Tuesday, May 31, 2011

EPA: 946 Pages to Regulate 0.5% of the Problem

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued 946 pages of new rules requiring that U.S. power plants sharply reduce their emissions of mercury and other air pollutants.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson claims that while the regulations will cost electricity producers $10.9 billion annually, they will save 17,000 lives and generate up to $140 billion in health benefits. There is no factual basis for these assertions, said Willie Soon, a natural scientist at Harvard, and Paul Driessen, a senior policy adviser for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.

America's coal-burning power plants emit an estimated 41-48 tons of mercury per year. U.S. forest fires emit at least 44 tons per year; cremation of human remains discharges 26 tons; Chinese power plants eject 400 tons; and volcanoes, subsea vents, geysers and other sources spew out 9,000-10,000 additional tons per year.

All these emissions enter the global atmospheric system and become part of the U.S. air mass. Since US coal power plants account for less than 0.5% all the mercury in the air, eliminating every milligram of it will do nothing about the other 99.5% our atmosphere.

Source: Willie Soon and Paul Driessen, "The Myth of Killer Mercury," Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2011.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rail Still Facing Key Hurdles

Construction crews are working on the rail project near Waipahu High School. Many think that construction for the city’s proposed elevated rail project has started but it’s not true. Read my article the Filipino Chronicle (page 8).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Edinburgh Light Rail Halted. The Usual Suspects. The Usual Results.

Edinburgh Light Rail called Edinburgh Trams is the second great example of what’s in store for Honolulu. The first one is Tren Urbano in San Juan Puerto Rico where the system was build at twice the original cost and five years after opening it has failed to reach 50% of its opening year ridership forecast.

The “usual suspect” is present in all three projects. Edinburgh, San Juan and Honolulu have the same consultant who prepared the rail project estimates. Here are the results so far in Edinburgh, Scotland:

  • Project originally scheduled to open in July 2011. Rescheduled to 2014 if at all.
  • Original cost was $640 million but now it over $1 Billion.
  • 72% of the construction work remains to be done but only 38% of the budget is left.
Read full article in Hawaii Reporter.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Renewable Energy in Hawaii: Dr. Takahashi's Take

Retired UH professor Patrick Takahashi was the creator and past director of Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) at the UH. His books on energy are fundamental readings. One of his most comprehensive posts about renewable energy for Hawaii is linked below.

Will renewable electricity be limited in Hawaii?

I am glad that he and I agree on
  1. the weak potential of wind power ("capacity factor means that a 400 MW wind farm could well only provide 100 MW on average to Oahu")
  2. the good potential of biomass
  3. the vast potential of geothermal power
for Hawaii.

One part that he has not delved into but holds promise for Hawaii if it develops vast amounts of renewable energy is Ammonia, which holds the key to electricity and transportation fuel and food production. See Ammonia as a Transportation Fuel and Fertilizer.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Renewables and Reliability of Power

After reviewing the 2009 power reliability reports submitted by utilities to the PUC I discovered that:
  • Oahu power utilizes less than 2% renewables. It has the highest reliability: HECO SAIF in 2009 was 1.1%,
  • Maui power utilizes about 17% renewables (wind and biomass). It has the middle reliability: MECO SAIF in 2009 was 1.6%,
  • Hawaii power utilizes about 33% renewables (geothermal, wind, hydro). It has the lowest reliability: HELCO SAIF in 2009 was 3.1%,
where, SAIF is System Average Interruption Frequency (0% is best)

HELCO reported that 20,660 customer interruptions (16% of all interruptions) were related to Independent Power Producer (non-HELCO Generation) sources. In 2009 Hamakua Energy Partners (HEP) and Pakini Nui Windfarm were the non-HELCO generation sources that caused customer interruptions. Geothermal did not have any negative effect on HELCO's SAIF.

The lesson here is that unless the right renewable energy sources are selected, reliability in the provision of power will deteriorate.

Monday, May 16, 2011


The Star Advertiser published on Monday, May 16, 2011 results from a recent simple poll conducted by Ward Research. The results are remarkable. They speak volumes of the public's desperation for relief from traffic congestion and since this is the only project on the table, they barely are going for it. If asked, most would tell you that they want rail so that the other people can use it. Less than 5% of commuters will switch to it. However, the survey missed the opportunity to ask about this.

The 50.6% majority of the 2008 elections has been reduced to 49%. Incredibly, the ratio of Yes/No in 2008 was 1.10 and the ratio of Yes/No in the Star Advertiser survey is 1.09! This is devastating for the Honolulu rail lobby.

Compared to 2008, the pro-rail folks got a pro-rail President. They got Oberstar to fly over Oahu on a helicopter and proclaim it a good project. They spent millions in mass media ads and monthly mailers to households. The Council had multiple junkets to rail cities. Senator Inouye, Congresswoman Hirono, US DOT Secretary LaHood and Federal Transit administrator Rogoff descended to Honolulu last month and promised (again) approvals and monies. They got the union and special interests constantly harping rail everywhere including being on the agenda at almost every monthly meeting at Neighborhood Boards. Result?

Any desirable project with such arsenal of weapons would have had over two thirds of the public supporting it. Rail got only 49%. And, from the same survey, only 12% believe the city's cost estimates!

