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, November 30, 2012

Ka`u News Briefs Nov. 30, 2012

Evening views of Halema`uma`u Crater from Jaggar Museum overlook thrill visitors. Photo by Mark Wasser from NPS
AN `AINA KOA PONO PUBLIC MEETING in Pahala has been requested by incoming District 3 state House of Representatives member Richard Onishi. In a letter to the state Public Utilities Commission, dated Nov. 26, Onishi, who will represent Punalu`u through Puna when the legislators take office in January, said, “I appreciate that public hearings on this docket were held in Hilo and Kailua-Kona. However, the facility will be built and operated in Pahala and Pahala residents, all of whom will undoubtedly be directly impacted by the facility, have many questions and concerns to express to you and the other commissioners, as well as the Consumer Advocate and HELCO. Please afford them the much deserved opportunity to do so. Please do not proceed on this application without first hearing what they have to say.
      “On behalf of the Pahala community, your favorable consideration of this request is appreciated.”

A SEPARATE PUBLIC MEETING is planned for next Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Pahala Community Center by Hawaiian Electric Co. regarding long-term planning for energy production. The Pahala meeting follows meetings in Hilo on Tuesday at `Imiloa Astronomy Center and Wednesday at Waikoloa Elementary School. A Public Utility Commission-nominated group of advisors to HECO will be on hand to listen to citizens. Documents regarding the utility’s long-term planning are available at irpie.com.

HAWAIIAN ELECTRIC CO.’S GENERATING UNITS are only 30 percent efficient,” UH doctoral student Iman Nasseri told Sophie Cocke, of Civil Beat. “If the electric utilities switched out their steam-powered generating units to more efficient gas turbines, efficiency could double, reducing the amount of oil needed to produce electricity by about half.”
      Research by Nasseri and Sherilyn Wee says that, of the roughly 15 million barrels of oil for electricity use that the state imports annually, only five million barrels are converted to electricity, and 10 million barrels are wasted.
Ray Starling
      Cocke reports that the state’s energy efficiency standards don’t focus on the operations of the electric utility companies. Instead, they only apply to reducing the amount of electricity residents consume and ignore the efficiencies that can be gained throughout the generation, transmission and distribution process.
      Ray Starling, head of Hawai`i Energy, the state’s energy efficiency program, told Cocke that, when state policymakers discussed including the utilities’ production facilities, HECO fought it. “In the (regulatory process), the utility basically took a position that they already do the stuff they need to be doing to be efficient and that the efficiency of the utility should not be something that is part of the (energy efficiency) mandate,”" he said.
      HECO spokesman Darren Pai responded that “we are continually improving the efficiency of existing generating units and the transmission and distribution systems. This helps customers by reducing the fuel needed to meet their energy needs — and thereby the costs to them.”
Jeff Mikulina
      Jeff Mikulina, Blue Planet Foundation executive director, told Cocke that, when it comes to energy efficiency policies, the full cycle of electricity production and delivery needs to be taken into account. “We have to look at the entire system from the fuel source all the way to the end use — every efficiency throughout the entire system,” he said. “We have some of the most inefficient, outdated plants possible. We have power plants that date back to the 1940s.”
      For more, see civilbeat.com.
TODAY IS THE DEADLINE TO SUBMIT TESTIMONY on the proposed 20-year contract for `Aina Koa Pono to sell diesel, which would be manufactured at a refinery off Wood Valley Road above Pahala, to Hawai`i Electric Light Co. for use in Kona. The contract, according to Mayor Billy Kenoi, is for the biodiesel to be sold for some $200 a barrel. The cost of a barrel of oil – the type being used at the Kona power plant – was under $90 today. `Aina Koa Pono contends that the cost will rise in the future above the $200 and, in the end, consumers will save money with the proposed fixed rates. Opponents contend that geothermal and other alternative energies will be less expensive and that electric company customers should not be burdened with the $200 per barrel cost that could make electric bills higher. See more at www.puc.hawaii.gov/dockets and click on documents, where pro and con testimony as well as the proposal are available for reading.
      The proposal, if approved, would allow electric bills to go up on both O`ahu and the Big Island, and testimony is coming from both places.

RODRIGO ROMO, of Hilo, who is vice president of engineering for Zeta Corp., writes opposition to both the `Aina Koa Pono biofuel project and a separate HELCO rate hike. “In today’s day and age it is inconceivable that while we are living in one of the most privileged locations on the planet with regards to renewable energy resources availability, we still depend on a single utility company that holds a true monopoly on the power generation and that continues to ignore what would be the most efficient path towards energy independence. 
      “South Puna sits on a rich geothermal zone that could provide enough power for the entire Big Island. South Kona and Kohala areas have enough sun radiation to produce a significant supplement to the grid, and South Point and Saddle Road areas provide some of the most reliable wind patterns for wind generation. Yet, here we are debating on whether we should lock in a $200/barrel deal with a biofuel company. Who in its right mind would opt for this option!?”
      Rodrigo presents a graph for the electricity cost at his home for two years. He said the cost went up 16.7 percent in two years. “Now they want an additional four percent increase? Under what justification?” Meanwhile, HELCO continues to report record profits year after year.”
      He also pointed to a lower increase in the price per barrel of crude oil. In Jan. 2010, it was $82. In Nov. 2012, “the price is $87.50, an increase of 6.7 percent. HELCO has increased their rates 2.5 times the net increase of the price of oil, and now they want another increase,” write Rodrigo.
      IRA ONO, OF VOLCANO, who owns a café and gallery in Volcano, wrote, “We do not think taxpayers should subsidize the $200.00 per barrel that A.K.P. and HELCO is proposing.”

