Monday, April 25, 2011

Problems Big and Small. Sensible Solutions for All.

[This is an enriched version of my TEA 2011 speech at Hawaii Capitol on April 15, 2011]

We got big Problems. So does everybody else… states, the whole country, other countries.
What we need is Sensible Solutions. Instead we get more government solutions and more taxes.

Pension accounts for city and state government employees will be broke soon-- they face huge account deficits and Hawaii leads the way in this. Their solution? Tax pensions or bury their head in the sand. The sensible solution is to raise the retirement age to 70 years of age.

Homelessness. Their solution? Build more public housing. The sensible solution is to take care of the homeless needs and provide transitional housing. Transition the homeless back to normal life. Do not warehouse them. Empower, consolidate and better organize non-profits that care for the homeless. Set limits on the benefits that the homeless receive.

Power. We pay the most for electric power. We complain about the price of gasoline but it’s only 15% more expensive than the mainland average. Our electricity is about 300% more expensive. Whose fault is this?

The legislature's with their "green" objectives that put into effect without any cost analysis, the PUC's controls, and HECO's monopoly. The monopoly buys wind and solar power for 15c per KWh and sells it to ratepayers for 30 to 40 cents.

The sensible solution is to deregulate. Within 20 years we can have a competitive energy market with solar, geothermal, coal, OTEC, biomass, algae, etc.
distributed power providers.

Planning is a big problem. We have the Oahu Metropolitan Organization (OMPO) that coordinates all transportation plans in the city and county of Honolulu. But the key people on the all-important policy committee are the Transportation Committee chairs of the Senate and the House. For many years they are both from Maui. So the county of Maui decides the transportation plans of the county of Honolulu. This absurdity is going on for a decade now and has lead to gross miss-allocation of funds with Honolulu at the losing end.

Traffic is a big problem. We need roads to move over 90% of the people who use vehicles. Instead government plans to waste 6 billion dollars to help the 1% of people on the rail. And cutback TheBus in the process.

TheHandiVan is a costly service. Its archaic and inflexible booking system requires 1 or 2 day advance reservations. This inconvenience costs $35 per rider. TheHandiVan services can be fully substituted by private modified vans of which there are several on island in private transportation. They provide quick and courteous service, local jobs and a modest profit at about $25 per ride. TheHandiVan is proof that Sensible and Government do not go together.

Waste Management is a problem. Their solution? Business as usual: Landfills and expensive, fake recycling. Best solution? Privatization and incentives for remanufacturing. The private sector can deal with landfill issues, burning and recycling. Or sending trash to mainland or Asia. Leave environmental requirements as is, and let the private sector find the solution set including the remanufacture of recycled paper, plastic, fats, oils and lubricants.

Pavements and potholes. Their solution? Neglect, followed by expensive contracts and sloppy pothole plugging by city crews. The sensible solution is to go on routine pavement maintenance so that our local refineries can plan their asphalt production. (I understand one of them has quit making asphalt because of the unpredictability of demand.) Sign 10 year contracts with quality guarantees and price discounts. Get the City out of the pothole repair business.

Sensible Solutions have these basic ingredients: Less centralization, less taxation, less regulation and greater private sector participation.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Every vehicle on the road has a flywheel. It smooths out the fuel explosions in each cylinder and makes gear change possible.

An over-sized flywheel can propel a light vehicle but due to the constant speed transitions in regular traffic this application is problematic.

A "mega-sized" flywheel can become a formidable energy storage device that can avert blackouts, facilitate the smart grid and even store energy from daytime production (solar) for nighttime consumption.

This Washington Post article... Reinventing the (Fly)Wheel contains a lot of useful development including the first in the nation 20 MW electricity power plant located in Massachusetts.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The New York Times Investigates Hawaii's Big Wind

I sent this message to my friends in the media today.

I find it a bit ironic that we have to read a newspaper from 5,000 miles away to find out what's going on at our back yard: Hawaii Doubles Down on Big Wind

In it there is this comment: "U.S. EPA, questioned why the state considered only two alternatives." My immediate reaction to this concern? ... Because in Hawaii we plan like dictators: Like Heavy Rail or Nothing!

My thoughtful reaction is here: Wind Energy for Hawaii: Great for Profits, Not so Great for Power (I note that the Star Advertiser did not publish this submission.)

My energy plan in one page is shown below.

A huge part of Hawaii's future rides on its energy plan. I must tell you that I do not like what I see so far. I was at a public forum with the Governor and PUC Chair Mina Morita last night. Their heart is in the right place but they seem to have received tremendously biased information and we'll be spending billions for minor payoff. (Obviously we are developing a tradition on this.)

I look forward to your frequent investigative coverage of Hawaii's energy plan. Please set any green glasses you like to wear aside. Open your minds and your wallets and then look at the issues.

Please remember that next time "global warming" comes up Hawaii's way ahead in the green accomplishment scale because of our ...
... fleet of smaller cars used over shorter distances,
... lack of need for heating oil,
... lack of guzzling heavy industry
... household energy improvements (we're tops or near tops in the nation on sun water heating and photovoltaic panels,)
... use of cold ocean water to cool high rises, etc.

Given that we already pay 230% to 300% more than the U.S. average for electricity (30 cents versus 10 cents for a KW-hour), we need to be extremely careful with expensive and inefficient proposals for renewable energy sources.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Natural Gas for Transportation

Here is the summary of congressional action from Last week was the culmination of a process begun years ago. A bill was introduced to Congress that could end American dependence on foreign oil. What is called the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act -- more simply put, the NAT GAS Act -- was introduced to Congress on April 6. It has bipartisan support. It ought to pass and pass promptly. It could be called the Boone Pickens bill.