Has the project reached a tipping point? The project is beyond its tipping point to destruction. The tipping point came in 2010. Let me explain: In order to succeed, mega-projects (defined as any project over one half billion dollars) need a major champion with decision making power and a lot of money. In our case the champion was Hannemann and the money was the Congress.
In 2010 Hannemann was trounced, and the TEA party made it widely known that the US is in deep debt. And they helped change the control of Congress from liberal to conservative. Then Abercrombie revealed that the state had a $1.5 Billion debt. Then Congress obliterated President Obama's high speed rail and cut many new infrastructure projects. Rail New Starts were cut by 20% to just $1.6 Billion in FY11. We are well beyond the tipping point when it comes to new rail projects.

The irrelevant person in all this is our one issue mayor who as recently as yesterday issued an announcement proclaiming that everything is dandy.(1) Let's not forget that jokes are his strength.

The only unfortunate thing is that I and all the anti-rail groups never had the funds and media support needed to present our points on a equal basis. It is very satisfying to see that long before a successful lawsuit we are clearly achieving the stoppage of this disastrous project.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Honolulu's Special Interests Enrichment

The price tag for preparation of the Honolulu rapid transit project’s environmental impact statement was originally $86 million but has since bulged to $156 million, a City spokesman confirmed today. The current value is $156,211,000 and it is due to expire July 11 of this year. Read full article in Hawaii Reporter.

This does not include the cost of the Alternatives Analysis which was in the order of $20 Million.

Recall that in 2007 Tampa opened 10 miles of elevated reversible toll lanes ($1.50 toll per trip). Planning, design, and construction were completed in seven years for a total cost of $320 Million. In comparison, the Honolulu Rail Gang will spend $320 Million for planning, design, lobbying and PR, and 90% of it comes from local taxes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wind Turbines on Fire

I doubt that The Blue Planet Foundation would use any of these wind turbine images for its letterhead. Perhaps its advocacy should also be commensurate to the facts.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Electricity Travels at the Speed of Light. State PUC Is Sightly Slower.

On December 26, 2008, an island-wide outage occurred on Oahu during a severe lightning storm that resulted in a loss of electric service to HECO customers ranging from approximately 7 to 20 hours.

On January 12, 2009, the PUC initiated an investigation of the outage.

In March 2009, HECO submitted an outage report prepared by its expert consultant, which concluded that the island-wide outage was triggered by lightning strikes.

In January 2010, the Consumer Advocate submitted its Statement of Position that HECO could not have anticipated or prevented the outage through reasonable measures and could not have reasonably shortened the outage and restored power more quickly to customers. The Consumer Advocate further stated that penalties should not be assessed for the outage, but recommended that numerous studies be performed with the objective of preventing or minimizing the scope and duration of future power outages.

As of May 9, 2011, the PUC's investigation of the 2008 outage is still open.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Portland's "High Capacity Transit" Success... All 2.3% of It!

Interesting excerpts of an actual evaluation of Portland's MAX light rail in 2011:
  • High Capacity Transit is desirable when there are large numbers of people moving to geographically constrained destinations within a short period of time – such as commuters traveling to downtown San Francisco or midtown Manhattan. (Nothing in common with Honolulu.)
  • MAX was supposed to be a “catalyst for transit-oriented development” (TOD) at Cascade Station near the airport, but IKEA, Target and Best Buy are built away from the MAX stop and serviced by large parking lots. RESULT: 2.2% use MAX. (This will happen to the Ewa mall by Bishop Estate, Pearl Highlands, Pearl Ridge and Ala Moana Center.)
  • Gresham Civic Station is a suburban location that has been intensively planned for more than 25 years, with expectations that this would be a showcase for suburban TOD. The entire area was bare dirt when MAX opened in 1986. Eventually, much of the site was built-out. RESULT: Although there are hundreds of apartments close to the newest MAX station at Gresham Civic Center, only 2.25% the tenants actually use light rail. (This will happen to Ho'opili and other pie in the sky TODs.)
  • The two-day observations at Cascade Station were perhaps the most revealing in terms of assessing the oft-made claim that light rail is a “catalyst for development.” Light rail is not only irrelevant to the commercial success of Cascade Station, it is a barrier to continued development due to density requirements near rail stations. (Maybe Honolulu developers will wake up to reality.)
Finally, a quote describing real Transit Capacity (which is of course why I have been advocating a managed bus system since 2000):
  • For comparison, the highest-throughput mass transit facility in America is a simple busway managed by the Port Authority of New York-New Jersey (PANYNJ). On weekdays between 6:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m., PANYNJ operates a 2.5 mi eastbound contra-flow Exclusive Bus Lane (XBL) along westbound Route 495 to Lincoln Tunnel from the New Jersey Turnpike. The XBL carries 1,700 buses and 62,000 passengers each morning, on average, saving about 15-20 minutes in travel time. This averages about 1 bus every 8 seconds for a 4-hour period, with roughly 37 seated passengers per bus.
Full Report -- CASCADE POLICY INSTITUTE: The Myth of High Capacity Transit, May 2011.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Got Wind? YES. Got Power? NO.

Press Release by First Wind:

Honolulu, HI—March 24, 2011First Wind, an independent U.S.-based wind energy company, and Hawaiian Electric Company held a ribbon-cutting ceremony today to mark the commencement of commercial operations of the Kahuku Wind project. State, local and community leaders gathered at the project site on Oahu’s North Shore to recognize the environmental and economic benefits of the 30 MW project, which features an innovative battery storage system and has the capacity to generate enough renewable energy to power up to 7,700 Oahu homes each year.

My investigation five weeks later (April 30, 2011)

A picture is worth a thousand words... watch this:

(Alternate link if this video does not load)

The bottom line is that both HECO and government got it wrong. Even when wind is present, the turbines are doing nothing.