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Friday, November 30, 2012


I belong to a group interested in creating a new industry for Hawaii and World.  I have slightly adjusted a message I sent to them today, why I'm not sure because this is all a public service which should engender goodwill.  I thought my readers would be interested because there is a lot of history as to why renewable energy has just not taken off in Hawaii, where the cost of electricity is 300% the national average.  I have added graphics.

Dear board members:
Xxxxx is, of course, right.  His recommendation as to what PIOS should be is the only pathway.  Pardon me for this rather long lecture, but I thought it was timely for me to share some background on energy, and the reasons why I truly believe that PIOS and the Blue Revolution represent the ONLY hope for Hawaii..and, maybe, a good portion of the rest of the world.   If you have the time and interest, please click on those highlighted items to gain additional details.

As an academician, economics have never particularly concerned me much at a first stage of development.  We just don't know what will work, and what won't.  In fact, I never thought windpower would become so competitive when I was chairman of the Wind Energy Division of the American Solar Energy Society nearly 40 years ago.  Andy Trenka, who at that time headed  the Department of Energy Wind Energy Test Facility in Colorado, had similar views.  Now it is the most competitive wind/solar option.  

However, when you look at Molokai and Lanai, you begin to appreciate that cost factors can be significantly worsened by people.  When we (universities do this because they get funded by the government to do so) faced the community for the first wind energy experiment above Turtle Bay, the Audubon Society, Hilton (they ran the hotel) and assorted nuts testified against us.  We prevailed, even though these machines were still too expensive.  Now, wind energy conversion devices are revolutionizing the march towards sustainability, especially in Europe and China.

PV and solar thermal are much more expensive, but with the soon to be reduced or eliminated government incentives, are worth it in Hawaii because we pay 300% more for electricity than the national average.  You complain about our gasoline costing 15% more than the mainland, but 300% more for electricity hardly raises much ire.  In that same article, you will see a relatively optimistic cost for solar (my sources say PV is not 16 cents/kWh, but closer to 25 cents), but still much costlier than windpower.  OTEC did not even make that list, but is way worse than all the above.  This is why OTEC needs PIOS to add revenue streams.

If you clicked on that link, you would also have noticed that geothermal is better and hydroelectricity is the best.  I've been involved with renewable energy now for exactly half a century when I became the process engineer for C. Brewer's Hutchinson Sugar Company, where Dante Carpenter and I shared the same office for several years.  One of my later stops was the Kilauea Sugar Company.  I take some pride in my grandfather helping build the Wainiha Hydropower Station on Kauai in 1906.  More than a century later, the same basic hardware is still producing 3 MW, and the almost now extinct elders of Kilauea still refer to the road leading up to the facility as the Takahashi Powerhouse Road.  However, forget hydro as not much is left.  

I was one of the reservoir engineers for the Hawaii Geothermal Project in the mid-70's and helped create Noi'i O Puna to serve as the geo-equivalent of NELHA.  I was also involved with the Pirelli-led project in the 80's to use deep sea cables to link the islands.  As sensible as this hot source is for Hawaii, the problem is that cost is not everything and nothing is easy.  Environmentalists, Hawaiian-activists, marijuana growers, local residents seeking quiet, rain forest advocates and others convinced Judge Ezra to eliminate this option.  He just retired, so there is now again some movement.  But we lost decades.

It sure must be getting clearer that we need the right environmentalist on our board, and soon.  If and when Lockheed Martin or OTEC International announces commercial plans for OTEC off Honolulu, the opposition will appear in force.

I spent two stints at the Lawrence Livermore  National Laboratory working on laser fusion (schematic of the National Ignition Test Facility today).  The Sun and all the stars, of course, use this process to produce solar energy.  However, forty years ago I thought it would take at least 50 years for this option to be commercialized.  With the slow progress and outrageous cost of ITER in France, fusion might still be 50 years away, and probably more.  When it comes to next generation energy, multiply by two any projections about timetable.  Certainly nuclear fission (think Atomic Bomb and Fukushima) will only decline.

