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.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ka`u News Briefs May 11, 2013

The Mauna Loa Observatory recorded the sobering climb of CO2 in the atmosphere beyond 400 ppm this week. Photo by Forrest Mims
CO2 IN THE ATMOSPHERE reached the predicted 400 parts per million this week at the planet’s most respected observation point – Mauna Loa Volcano. Passing through the 400 ppm threshold which had been predicted by climate scientists was widely reported today, from the New York Times to National Geographic and business journals like Commodities Now.
      The measurement is seen by scientists as tied to climate change. The announcement was made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration yesterday. James Butler of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory said: “It's important mainly as a milestone that marks a steady progress of increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."
     According to National Geographic, "The last time the concentration of Earth's main greenhouse gas reached this mark, horses and camels lived in the high Arctic. Seas were at least 30 feet higher—at a level that today would inundate major cities around the world."
     According to Commodities Now, “The threshold has become an important marker in U.N. climate change negotiations, tagged as a dangerous level by most climate scientists.

 For many years scientists have said that concentrations need to be kept below, or pushed back to, 350 ppm for countries to meet an international target of keeping the average temperature increase below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) this century.

 Dozens of observing stations around the world monitor atmospheric carbon dioxide. 
Image by James Wright of Skeptical Science
But Mauna Loa, a volcanic mountain on the Big Island of Hawai`i, is regarded as the benchmark site. “Two instruments at Mauna Loa showed carbon dioxide at 400.03 ppm on Thursday. Certain arctic observing stations exceeded 400 ppm more than a year ago, and the global average of atmospheric carbon dioxide could break the 400 ppm barrier in the next year or so, Butler said by telephone from Boulder, Colorado.

 Whether or not that occurs, Earth's atmosphere hasn't had this much carbon dioxide in it for at least 800,000 years, and possibly for as long as 5 million years.
      “During the last 800,000 years, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide fluctuated between 180 ppm and 280 ppm. With the widespread burning of coal and oil during the Industrial Revolution, the concentration of carbon dioxide rose to about 290 ppm by the end of the 19th century, Butler said.

 In the 20th century, the rate of increase accelerated, with levels between 370 and 380 ppm by the year 2000." An animated graph that shows the history of atmospheric carbon dioxide is online at http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/history.html

LOWERING DEPENDENCE ON OIL will result in lower costs for locally produced food, according to Richard Ha, owner of Hamakua Springs and a member of the Big Island Community Coalition, which advocates using local resources to lower electricity rates.
     “I first noticed our farm costs rising steadily back in 2005 and 2006,” Ha wrote recently on his blog hahaha.hamakusprings.com. “Rising costs affect every aspect of our farm, and it was very worrisome. Looking into it, I realized that the rise in price was due to the price of oil increasing.
Richard Ha, right, says it is hard for farmers to compete with mainland
food imports because high electric bills here make  ag too expensive.
Photo from U.H. Hilo
     “Here in Hawai`i, we are being squeezed extra hard. More than 70 percent of our electricity comes from oil. Compare this to the U.S. mainland – Hawai`i’s primary competitor in many produce and food manufacturing categories – which relies on oil for only about two percent of its electricity generation.  “Farming is very energy intensive, and farmers’ refrigeration and water pumping costs have steadily gotten more expensive. Wholesalers’ and retailer refrigeration costs have gone up, too. This means food costs more. 
     “Oil prices have quadrupled in the last 10 years, and this has put the economy into a continuous recession.
     “The era of cheap oil is over. And the stuff produced in the future will be even more costly, setting a higher floor as time goes by. Unless we do something, it will squeeze us all even more.
     “What can we do on the Big Island to lower electricity costs, and the cost of locally produced food? Biomass and geothermal can do that today. There may be other choices maturing in the next few years, too. Producing electricity from geothermal here costs half as much as producing it from oil. And the Big Island will be over the hot spot that provides us with geothermal for 500,000 to a million years.”
 
HAWAI`I PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION has received more testimony from O`ahu residents regarding the proposed contract for Hawaiian Electric Light Co. to purchase biofuel from `Aina Koa Pono, which plans to grow feedstock in Ka`u to supply a refinery above Pahala. These O`ahu testifiers are concerned about a plan put forth by the state Consumer Advocate to increase electricity rates on O`ahu only, instead of having increase on both Hawai`i Island and O`ahu to support the `Aina Koa Pono project.
      State Rep. Cynthia Thielen, of Kailua on O`ahu, wrote: “As much as I believe in enhancing the renewable energy sector of Hawai`i’s economy, such as solar, wave, wind, geothermal and biofuels, I am worried that locking in a twenty-year contract with AKP for biofuel at roughly $200 per barrel is not a wise decision. I understand that a fixed price will lead to more investor confidence and thus increase much needed investment in this nascent but promising technology, but could we not tie the price of AKP’s biofuels to the price of oil on the global marketplace instead? I understand that this is the way it works in many European countries that rely on imported natural gas (from, say, Russia). Biofuel barrel prices would increase and decrease with crude oil prices, and they would still provide enough security for investment, as crude oil surely will not leave the global marketplace within the next twenty years.
Rep. Cynthia Thielen, seen here  at an environmental restoration project, submitted testimony
to the PUC regarding `Aina Koa Pon. Photo from Cynthia Thielen
     “Secondly, as much as I am aware that the island of Hawai`i has the highest electric utility rates among all the islands, we on O`ahu are not faring much better. I do not think that I can support any more electricity rate increases on my constituents, many of whom are already struggling to pay their electric bills as it is. If you contractually tied the price of biofuels to the price of crude oil in the marketplace, then electricity rates would not raise in any abnormal way (only in the way they already fluctuate with the price of oil).
     “I sincerely hope you will reconsider this proposed contract with AKP. I have researched their organization and their methods and am impressed with the scope and ambition of the proposed project. I think it could have tremendously beneficial impacts on the state of Hawai`i as a whole. Once again, my primary concern is with the locked-in contractual price of $200 per barrel, a price my already struggling constituents must pay.”
      Jim Wolery, of Kaneohe, wrote, “This is what I hope to be another of many, many requests from other O`ahu HECO customers to please, please, please not approve this scheme by Hawaiian Electric to saddle its O`ahu customers with yet another surcharge by contracting with AKP on Big Island to purchase biofuel at far above any reasonable or comparative cost with standard or available alternative production media - simply to be able to advertise their “Green Energy” efforts. It is unreasonable and unacceptable. If they want to prop up AKP so bad, or promote themselves as a ‘Green Energy’ company, let them pay whatever premium there happens to be over the going rates for standard fuel choices. The ‘Disconnection’ scheme was bad enough, this would be piling on more insult to that already egregious injury.” 
      Another resident, James Roller, wrote, “Let it be known that one HECO customer on O`ahu is not happy at the prospect of having to pay extra on my electric bill in order to subsidize a “not so sweet deal being pursued by HELCO and AKP. This deal would only benefit the residents of the Big Island (if it really in fact does). There are cheaper alternatives that what AKP is proposing on charging HELCO for their energy resources. Please take time to review this proposed contract before it is let and subject it to the common sense test. This is one HECO customer (and believe me there are many hundreds more) who do not believe the test is passable with the information or alternatives available to HELCO. Besides, my wife and I work hard at keeping our bill as low as possible. The prospect of paying for something that I am not directly responsible for using is somehow distasteful, and I am not so sure it would pass the constitutionality test not to mention the common sense test.” 
     Robert J. Manson, Jr., also of Kaheohe, wrote, “I strongly oppose the fact that O`ahu rate payers would essentially fund this project for Big Island rate payers. This is absurd. Why would it be even considered, especially without O`ahu rate payer input/comment? Please do not approve.
      Sue Nance testified, “As on O`ahu resident and HECO consumer, I am outraged at this payment cabal for Big Island power through AKP and HECO. We have not been openly and fully informed and seem, once again, to have little or no voice in decisions which cost us unfairly and unjustly. Continuous rate increases (while the CEO is the highest paid executive in Hawai`i) have been nasty enough. This proposal is outrageous and grossly unfair. Please pay some attention to the needs of O`ahu residents/consumers and stop thinking of us as ‘cash cows’ for some of the most absurd ideas to be imposed upon us.”

KA`U CELEBRATES MOTHER’S DAY tomorrow with dining options. In Na`alehu, South Side Shaka’s restaurant offers a champagne breakfast and brunch buffet from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Prime rib dinner starts at 5 p.m.
      Hana Hou Restaurant’s lunch options, available from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., include Italian seafood in a red clam sauce or roast beef sirloin and shrimp. Dinner features prime rib or a seafood platter and includes a special dessert.
      Kilauea Military Camp’s Crater Rim Café in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park has a buffet from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Menu items include prime rib au jus, blackened shrimp alfredo, macadamia nut-crusted fish, salad and potato bar, mashed potatoes, rice, green beans, pineapple-upside-down cake, ice cream bar and beverage. KMC is open to authorized patrons and sponsored guests, and park entrance fees apply.