This article from Center for American Progress provides on the realities of natural gas usage in heavy vehicles as a transitional fuel for the next five to 10 decades. It will not end US dependence on oil but it has a good potential to substantially curb it as shown below.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pension Congestion? Life is a Freeway. Lift the Limit from 65 to 70.

In 1940, an American enjoyed 12 years of life upon retirement, on the average. In 2007, an American is expected to enjoy over 17.5 years upon retirement. This long retirement period of 17.5 years is both the good news and the bad news.

The good news is of course that we all wish to live long lives and the outlook is good. The bad news is that retirement systems worldwide cannot support so many retirees living for so long.

This is one area where indeed Hawaii is not alone, but its government employee retirement system is among the five most troublesome in the U.S. George Berish, an expert in the field, has explained this in a series of articles in the Civil Beat.

The critical measure for the future health of a state's or country's overall retirement system health is the Support Ratio. This is the number that shows how many working people support one retiree.

In 1970 the U.S. had 5.3 workers supporting one retiree. In 2010 the number of workers per retiree dropped to 4.6. This is alarming enough but it gets much worse. In 2050 the estimation is that there will be only 2.6 workers per retiree, so over 25% of their earnings will have to go to the retirement fund to support retirees. At that point overall taxation will surpass 60%, and in theory it is best to move to another country.

Not so fast!

Read my full article in HAWAII REPORTER.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Transportation 2050

In March 2011 the European Commission published a proposed rulemaking for long term transportation standards in Europe titled TRANSPORT 2050. I drafted a similar policy for the US and developed this side by side 2-page presentation.

You may be interested to see the EU's proposed draconian measures against the automobile: Halve the use of gasoline, diesel and LPG fueled cars in cities by 2030 and phase them out in cities by 2050.

While EU's planning for a CO2-free utopia continues unabated, China picks up all the slack: In 2010, China's 18 million vehicle sales far surpassed U.S. light-duty vehicle sales of 12 million, making China the world's largest new car market. From 2003 through 2010, China's vehicle population grew at an annual rate of 18.6%, far faster than even the most ambitious projection.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

For Every Green Job, Four Other are Lost

A few posts below you can read my opinion about Wind Energy for Hawaii

Today I was sent this revealing study done at the UK:

Part of the summary in reads as follows: A study of renewable energy in Scotland shows that for every job created in the alternative energy sector, almost four jobs are lost in the rest of the economy.

Not only has the sun set on the British Empire, but the promise of wind apparently is deserting it as well. A new study called “Worth The Candle?” by the consulting firm Verso Economics confirms the experience of Spain and other countries: The creation of “green” jobs destroys other jobs through the diversion of resources and the denial of abundant sources of fossil fuel energy.

Here is the full report: “Worth The Candle?”

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Board of Water Supply: For Crying Out Loud!

In 2009 and 2010 the Board of Water Supply tore up the upper half of Pacific Heights Road to upgrade the water lines and meters. The bumpy condition of the road (in part) cost me $800 in replacing the front suspension bushings of my car at 45,000 miles (normal wear should be 100,000 miles or more.) At the end of 2010 MIRA contractor spent over a month paving the road. They did a decent job.

Four months later the same road is marked to be torn up to fix the sewer lines, by the same Board of Water Supply. It really does not get more costly and disruptive than this…. Heavy machinery… Line up in single stack… Off duty police officers at both ends… Etc.

As can be seen in the photos below, the asphalt is dark black; brand new with a likely service span of 15 to 20 years. Actively being destroyed today.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Huge Combustion Efficiencies Are in the Works

The York Times article Start-Ups Work to Reinvent the Combustion Engine reports that
  • Pinnacle Engines is working on an engine that "will be up to 50% more efficient than today's power plants,"
  • EcoMotors, "a Detroit area start-up backed by Khosla Ventures(1) and Bill Gates," and
  • Achates Power of San Diego
are developing variations on an opposed piston engine...long considered too expensive and unworkable for automobiles. The goal is to reduce the amount of energy "wasted as heat," so as to "to tap more energy to propel a vehicle." Pinnacle says that its current engine is "30% more efficient than current scooter engines." EcoMotors "is also claiming up to a 50% improvement in efficiency for its two-stroke diesel opposed piston engine." Achates Power says that its engine is "15% more efficient than conventional diesel."

In addition I recently read that both the Engine Research Group of University of Wisconsin-Madison is working on dual fuel engines to achieve high efficiencies and low emissions. An example of dual fuel is engine uses 90% gasoline on high load (acceleration), 90% diesel on low load (cruise) and 100% diesel at idle. Fuel efficiency improved 20% to 25% or large engines for trucks and heavy equipment.

At the same time and the Oak Ridge National Lab is conducting similar experiments using 1.9 liter Euro spec GM diesel engines with good results.

These are all positive and telling signs that the "classic" engine and the automobile are nowhere near their "dawn" days.

(1) Vinod Koshla, of Khosla Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture-capital firm. His profile in The Economist is worth reading. I liked this quote of his: “ENVIRONMENTALISTS are fiddling while Rome burns. They get in the way with silly stuff like asking people to walk more, drive less. That is an increment of 1-2% change. We need 1,000% change if billions of people in China and India are to enjoy a Western, energy-rich lifestyle.” Forget today’s green technologies like electric cars, wind turbines, solar cells and smart grids. None meets what Mr Khosla calls the “Chindia price.”

Wind Energy for Hawaii: Great for Profits, Not So Great for Power

Electric power is all about baseload and predictable peaks of usage. Wind is all about unpredictability. Among all major resources for the production of energy, wind is among the least predictable and dependable. Full article published in Hawaii Reporter.

Wind Speed Variability Sample as Reported in a Presentation by Renewable Energy Laboratory: