Monday, December 23, 2013

The Public and Private Versions of Solar Power, in Brief

Private version: The installation of photovoltaic panels to generate electric power utilizes unused rooftops and provides free building cooling. (Y. Hata Co., Honolulu, HI.)

Public version: The installation of photovoltaic panels to generate electric power wastes productive land, wastes taxpayer funds, and lies about sustainable green jobs; there aren't any. (DHHL, Kalaeloa, HI)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

AIKEA FOR HONOLULU No. 32 – Here’s Wishing for a Helmet Law and Jones Act Repeal

The magic of Fibonacci numbers. Simple series. Fascinating creations!

Biologist Mohamed Hijri brings to light a farming crisis no one is talking about: We are running out of phosphorus. (TED talk in French, subtitled.)
As 2013 comes to a close it is worth remembering that Honolulu's $5.2 Billion rail project is a testament of the power of government and special interests to get their way.  The Honolulu Civil Beat's multiple polls over the years show that the rail project never had a public approval of over 35%. Here’s a link to a slideshow summary I presented at the ADC conference in Washington, D.C. in mid-October.

My first transportation wish for 2014: Hawaii needs a motorcycle helmet law. It’s a no brainer! Just read these few lines about the impact of injuries of motorcyclists without helmets: “The helmet-less are distinctive, says Dr. Lori Terryberry-Spohr: they suffer ‘diffuse’ internal bleeding and cell death across large areas. Such patients typically run up $1.3 million in direct medical costs. Fewer than a third work again. A study of helmet-less bikers admitted to one large hospital, cited by the Centers for Disease Control, found that taxpayers paid for 63% of their care.”

My second transportation wish for 2014: Hawaii gets an exemption from the Jones Act which artificially inflates the cost of living for all of us. BusinessWeek observes that “when large container ships filled with bicycles and sleeper sofas leave China for the U.S., they don’t stop in Hawaii to unload cargo bound for that state before continuing to Los Angeles or Seattle.” Unfortunately status quo politicians such as Hirono, Schatz and Hanabusa are strong supporters of the Jones Act. And fake energy solutions. They cost Hawaii dearly … expensive gas, expensive power, expensive groceries, and extra taxation on everything for the rail.  Other than that, Hawaii Democrats are all about support for the little guy ;)

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2014!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mayor Enrique Peñalosa: Why buses represent democracy in action

1998-2001 Bogota Mayor Enrique Peñalosa: "An advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars, but rather one where even the rich use public transport."

In this TED talk, the former mayor of Bogotá shares some of the tactics he used to change the system in the Colombian capital.

"Buses have great capacity. For example this system in Guanzhou is moving more people per hour than all subway lines in China, except one in Beijing, at a fraction of the cost."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Senator Schatz is Wrong about Wind Energy -- Part 2: Sample Responses

Most people dislike irresponsible calls for "improvement at any cost" although some accept cost-ineffective renewables. The quotes below are a sample of the responses I received to my AIKEA FOR HONOLULU No. 31.

Alexa: Thank you for the informative email. But I still do not know what we the poor residents can do to help ourselves and Hawaii from the increasing expense.

Patty: They surely are an eye sore.  Did not appreciate seeing them as I toured visiting friends around the island.

Teri H.: “No” to liquefied gas. At some point, someone has to have the courage to advocate and implement renewable energy.

Robert: 3 cents per kw, does that include the cost of Columbia river dams and lost salmon runs?
No such thing as a free lunch but you are right about distributed pv.

Greg W.: Tell them to come to South Point on the Big Island. Are they trying to finish off the Nene and the Io?

John D.: wind energy, in my opinion is better than solar, or at least compliments it. just note all of us who have blue water sailboats- sun by day, and wind by nite- at nite, the sun is gone, but the wind blows, continuing to give energy. i like that. i don't like the idea of huge turbines in my immediate neighborhood, but small individual ones like i mentioned, are fantastic... keeps the beer cold.

Thomas S.: What is wrong with a Babcock and Wilcox 300 MW nuclear plant?  The most ecologically sensitive plant and with power storage that will keep Hawaii lit a for a long time.
        Liquefied Natural Gas is replacing the Kewaunee, Wis. Nuclear Plant that my father helped build in mom, still gets 10 cent per KWH retail power out of that plant as of this moment.  (I checked her electric bill).

Bruce: I also agree with you that rooftop solar can make it on its own, without any state or federal tax credits, which are expected to expire in a couple of years.  We were fortunate to take advantage of the credits and our $50K system cost us just $17.5K.  It should pay for itself in 4 years.  Without tax credits, it would still pay for itself in 12 years and, because we purchased well-designed panels, I expect the lifetime to exceed 30 years.  We installed PV panels on our cabin in Colorado 20+ years ago, and they are still working fine...even being exposed to snow.

Patrick P: how about wind turbines, pv, and rain turbines on all erected light fixtures across the state?

Kaniu, Big Island: Mahalo nui Panos for the truth

Linda P.: Panos, we appreciate you!  Thank you for fighting the good fight and for keeping us informed.  Wish the good senator (and many others) had your intelligence, logic and values!

Valere: Thank you for always telling it like it is and for doing such credible research. I do disagree, however, about the PV systems because most of the panels are constructed in China and the mining of materials used in the panels is extremely toxic. Firefighters in California can refuse to fight a fire on building that has solar panels. And these projects survive on subsidies. It is fallacious to say that the tax benefits received by individuals and corporations are not subsidies. It's just a different name for the same thing.

S.V, Pukalani: I speak from looking hard at rooftop solar installations on Maui.  It is a wonderful and economic problem.  The only sticking point here is that Maui Electric has limited the number of penetration circuits allowed for home solar.  Reason - it impinges on their base load generation.

Tim D.: How about something simpler:  Cut demand by tax credits (and building code) for simple, non capital-intensive technologies like insulation, attic fans, and best-practices lighting (Say Energy Star Gold rating).  Mandate homes (single family & up to 4-plexes) convert to solar power hot water over the next decade.

Gordon K., Retired HECO: In November 2012 I attended the Hawaii Health Dept. hearing on Greenhouse Gas regulations.  Everybody was there--Health Dept., engineers, regulators, utilities and refineries, and environmentalists.
     I asked a question.  We live in a highrise apartment, and electricity costs us $200 per month.  I asked how much our electric bill would be after all of the solar and wind farms, rooftop solar, and undersea cables are built.  There was total silence.  A few people pointed up at the ceiling.  Afterward an engineer told me, "That was a novel question you asked.  No one ever asked that question before."
     In other words we all accepted the renewable energy without question or regard for cost.  Now that we're retired and living on pensions, cost matters a lot.  I intend to ask that question a lot more in the future.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

AIKEA FOR HONOLULU No. 31 – Senator Schatz is Wrong about Wind Energy

A TV ad started last week shows U.S. Senator Brian Schatz promoting “energy that’s moving Hawaii forward. Senator Brian Schatz is leading the effort to harness our incredible wind energy potential with tax credits to grow wind energy production that would create thousands of new jobs and clean energy.”
Hawaii residents from Waianae to Kahuku, from Molokai to Lanai, and everywhere in the between dislike wind turbines. Senator Schatz promotes more taxpayer monies for special interests who are peddling a technology that cannot make it on its own. He is wrong for the following reasons.
Independently from any politics, a Punahou and UH-Manoa graduate student and I conducted detailed research on cost effective energy solutions for Hawaii, by examining all major energy sources available to Hawaii.  A summary of our work was accepted by Pacific Business News last month, and was published this week: Making the Case for Liquefied Natural Gas.
Our research concluded that wind and solar power plants are ineffective; they require multimillion dollar subsidies. The solar energy in our research was the power plant type that consumes land in order to produce some daytime electricity, similar to the 36 acres wasted by the Pohoiki plant at Kalaeloa to produce only 5 MW!
On the other hand, solar photovoltaic panels have been locally accepted by thousands of homeowners and businesses. Rooftop PV is an incremental, distributed power source with near zero visual or other negative impacts for Hawaii, as I explained here: Big Rooftop Solar Panels Make Sense in Hawaii - without Any Subsidies! Rooftop PV supports dozens of local small businesses.
Recently BMW decided to locate its electric vehicle chassis assembly in a region of Washington State because the local electricity rate is 3 cents (!) per kilowatt-hour.  HECO’s rate on Oahu is over 33 cents and thanks to Senator Schatz’s flawed advocacy, our electricity costs will increase, and Hawaii will become increasingly uncompetitive.
I urge Senator Schatz to review the three page summary of our research titled The Next 100 MW Power Plant for Oahu and modify his views about renewable energy. America’s future cannot be supported by intermittent, unreliable and expensive energy.
Hawaii does not need unsightly turbines and cannot afford their cost and flaky reliability. And please stop bragging about the jobs. Hawaii has fewer than 50 turbines and fewer than 50 people are located here to manage them … that is, when the turbines are not down due to fires or other self-inflicted damage.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Technology and Technological Innovations

Technology and technological innovations are presented in this installment of my O'lelo show PANOS 2050: Solutions for a Sustainable Hawaii.

The Economist:  Before 1750, the standard of living improved at a glacial pace, if at all. Farming in the early 18th century was not that different from farming in Biblical times. The Romans had invented plumbing before the very concept was forgotten for millennia. Then, something happened. Within two centuries the biggest material problems of pre-industrial life had been solved: ...

The first wave of major modern technology and innovation consisted of the steam engine, the locomotive and the telegraph.

Second and final big wave of major modern technology and innovation consisted of electrical generators, indoor plumbing and broadcast radio.  Followed by autos, oil extraction and highways.

TV, personal computers and the Internet had modest but not "wholesale" effects on our quality of life and productivity.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Honolulu Rail: 2005-2013 Slideshow

The slide show presentation titled Fighting ● Boondoggles ● Honolulu ● Rail ● Transit was presented at the 2013 American Dream conference in Washington, D.C. in mid-October 2013.  It provides a brief summary of:
  • Honolulu's history of billion dollar transit plans
  • Why is Honolulu Rail a boondoggle?
  • What was done to stop this train?
Honolulu's $5.2 Billion rail project  is a testament of the power of government and special interests to get their way.  As the Honolulu Civil Beat's multiple polls over the years have revealed, this project never enjoyed a public approval of over 35%.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Current Social and Economic Trends

Current major social and economic trends that affect the US and Hawaii are presented in this installment of my O'lelo show PANOS 2050: Solutions for a Sustainable Hawaii. From developments in China to politicians' pay in several countries.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Let Them Eat Cake

Honolulu's public is starved for traffic congestion relief. The power elite has responded with "let them have rail."

To many citizens and to most elected officials it is clear that if the government provides overhead rail, people stuck in traffic congestion will take it. "How come you don't support the rail?" They ask me. "Haven't you seen the traffic from Kapolei to the UH?"

Planners, politicians and hired spinsters have spend a lot of time and money in trying to convince people that rail is a solution to traffic congestion, jobs, development, the environment, etc. They've made many false promises. People are desperate for some relief to their daily commute after all the taxes they pay. It's easy to sell false hope.

Having lost most arguments about traffic congestion relief, environmental benefits and "thousands of new jobs," the propaganda has shifted to "transit oriented development" or TOD.

Planners, politicians and hired spinsters are extolling the mostly imaginary virtues of TOD.  Banks, developers and contractors are salivating (and bankrolling politicians) over those TODs because they are indeed, Taxes Offered to Developers to develop subsidized properties around transit stations. By the way, TOD needs Transit not Rail. Buses on express lanes will do fine, at a much lower cost than rail and transit buses offer direct connections to many locations because they are flexible.

There is little doubt that drivers and passengers dislike bumper to bumper traffic. However, they need their vehicle to meet the obligations of their daily life in space and time. Have you seen city administration and HART officials going places on TheBus?

People need and consume electricity in Hawaii. Electricity in Hawaii costs over 300% the mainland average. Have you seen people gathering wood to cook and heat water? No? Expect a similar reaction to rail. Very very few will switch to it.

John Brizdle recently commented: "It will be very hard to get car commuters to get out of their cars to ride rail. They will have to give up their comfortable seats, door to door service, snacks, drinks, Bluetooth phone conversations and then stand-up on rail averaging 27 miles per hour."

Indeed, the reality is this. If you build it, they won't come. Here is the evidence: During the last decade, the U.S. spent hundreds of billions of dollars in new rail systems and upgraded transit buses. Did transit share grow? No! Look at the U.S. Census data below. The share of mass transit is stuck at or below 5%. All the rest of urban travel is done by car, carpool, bike, walk, or telecommuting.

When the 2010 U.S. Census numbers came out in 2011, the American Public Transit Association gloated that mass transit ridership grew by 8.5% in the ten years between 2000 and 2010. True, but in the same decade the U.S. population grew by 9.7%. Clearly despite large expenditures and expansions, mass transit usage does not even keep up with population growth, let alone gaining share to provide any relief to roadway congestion.

No matter how sleek and expensive the new transit offerings are, less than 5% of the travelers chose them. Year after year. But government and politicians support these boondoggles. Why?  Follow the money.

Professor Bent Flyvbjerg of Oxford University has proved that government rail projects are by far the most fraught with deception and delusion among all large infrastructure projects:
  • Deception means that the proponents lie to their constituents. Basically most cost and ridership forecasts for rail are very wrong. Costs are stated too low. Ridership is stated too high.
  • Delusion means that the rail proponents believe that their project is better and different than all the failures of the past, including the national evidence shown above. 
This history of public trust and public funds mismanagement is repeating in Honolulu. There is little doubt that Honolulu Rail will be much like the Tren Urbano of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was finished in 2006, almost 100% over budget and its ridership level has not even reached 50% of the forecast!

Rail projects are tax-payer financed and government-controlled. They take a decade or more to complete and in the end, like Puerto Rico, nobody is held accountable for the gross errors and lies. In addition to "history repeating itself" in Honolulu, I have 10+1 reasons why I do not support the Honolulu rail:
  1. Rail is the 1% solution to Oahu's traffic congestion problem.
  2. Spending over five billion dollars for a non-solution is unethical.
  3. The original and the current system are very different. Offering the public 41% less for a 73% higher price is a lie and a breach of public trust.
  4. Construction will cause critical lane closures and result in debilitating congestion for a decade.
  5. TheBus will be changed from a core operation to a feeder operation hurting those that need its service the most.
  6. Rail comes with a high security risk. It's a magnet for shooters, suicides, groping, robberies, drug trafficking...
  7. Rail makes Honolulu less resilient during and after a natural disaster.
  8. Cannot afford it. Hawaii is fifth worst state in the country in pension and health benefit funding liability.
  9. City budgets will be crushed by the union raises, the EPA sewer consent decree and the pension liabilities. Adding the rail construction cost-overruns will lower credit rating and ability to borrow and pay debt and other obligations. This is a long spelling for bankruptcy.
  10. During 2008 elections the ratio of pro-rail lies to anti-rail information in advertising media was more than 10 to 1. Taxpayer monies were used to support rail and, indirectly, rail-supporting politicians. That election process was indeed unethical. This repeated in 2012 with a smear campaign against Gov. Cayetano.
Last but not least, Honolulu is beautiful. Overhead rail is ugly and noisy. Installing overhead rail in beautiful Honolulu is a crime.
Rail is politics. Hawaii politics is all about Democrats. They proclaim their care for the little guy but they are cutting the little guy's bus, degrade his quality of life and cost of living with ever worsening traffic congestion, and raise the tax for one million little guys by several billion dollars for the benefit of capitalist interests!

Such politics take us back to eighteenth century France.  Instead of cheap roads for the 80% of travelers they offer pricy rail for the 6% who ride transit... "Let them eat cake" 250 years later.

Postscript: Visit John Pritchett's collection of rail cartoons. Although the rail is no joke, his cartoons are a humorous take of the history of Hawaii's biggest fiasco ever.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Comparing Economies: Hawaii and Greece -- The Writing on the Wall

Recently UHERO, that is the Economic Research Organization of the University of Hawaii, presented a detailed inforgraphic of jobs in Hawaii. The inforgraphic answers questions like: What type of jobs, how many and how much do they make?

UHERO explains their graphic as follows: Each colored rectangle represents a single occupation. The size of the rectangle indicates the number of jobs. The color of the rectangle indicates that occupation's median annual salary relative to the overall median.

The inforgraphic is pictured below but I strongly encourage to visit UHERO so that you can use your mouse to explore the data in each category that interests you.

What I found stunning is this: How is it possible that all these people live in Hawaii where a (roughly) $75,000 income is necessary, nearly double US average?

This graph suggests to me that Hawaii's economy is very much like Greece's pre-default economy. The majority of Hawaii earners are low earners particularly in comparison with the cost of living in Hawaii. So how do so many people make it in Hawaii? (How was it possible for Greece to be one of the largest markets for luxury cars?)

I suppose that at least three things are in play in Hawaii (like Greece):
(1) A large para-economy such as groups of laborers building rock walls, cutting trees and trimming bushes that never report any income. This is just an example. Check Craigslist for carport car mechanics as another example. And so on.
(2) Some under-reporting of taxes by people who have proper jobs or own businesses. (This was vast in Greece.) Do you recall the Hawaii Dept. of Taxation efforts to put cashier machines in farmers markets?
(3) A vast governmental welfare operation dedicated to income redistribution and supporting "the poor with Escalades in the public housing parking lots", as car repairman Nitta, 2008 mayor candidate used to say. Greece had that too.

The score Hawaii-Greece is 4 for 4: Many low income earners, para-economy, tax evasion and big welfare. Wouldn't you say that the writing on the wall is too obvious for Hawaii?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ten Plus One Reasons Why I Do Not Support The Honolulu Rail Project

  1. Among all travel options on Oahu, mass transit serves 6% of the travelers, just slightly above the U.S average of 5%. Focusing on this small piece of the pie is no way to solve the mobility problem of the 80% that drive and carpool, i.e., rail is the 1% solution because City's rosy numbers show that transit share will grow from 6% now to 7% with rail.
  2. Spending over five billion dollars for a non-solution is clearly unethical and all responsible for it are breaching their professional and fiduciary duty. As an engineering professional and past candidate for mayor I want no part in this unethical endeavor.
  3. The original system was supposed to be 34 miles through Kapolei to UH and Waikiki for about $3 Billion as shown in the headline above.  The current project starts a mile out of Kapolei and dead-ends at Ala Moana shopping center with no service to Waikiki or UH. Just 20 miles for over $5 Billion. If offering the public 41% less for a 73% higher price is not a lie then what is it?
  4. In some respects Oahu's congestion is comparable to that of the largest cities in the nation chiefly because Oahu is lane deficient.  20 miles of rail and 20 overhead stations will cause critical lane closures and result in debilitating congestion for a decade or more. For example, look at the image below and consider what traffic in downtown Honolulu will be like with Ala Moana Boulevard closed for about a year? The impact on quality of life, economy and tourism will be huge.
  5. B, C, E, 3, 9, 11, 20, 43, 53, 73, 81, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 96, 97, 98A, 101, 102, 103, 201, 202 are all the bus routes that will be eliminated or terminated to the nearest rail station. TheBus will be changed from a core operation to a feeder operation. This will add a lot of inconvenience and disappointment to the people that need transit service the most.
  6. Rail is high security risk. Mentally ill shooters and terrorists typically attack work, school and train station locations. Third rail systems like Honolulu's are a magnet for suicides. Train stations are a hot spot for robberies and drug trafficking.
  7. Rail makes Honolulu less resilient:It is practically certain that a major storm will hit Oahu in the next 50 years. Ten miles of reversible lanes not only will reduce congestion by over 30% for one third the cost of rail, but also they will be a critical backbone for post-storm recovery. Instead rail will be incapacitated for a prolonged period and critical resources will wasted to revive it.
  8. Cannot afford it. Hawaii is among the five worse states in the country in pension and health benefit funding liability. Future budgets will be very tight for the state. Outer islands should worry about their loss of big subsidies they receive from Oahu (i.e., they too will pay for it.)
  9. The City already has big problems finding a few million dollars for important services. Its budgets will be crushed by the union raises, the EPA sewer consent decree and the pension liabilities. Then add the rail construction cost-overruns and bankruptcy may not be far off.
  10. Out of more than 650,000 adults on Oahu only 156,000 voted YES to rail in the 2008 elections. That yielded a marginal 50.6% approval among those who bothered to vote. During elections the ratio of pro-rail lies to anti-rail information in advertising media was more than 10 to 1. Taxpayer monies were used to support rail and, indirectly, rail-supporting politicians. Calling this a "mandate" is disingenuous and the process was indeed unethical.
Last but not least, the aesthetics of the system are undesirable for the small, tropical capital of Honolulu. Here is just one before/after picture offered in city's renderings.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Driverless Car

