Institute's conference in San Francisco.  

A year ago he chaired the first OTEC summit  at NELHA involving most of key players from industry and government.  The participants agreed on a five-stage program:

  -  Add a 100 kW turbogenerator to the Makai Ocean Engineering OTEC test tower (left photo--yes, that's me to Guy's Paul, he was tall and lanky) for $5 million.

  -  Install a 1 MW OTEC system to the current 55 inch cold water pipeline.

  -  Build a similar facility at Kumejima, Okinawa.

 -  Plan for a 5-10 MW floating OTEC prototype.

  -  Visionize a 100 MW commercial OTEC plantship.

Guy was enterprising and a really nice Guy.  He had an energy and activity level that exceeded anyone I know.  It was just a matter of time for him to become famous.  That is the tragedy.  He could have done so much more for Planet Earth and Humanity.

Appropriately enough, a somber sunset this evening:


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