About The Kaʻū Calendar

Ka`u, Hawai`i, United States
A locally owned and run community newspaper (www.kaucalendar.com) distributed in print to all Ka`u District residents of Ocean View, Na`alehu, Pahala, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village and Miloli`i on the Big Island of Hawai`i. This blog is where you can catch up on what's happening daily with our news briefs. This blog is provided by The Ka`u Calendar Newspaper (kaucalendar.com), Pahala Plantation Cottages (pahalaplantationcottages.com), Local Productions, Inc. and the Edmund C. Olson Trust.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ka`u News Briefs September 23, 2011

Bana grass is `Aina Koa Pono's choice of feedstock for its proposed biofuel refinery between Pahala and Wood Valley.

THE PROPOSED REFINERY AND BIOFUEL FARM between Pahala and Wood Valley and Na`alehu are continuing to generate discussion in the community. Here is more from last Monday’s community meeting sponsored by `Aina Koa Pono: 

RICHARD PORTER, of Na`alehu, who works in finance and real estate, said that the investment banking community looks at these kinds of projects at 10 percent success and 90 percent failure. He asked Hawaiian Electric Co. president Jay Ignacio whether the proposed surcharges on electric bills to pay for the biofuel would continue should the `Aina Koa Pono project fail. Ignacio said that the surcharge, if approved, would be charged to ratepayers only when HELCO buys the fuel and not before or after.

AKP AGRONOMIST John Carroll identified the chosen biocrop for the company’s farm as sterile bana grass. The grass, Carroll said, exhibits robust growth, is non-invasive, and would not require irrigation because it needs 30 inches of rain a year, below the average 44 inches Ka`u receives yearly. Starter fertilizer, however, would be required, but only when the grasses are first planted, he said. Each acre would produce 30 to 40 dry tons of biomass, he predicted.

Beekeeper Alison Yahna
ALISON YAHNA, a beekeeper who owns an apiary on South Point Road, said that even though the proposed grass crops for biofuel may not spread easily by seed, they still can spread by roots. She said similar grasses already can cover open ground in Ka`u. The AKP agronomist responded, saying that the bana grass will be contained and that the entire process reduces the overall carbon put in the atmosphere. “In fact, it’s carbon negative,” he claimed. 

TIM REHA, whose family owns a nature retreat in Wood Valley, pointed to biofuel company Imperium Renewables based out of Washington State that raised hundreds of millions of dollars and shut down. He said later that the problem can be providing sufficient feedstock that won’t be too costly in terms of money and the environment. 

JULIE DOBBS, a University of Hawai`i student who lives in Wood Valley, voiced her concern over CO2 that would be released from the power plant to run the refinery. “Why in this day and age would we even consider something that’s going to add CO2 to the environment when we know about the impacts of global warming and the whole situation?” she asked.

HERE IS MORE TESTIMONY sent into the Public Utilities Commission and published this week on the docket section of its website:

MICHAEL ASATO asked the PUC to defer the `Aina Koa Pono contract for two years, until an emerging type of alternative energy using a blue green algae is tested on a commercial scale. Asato contended that this CO2-feedstock solar fuel could make the electric company 100 percent self-sufficient and reduce rates. He called the new technology “disruptive” to `Aina Koa Pono’s proposal and predicted that the new technology would be proven on a commercial scale soon. 
Joule claims it can make fuel from sun, CO2, water,
water and algae.
     The C02 feedstock technology involves diesel-secreting, genetically engineered cyanobacteria (blue green algae). On the Big Island, proposed Asato, the process could use carbon dioxide emissions from a HELCO power plant and water from a treatment plant, and the facility could be located on non-arable lands, taking up much less property than biofuel crops. 
     Asato claimed that a company called Joule Unlimited is putting in a full-scale production facility in New Mexico and noted that one of its board members is John Podesta, former White House chief of staff for President Bill Clinton. He also pointed to a presentation at MIT, in which Dr. Troy Campione, of Joule, said the future in alternative energy production is “to control the photosynthetic process to generate the products directly that you want. He said the Joule process uses sunlight, CO2 and water. He said the process is a “reality now” and called using biomass to manufacture biofuel an “inefficient intermediate.” 

Elizabeth Jenkins
ELIZABETH JENKINS, who owns a home, orchard, farm and fruit stand in Wai`ohinu, also wrote to the PUC. “I do not support the rate hike making residents pay for an expensive biofuel venture that has never been tested or proven to work anywhere in the world. We are not interested in being the guinea pigs for this weird science project. We do not feel this is a valid, sustainable project, nor does it appear to actually be a real “green” project. We do not feel this is good for the land or good for Ka`u in any way. Please receive this testimony of our entire family of four from “Ai Lani Orchards – an organic farm on 35 acres in Ka`u.” 

RICHARD PORTER, of Na`alehu, also wrote to the PUC, saying, “I care deeply for the land, the people who preceded me here and current residents. I have serious concerns about the proposed fuel refinery and how it will affect the community. 
     “This technology as presented and on this scale is unproven. It is true that microwave technology and gas depolymerization technology separately have been around for years. The combination of the two technologies, however, on the scale proposed, exists nowhere in the world. To say the least, this is a very risky venture that has no track record.
     “You have it in your hands to bring this project to a halt by denying a rate surcharge and instead pursue proven technologies like geothermal, wind and solar…. There seems to be a perfect storm of interests involved in this discussion: venture capitalists looking for the big pay off; HECO pressing to encourage for energy self sufficiency; rate payers being asked to subsidized this questionable project; and local people in Ka`u who will be asked to live with your decision. Please don’t subsidize this private science experiment with public money,” wrote Porter. 

Marley Strand-Nicolaisen reaches
for the ball.  Photo by Nalani Parlin
ON WEDNESDAY, FANS PACKED the Ka`u High gym to watch Ka`u High volleyball wahine take on Konawaena, both vying to protect undefeated records thus far in the season. Trojan JV girls warmed up the court versus Konawaena, losing in three sets (20-25, 21-25, 11-15). Varsity lost the first two sets 16-25 and 22-25, but eventually shook their home-court jitters, coming back to win the next two sets 25-21 and 25-16. However, after a valiant effort, the girls lost in the tie-breaking set 9-15.
     Come out to support the Trojans as they face off against Kohala in the Ka`u High gym tomorrow at noon.

ENTRIES FOR THE KA`U CHAMBER OF COMMERCE’S Directory 2012 Art Contest must be delivered to the Ka`u Federal Credit Union office in Na`alehu tomorrow between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. They will be on display for voting by the public next Monday through Saturday during credit union business hours, and the winner will be announced at the End of Show Celebration on Saturday, Oct. 1 from noon to 2 p.m. For more information, call Wanda Aus at 929-9139.

TOMORROW IS NATIONAL PUBLIC LANDS DAY. To celebrate, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park is waiving entrance fees. Volunteers can celebrate by doing trail work or removing invasive plants in the park. Call Laura at 985-6304 to sign up.
     Also, Kilauea Military Camp is having an Open House so that visitors can experience how KMC supports America’s troops. All facilities and services, including guestrooms, will be available to the general public. Call 967-8371 for more information.