The driverless car is explained in this installment of my O'lelo show PANOS 2050: Solutions for a Sustainable Hawaii.

No need for a driver's license!
Will the blind drive?
No more taxi drivers?
The end of insurance payments?

Driverless cars are a Pandora's box of opportunities and challenges. This 30 minute show sheds some light on them.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Ode to the American Freeway

History, Landscape, Beauty on the American Freeway is a brief summary of the many positives of freeways for the U.S. University of Illinois at Chicago professor emeritus of Art history, Architecture and Urban Planning Robert Bruegmann developed a well written piece with great photos as a bonus.  Here are a couple of the opening passages.

"Freeways, particularly urban freeways, have had a bad press for several decades now.  They are accused of despoiling scenery, destroying habitat and causing urban sprawl.  Many observers report with glee on the latest news of a small segment of urban freeway being dismantled.

This blanket condemnation makes it easy to overlook the remarkable contribution that these freeways have made to the American economy and to American culture.  It is hard to imagine the growth in productivity in the country during the postwar years without these roads, which vastly increased the mobility of goods and people and connected parts of the country together in ways that were unprecedented.

The constant criticism also makes it difficult to appreciate these roads as cultural artifacts and a wonderful way to see the country." [Link to the article.]

Remember that free in freeway comes from free-from-interruptions such as stop signs and traffic signals; not free-of-charge for their use.  Whether by gas tax, toll or other taxation, freeways need to be paid for. But keep in mind that:
  • Moving one person one mile on the freeway costs about $1 all inclusive (i.e., cost for the design, construction and maintenance of the freeway plus the vehicle to use on it).
  • Moving one person one mile on transit (all inclusive) costs about $5 (and the calculation assumes that buses use the roads for free.)
  • All goods, delivery and emergency services run on freeways. None of them run on transit.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Plan Bay Area: Urban Planning as a Form of 21st Century Illogical Dictatorship. Part 2

Part 2 is lawsuit galore. Barely two weeks after its acceptance by Bay area planning and transit agencies, Plan Bay Area was Sued From the Right and the Left!  Of course the myopic view of Sierra Club forces them to sue the Plan for daring support some highway transportation.  As I have demonstrated in my critique of the Plan, its emphasis on transit is totally wrong. Sierra Club wants more emphasis on top of emphasis on transit. It is quite clear to me that the title Lunatic Left is becoming a fundamental characterization.

Plan Bay Area: Urban Planning as a Form of 21st Century Illogical Dictatorship. Part 1

Part 1 by Wendell Cox explains why the well intentioned Plan Bay Area makes the wrong assumptions and picks the wrong solutions. As a result it barely makes the pollution targets they are after!  Sample estimates by Cox are shown the picture below.  Telling people what to do is not the way to do it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Next 100 MW Power Plant for Oahu

Gabriel El-Swaify, recent Masters graduate from the Department of Civil Engineering at UH-Manoa, describes his analysis leading to the best choice for "The Next 100 MW Power Plant on Oahu" that he conducted as part of his graduate study. I was the supervisor of this analysis.