So look at the forcing functions.  Fossil fuels will over time decline, while polluting our atmosphere and causing global heating.  Conventional nuclear power is declining. Solar and wind are intermittent.  Biofuels are very expensive and biomass is running into a land and water problem.  OTEC (to the left is Mini-OTEC off NELHA in 1979) is baseload, but, more importantly, the ocean is free, supplies free irrigation and natural fertilizers for marine biomass through the cold water efluent, and provides the cheapest mode of shipping.

Before I return to PIOS/BRH, let me compromise some credibility by indicating that I once worked for NASA at the Ames Research Center in Mountain View on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).  During the mid-seventies I thought, what if signals were bombarding us from more advanced civilizations.  Perhaps the solution to world peace, cure for cancer and a free copy of the Encyclopedia Galactica were floating past us.  I sort of did what Jodi Foster did in the Carl Sagan movie CONTACT.  In fact, when I worked for Senator Spark Matsunaga in DC, I helped Sagan re-gain funding for SETI.  The point this paragraph makes is that I tend to be a dreamer, and this is why we have Xxxxx and the rest of the Board to provide some balance.

I also wrote the first draft for hydrogen when I worked for Sparky a third of a century ago, which became law as the Matsunaga Act.  How much more ideal can an energy source be:  most common element in the Universe; when combusted, the waste product is water; is the simplest molecule; and provides the isotopes for fusion.   I served as chairman of the U.S. Secretary of Energy's Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel, and our efforts were so successful that only a few years ago the budget, which was zero when the panel first met, became larger than that for solar.  But like many of these sustainable alternatives, the economics are just not here now, and in the case of the Hydrogen Economy, perhaps a century away.  I particularly cautioned Guy about investing in anything commercial today.  Research, yes, but profit, no.  Someday, hydrogen and cold fusion will help save Humanity...but that is long in the future.

As an aside, you might wonder why all these electronic devices work so well the first time, while ocean energy seems to be going nowhere.  The differences are twofold:  first, your iPhone has gone through thousands of cycles of testing and improvement in various laboratories, and second, they are relatively cheap.  The first testing of PIOS will cost more than a billion dollars and take a decade.  Government and industry just do not fund this type of challenge.  Sure, space when there was a Cold War (Apollo Project to the Moon) and war (Manhattan Project) in general, but renewable energy and global warming don't have any compelling relevance.  Thus, the reason why we need to find a couple of billionaires.

Take Bill Gates, for example.  He is supporting a project on reducing hurricanes.  But the mechanism devised by former Stanford professor Ken Caldeira, will only decrease the temperature of the sea surface.  It has no other product.  Who will pay hundreds of billions for just hurricane prevention?  Future PIOS grazing platforms will not only do this, but will have a cornucopia of revenue streams.  Also, when you add the potential of remediating global warming, who knows some day what this will be worth?  A serious carbon tax is surely in the not too distant future, and as carbon credits are traded, this could become a major revenue source.  Clearly, anyway, a billionaire associated with an insurance company should be interested in PIOS.

Ultimately, there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of ocean platforms (Shimizu green float to the right), some no doubt cities and nations, plying the seas, producing sustainable food, energy and materials in harmony with the marine environment.  Just around the corner could well be Rinaldo Brutoco's Hawaiian Hydrogen Clipper, which is a lighter than air craft capable of speeds up to 350 MPH, bringing tourists to and from Hawaii and reloading hydrogen at these ocean plantships, for Hawaii's biggest problem is aviation.  When oil shoots past $200/barrel, Hawaii will become the first location to go into economic depression because tourism is really our only industry.  This could unfortunately happen today, even though the Chicago Mercantile Exchange has petroleum at $85 in December of 2021.  Oil price forecasters have been embarrassed too many times in the past to have any credibility, but, if they are right this time, we have more than a decade  for PIOS to succeed and spark the Blue Revolution.

Think about it.  I have for 50 years.  Is there anything else about Hawaii that shows more promise than the ocean around us?


Typhoon Bopha, already at 105 MPH, is now expected to become a Category 4 storm, and is still heading for the Philippines:



This posting will be safe, not like my previous story of my thumb.  No gruesome photos, and mercifully short.  I thought it was gratifyingly accountable for the Queen's emergency room nurse to call me on Day #3 just to see how my thumb was doing.

On Day #4 I went to see Dr. Gary Blum.  He looked at my infected wound and asked me a few questions.   I recounted how I changed the bandage and he shook his head as in no.  Apparently, there was a miss-connect in communications, for he said that they should not have used the anti-stick version.   He wanted the pus (sorry) to stick on the gauze to remove that layer.  The ER had that anti-stick, covered with normal gauze and held in place by a cloth tape.  Again, he was not happy.  Just the gauze and coban tape (photo to left), which has no stickiness to it.  He also said that he would recommend dipping my thumb in the warm soapy water with the bandage so that the removal would not be so painful.  This really worked.

In this day and age of CAT scans and cloning, you got to wonder how some things so simple as these are not standardized.  Also, amazingly enough, the color of the antibiotic capsule does not mean anything, which continues to surprise me.

I used the pharmacy at the Queens Physicians Office Building to purchase another batch of stuff.  I now have sufficient medical supplies to survive a minor war.

The important bottom line is that he said my thumb was coming along well.  Return in ten days.  In the meantime, though, no golf.


Thursday, November 29, 2012


From the Met Office above, and National Climate Data Center below:

20 warmest years on record (°C anomaly from 1901–2000 mean)

Both of the above are global averages.  The record keeping goes back to 1880, and the only alien to make the hottest dozen was 1998.

These headlines keep appearing:

Study Finds Surprising Arctic Methane Emission Source

Sea Level Rise Accelerating Faster Than Initial Projections

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Has Jumped by 20% since 2000 

Global warming is 'causing more hurricanes'

Hottest Year On Record In The U.S. Might Still Be 2012

With those headlines, the continuing drought, Hurricane Sandy, and the second term of Barack Obama, you would think that finally, finally, the necessary and monumental changes will come from  decision-makers.  I wouldn't be so optimistic, for corporate and government leaders, when it comes to any monumental financial issue, are like reasoning with a young child or cat.  Compelling logic does not work.

The United Nations continues to try, with their 18th attempt, now ongoing in Doha, Qatar,  the country with the highest carbon emissions/capita.  Many wonder about the sanity to pave the way to a new Kyoto Protocol here,  but two years ago in the Huffington Post I published:
This is a country with perhaps (there are innumerable efforts to rank countries) the highest GDP/capita, at $143,000.  The USA, incidentally, ranks #9 at $47,000.  Qatar is a constitutional monarchy, where Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the ruling Emir, is a mostly benevolent dictator.  Thus, he can determine visionary courses of action if so inspired.  I was paid to go there in 2010 to help advise the Emir on their future in energy.  HuffPo provided my personal recommendations, written almost in desperation, for the advisory group just wanted to continue to meet to build credibility.  The solution was clear to me, the timing I said was now and the way to do it was to immediately convince the Emir.

Coincidentally, Tom Burnett referred me to an article by Michael Klare reviewed by (no relation to the other Tom), with the admonition (by Tom B.) to largely ignore it (this article) because the bottom line was not pessimistic enough.  Klare, a professor of peace and world security at Hampshire College, recently published The Race for What's Left:  The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources.  A book review by The  New Republic indicated that the publication possessed an apocalyptic sense of urgency.

This theme comes at time when three polarizing issues are beginning to command the headlines:

1.  The Keystone Pipeline, where the energy returned on energy invested is very low (3, versus coal at 80, oil 35, wind 18, photovoltaics 7, ethanol from  corn 1.3).

3.  Brazil's development of their 50 billion barrel Lula (formerly known as Tupi, and is the western world's biggest discovery in 30 years) reservoir.  The problem is that, while the Deepwater Horizon debacle in the Gulf of Mexico was only one mile from the surface, the Brazilian Adventure will start four miles deep (6600 feet of ocean and 16,000 feet of rock) from the source.  And, get this, the UPPER estimate of the petroleum recoverable is sufficient to supply world demand for THREE  MONTHS!

4.  The plan of HawaiiGas to import liquified natural gas.  HG is a subsidiary of Macquarie Infrastructue Company, which began in Australia as a subsidiary of a London financial organization.  If you clicked on that article, you would have noted the following:

  The state is aiming to achieve 70 percent clean energy by 2030.

In a campus presentation yesterday by a Hawaiian Electric Company representative, our conclusion was that this goal was ONLY for electricity, which is 33% of our consumption.  Jet fuel by itself is 34%.  Then there is ground transport.  That 70% by 2030 is very misleading, for there is absolutely no way that we can reach 70% of total energy use in 18 years!  Well, maybe one way:  if oil suddenly jumps to $200/barrel (it is $88/bbl today), that is the equivalent of $4.76/gallon, and it might be possible to produce biofuel substitutes in the range of $4/gallon in a decade.  Not impossible, but certainly optimistic.  Then, it won't matter, anyway, for the world will be in depression, and Hawaii will be the first to go, for our entire economy is dominated by tourism.  It's already too late for the hydrogen-powered air travel.

The overriding theme of this article (Klare photo to left) and book (he does not mention Hawaii, although the link to HawaiiGas is clear) is to cast doubt about the wisdom of willy nilly maximization of fossil fuel development.  The problem is global heating:

1.  The International Energy Agency (primarily an oil organization) predicts a 6.5 F rise in temperature by 2100, while the World Bank says 7.2 F might be possible.

2.  There is the danger of a runaway effect leading to the Venus Syndrome, exacerbated by marine methane hydrates being released into the atmosphere.  Methane is 25 times worse for the Greenhouse Effect than carbon dioxide.

I had at least a half a dozen to list, but by now you surely got the message.  I need to head for my hand doctor's office to determine the future of my thumb (and it is a real challenge to use a keyboard with this handicap), so I might later complete this posting.  (Okay, just returned.  Think I'll post a short article tomorrow on "The Future of My Thumb.")

However, let me end with these statistics from Forecast and Facts:  27% of TV meteorologists call global warming a "scam," while over half deny that humans are the cause.

So late in the season, but there is a 55 MPH tropical storm, Bopha, way west of the Philippines.  Current projections show a strengthening to Category 3 status and a track directly to Manila.

Landfall has been predicted for December 4 at 114 MPH.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

PEARL'S ASHES: #4--Four Seasons Hualalai

Travel+Leisure rates the Four Seasons Hualalai at Kaupulehu as the best hotel in Hawaii (the Halekulani, where I will be staying this weekend, is #2--and I will have an ash ceremony at La Mer, for this was Pearl's favorite restaurant-- my photo above was taken at this site).  I compared this hotel with the Mauna Beach Hotel and Park Hyatt Tokyo in an earlier posting.  These were her two favorite places to stay.

FS Hualalai's signature restaurant was Pahui'a, which featured the slack key talents of Charles Brotman, a Grammy awardee.  The food and service were just okay.  No great surprise, but there is now another restaurant here called Beach Tree.  Photo from Trip Advisor.

This was one of those locations "new" to Pearl.  (I have adjusted the titles.  As this was ceremony #4,  there is now a direct correlation.)  The sunset that day was spectacular:

I tossed her ashes into the waters of historic Kaupulehu, had a glass of cognac with a cigar, and spent  a long time, eventually watching the stars above in a reclining chair.

The next morning I had a room service Japanese breakfast for $60, which largely came with the room (I brought the beer):

I then golfed at their course.  They use Pro-V1's on their practice range, so I tossed a dozen into my bag.  I proceeded to lose ten of them.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012


During the past week, there has been a flurry of articles about the danger of taking pain killers.  What makes it all the more appropriate is the medical situation I posted yesterday and my search for a pain killing pill.

Pain killer overdoses have tripled over the past decade.  Now, these are not the responsible pill takers, for most of these deaths come from people using them for recreational uses.  Here are some facts:

  • Death rates from prescription painkillers are three times higher among non-Hispanic whites than for African-Americans and Hispanic whites
  • Death rates among Alaskan Natives and American Indians are about the same as they are for non-Hispanic whites
  • The highest death rates are among people aged between 35 and 54 years
  • 830,652 years of potential life before the age of 65 were lost in one year because of prescription painkiller overdoses
  • Overdoses from prescription painkillers destroy a similar number of years of potential life lost to those from road accidents, and significantly more that those lost due to homicide
  • According to 2008 data, death rates from prescription medication overdoses range from a low of 5.5. per 100,000 individuals in Nebraska to 27 per 100,000 in New Mexico
  • 1 in every 12 people aged at least 12 years uses prescription painkillers recreationally in Oklahoma, the highest rate in the USA. Nebraska has the lowest rate at 1 in every 30 people.
  • Sales of prescription painkillers per head in Florida (highest state) are three times higher than Illinois (lowest state). The higher the sales per person the higher that state's drug overdose death rate tends to be.  
Makes you wonder why New Mexico is the most dangerous state and Nebraska the safest, or why Floridians have sales/capita three times higher than Ilinoisians.  And why does Oklahoma have the highest rate of recreational users?

What are these lethal drugs?  Generally narcotics, like Opana, OxyContin, methadone and Vicodin.  However, pain killers include Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) like aspirin and acetaminophen like Tyenol, available over the counter.  Taken with alcohol, you need to be careful about liver damage.  Some of these drugs have been undergoing class action lawsuits.

Well, good thing my thumb does not hurt anymore, except when I change the bandage four times a day.  I'll still now and then take Alleve for my hurting knee, but just now again reading the potential side effects I wonder if I just as well should bear the pain.  Well, at least for the next few weeks, for bad thumb means no golf.


Monday, November 26, 2012


For the first time, I went through the ER process.  Having just survived the sudden deaths of two close friends, a hospital is about that last place I wanted to be.  If you're squeamish, you might want to stop reading now and return tomorrow for my posting on "Painkillers and Death."  At least the graphics won't be so awful.  Part 5 of Pearl's Ashes will probably be provided on Wednesday.

I slightly jammed my right thumb on Thanksgiving, and it began to hurt.  On Friday, the pain was severe, but the thumb looked almost normal.  I applied some triple antibiotic ointment and hoped the pain would go away.  

The problem is that I am right handed and my left hand is almost useless.  I might be able to throw a football ten feet.  I can button my shirt with my left hand only with great difficulty.  I just about need my right thumb to do everything, from putting on socks to using my computer to washing dishes.  The result is that I kept hitting this thumb, resulting in a jolting pain each time.  Saturday morning my thumb looked like this:

Not too bad, but I couldn't sleep much the night before.  You would think that sleep should be an escape from pain, but my body apparently doesn't work that way.  This is when the pain got so intolerable, that I would have given anything to take a painkiller.  The only pill in my cabinet was Alleve, so I took it, and my knee pain eased, but my thumb was kept throbbing.  Saturday morning came and  I called my doctor (let me refer to him as Dr. M), for it would have been insane to drive to Ala Moana Shopping Center that day.  This was still a black shopping day.  Plus, bothering him just for a slightly bumped thumb was already embarrassing.  He told me to wash the thumb with soapy water, apply bacitracin and use a warm towel to speed the repair process.  Sunday morning, after another fitful sleep, my thumb worsened:

Still not all that bad, but the continuing problem was that I kept hitting this right thumb and each time suffered excruciating pain.  Monday morning:

It looked so ugly that I arranged with Dr. M's staff to be snuck in at 2:10 PM.  I had to somehow cover the thumb to join a friend for lunch.  I had no gauze or anything that was medically worthy, so used Kleenex held together by a bandage:

Yeah, enough is enough, but, one more time.  The staff of Dr. M was horrified when they saw my thumb.  This is what it looked like just before I saw him:

This photo was important because I later showed it to at least half a dozen medical specialists.  Dr. M lanced it, but felt I should see a hand specialist as soon as possible.  There apparently are only two of them in Honolulu, and the best way for me to do this today was to go the Queen's Emergency Room where one was on call duty.  Now this was an  experience!