HAWAI`I HAS THE SECOND-LEAST COMPETITIVE commercial health insurance market in the country, according to a report released this week by American Medical Association. 
      “Without competition, there may not be the impetus to get better innovation and efficiency,” AMA president Dr. Jeremy Lazarus told Erin Miller of West Hawai`i Today. “In general, when you have an insurer that has such a monopoly on the market, the physicians have to take it or leave it. There’s not a lot of room for negotiation.”
      Lazarus also sees less motivation for insurance providers to create a better system for delivering medical services, Miller reports.
Dr. Jeremy Lazarus
      Hawai`i Medical Service Association, the state’s largest health insurance provider, has 69 percent of the commercial health insurance market and 84 percent of the preferred provider organization market, Miller reports. Nationwide, 89 percent of market share areas have at least one provider claiming more than 30 percent of the insurance market, while nine percent of the market share areas have a provider claiming 70 percent or more of the market.
      But HMSA doesn’t think the limited number of insurance providers in the state is hurting residents at all, Miller reports HMSA vice president for Communication Elisa Yadao as saying.
      “While the study makes ominous predictions about a lack of competition, that is not the case in Hawai`i,” Yadao told Miller. “We often perform better in key health areas than states on the mainland. We have a very low rate of uninsured residents and scored No. 1 overall in the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index again this year.”
      Miller said Yadao cited a 2011 study by The Commonwealth Fund and an Associated Press report that said Hawai`i has “among the lowest average family premiums in the nation.”

Ranger Talmadge Magno
“THE BEST AND CLOSEST PLACE TO OBSERVE a volcanic eruption within Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park at present is from Jaggar Museum overlook and other vantage points at the summit of Kilauea that provide views of Halema`uma`u Crater,” said chief ranger Talmadge Magno. The park discourages hikers from going to the end of Chain of Craters Road to access the narrow streams of lava that reached the ocean last week. 
      The ocean entry is several hundred yards outside of the park’s easternmost boundary, over private land closer to Kalapana. The trek is an extremely arduous and grueling hike over hardened lava at least 10 miles round trip.
      “We don’t want people to be disappointed, and we especially don’t want people to get hurt,” Magno said. “While the historic flows covering the end of Chain of Craters Road are well worth a visit during the day, hiking all the way out to the ocean entry from the park side and leaving the park to cross private party isnt something we recommend.
      The park has increased staffing at Jaggar Museum to assist the many visitors drawn to Halema`uma`u. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/havo. For webcams and daily Kilauea status updates, visit http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/activity/kilaueastatus.php. For information on observing lava from Kalapana, call the county hotline at 961-8093.

Students who were honored for showing the month of October's featured trait of responsibility are, left to right, bottom row: Diane Libunao, Dylan Davis, Daehlee Figueroa and Melo Keohuloa; top row: Sarah Kailiawa, Jennifer Abalos and Cherisse Calumpit. Missing is Rebecca Escobar-Kailiawa. Photo by Carla Andrade
ONE STUDENT FROM EACH GRADE will be honored with a luncheon today at Pahala Elementary School Cafeteria. Students were chosen for exemplifying the character trait of cooperation during the month of November.

`O Ka`u Kakou joins with other community groups to clean up Punalu`u
Pond tomorrow.
`O KA`U KAKOU invites everyone to help clean up Punalu`u pond tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Free lunch, local music, games and shave ice follow the cleanup. Sign up with Wayne Kawachi at 937-4773.

DIGITAL MOUNTAIN FILM FESTIVAL takes place tomorrow at 6 p.m. at Kilauea Visitor Center in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. The public can view 11 films by students from Ka`u and Puna at youtube.com/user/digital-mountain2012 and vote for their favorite by sending an email to kupono_mcdaniel@nps.gov. The winner receives a MacBook Air, and additional prizes are awarded to the top film, chosen by judges, in categories 7th - 9th grade and 10th - 12th grade.

HARPIST/PERCUSSIONIST KRISTIN ARIA SHAW and harpist/keyboardist Irminsul perform in a holiday concert entitled Anela Strings, Music of a Higher Place tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Volcano Art Centers Ni`aulani Campus in Volcano Village. Admission is $16 for the general public and $14 for VAC members. Call 967-8222 for more information.