First you need to be screened through like at an airport.  Then there is a relatively short wait to go through something called triage.  If you're dying you are immediately seen.  If you are bleeding but not close to death, you get second priority.  If you have a sore thumb you are at the bottom of the list, and, worse, as people keep entering, they can jump ahead of you, so with my condition, who knows, perhaps I might have to wait all night.  

Using my eloquent best, I tried to make a case for having to see this special hand doctor who my Dr. M had called, and even showed the back of his business card with a note indicating that a Dr. Gary Blum be contacted ASAP!  This did not impress the nurse much.  She opened my bandaged thumb to help her determine my triage ranking.  Unfortunately, she was also coughing, which worried me some.  I  then played my wild card and presented the above photo of my thumb on my iPhone before the pus was released.  She revealed sufficient alarm and called in a superior, and they both appeared to be influenced, quietly mumbling something that sounded like fast track.  However, I was warned that some of the potential patients in the waiting room had been there for five hours and they were extremely busy today.  It was 3:30 PM.  

In the waiting room no one was obviously bleeding or moaning.  Several staff kept telling me that they were extra busy today, so sorry, but this will be a long wait.  They all seemed under controlled stress.  I showed to as many of them as possible a photo of my thumb and was my charming best.  Any one of them, in my mind, could have had decision-making powers.  

However, I did have a Scientific American to read, which approximately takes forever to finish.  In fact one article was about the danger in hospitals.  Interestingly enough, your hands are the most important factor.  Watch what you touch and use those anti-bacterial lotions as regularly as possible.  However, this quote from that article was downright frightening: 

Medicine, published online in April, demonstrated the potential infection risk posed by the privacy curtains around hospital beds. In an initial survey, 95 percent of curtains in 30 rooms harbored VRE or MRSA. When the curtains were replaced, 92 percent became recontaminated within a week.
There was thus a lot more than germy hands at play.  And many of those in the waiting room had bad coughs.
The waiting room was very, very cold. Several people somehow had found sheets and blankets.  Many were in wheelchairs  There were around 35 people waiting.  I innocently asked if there was a major situation like a sudden plague, for I don't remember so many awaiting emergency care.   I thought it was remarkable that I was the only oriental person.  I later learned that Queen's and any emergency room have this problem.  Many Pacific Islanders have no other option but to use this service.
On the plus side, there was an aquarium, the lighting was good enough for reading, there were two television sets and names kept getting called.  However, triage meant that as long as more serious ailments arrived, I might never be seen. After two hours, it looked like the number in the room had increased. I also wondered what parking would cost. I'm now on page 34 with 62 pages to go.
Then at 5:35 PM, a wait of a tolerable two hours, I was shown into a kind of operating room, which was not cold and had on Monday Night Football.  I retold the story for the sixth time to someone who looked important.  Then Dr, Blum, the hand guy, came in for the seventh telling.  The story got better each time.   Apparently my thumb condition was a lot worse than I thought, and I was fast tracked, for Dr. B wanted to keep me in the hospital overnight for observation and to intravenously feed antibiotics.  The worry was that this infection could spread to other parts of my body.   I,  however, explained to him that three years ago my wife had been told by Dr. M to go to the Kuakini Hospital Emergency Room to check her oxygen level.  For some reason they intravenously gave her an antibiotic, to which she was allergic, and was kept overnight as a precaution.  She died five weeks later.
So, he instead used Plan B by operating, taking off at least a square inch of skin.  I could show you what my thumb looked like, but will spare you this grossness.  A nurse taught me how to cleans the thumb in anti-biotic soap and apply a series of gauzes held in place by some tape.  That's it!  No ointments.  Not sure if they said to do this several times a day or only once daily.  They must have given me a piece of paper with instructions.  I was provided the prescription for two antibiotics and also had to purchase an assortment of gauzes, tapes and antiseptic liquid soap.   Oh, parking was free.
On the way home I stopped at Long's/CVC where one problem was that the line to pick-up your meds was at least 20 people long, with a line that hardly moved.  At least in ER I could sit and wait.  After an hour, I got home with everything.  However, I wonder if I should call someone, for they had me take those two pills in the ER to start the process, and, while the large white one looked the same, the dark and light green capsule was red at the hospital.  Life can be complicated.