Gabriel analyzed both renewable (e.g., wind) and traditional feedstock (e.g., coal) for power plants. He also accounted for land use (land acreage needed for the plant and its accessories) and long term maintenance as well as stand-by power requirements when renewable sources are not available.

Waste-to-energy and Geothermal power plants are among the best choices as explained in this installment of my O'lelo show PANOS 2050: Solutions for a Sustainable Hawaii.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Electric Vehicles Are Here to Stay. In Moderate Numbers.

The MIT Review titles the infographic below: Electric Vehicles are Here to Stay.

Yes, but the case for them is not particularly strong and their market penetration will be small for a very long time, for two big reasons.  One is EV's marginal environmental benefit. The infographic clearly shows that the big improvement comes when a gasoline-powered vehicle is converted to hybrid: Its emissions drop from 0.87 pounds of CO2 per mile to 0.57 pounds per mile. All the fuss to get to EV cuts CO2 down only to 0.54 pounds per mile (and probably leaves a much bigger problem with battery recycling at the end.) In addition this estimate does not likely account for all the charging infrastructure that is being installed from scratch.

The second reason is the affordable price of fuel, gasoline in particular. It will be priced at around $4 per gallon for a long time thanks to major forces that work against major price increases, such as:
  1. Hydraulic fracturing of fracking for natural gas extraction, which curbs the demand for oil by vast amounts. (In 2000 fracking yielded 1% of the natural gas production in the US. In 2010 it yielded 20% of the production. A breakneck acceleration in such a capital intensive industry thanks to my fellow Greek and father of fracking George Phydias Mitchell.)
  2. Sustained oil prices in the $50 to $100 per barrel make expensive explorations affordable, so a healthy supply of oil will be available to satiate the increasing demands of the developing world.
  3. Substantially decreased demand for gasoline due to the popularity of high mpg vehicles (CAFE requirements and sales success of hybrids and plug-in hybrids; can't buy a Hummer anymore.)
  4. Less travel due to persistent high unemployment and mega economic downers such as debt, deficit, bankrupt cities and countries, and looming pension and health care social costs in the US.
  5. Continued public and private investment in renewable sources of energy.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Light-Rail to Nowhere: Honolulu, Hawaii's Train Boondoggle

The Reason Foundation provides succinct coverage of Honolulu rail. It is, of course, about politics, development and money. Lots of money. Only the gullible and the railigious believe that heavy rail from the middle of ag land to a shopping center will have any traffic relief.

Panos Prevedouros, one of the state's leading transportation experts, says the rail plan that the feds approved will siphon off state funding for the area's bus system. The project's own report, which Prevedouros says is filled with overly optimistic estimates of rail ridership, still shows that Honolulu's congestion will be worse in the future with rail. “The point of doing any cost effectiveness type of analysis is out of the window,” says Panos, “the benefits are not there.”

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered an expedited hearing for the federal rail lawsuit on August 15th.

Watch the well-made 8 minute video by Sharif Matar.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Terrible Week for Rail

Paris, France
French Wreck Reveals Hidden Danger in Its Vaunted Train System

Washington, DC, USA
Obama Administration Puts Brakes on XpressWest High-Speed Rail Project
This is the California-Nevada High Speed Rail proposal.

Honolulu, HI, USA

Federal Judge slaps HART hard by revealing profound contradictions and stupidity. Excerpts from Judge Mollway's letter to HART below.

"On behalf of the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii, I submit that the Draft Supplemental EIS fails to give adequate consideration to the Beretania Street Tunnel Alternative.

Remarkably, the Project's proposed rail route fails to run along "the highly
congested east-west transportation corridor between Kapolei and UH Manoa," the very
corridor expressly identified as the route the Project is intended to serve.

The EIS unrealistically posits that a UH student, after riding the rail to Ala Moana, can transfer to a bus to get to the UH campus and, even including the time spent getting to the bus boarding area and waiting for the bus, arrive within 9 minutes.
  • Waianae to UH Manoa via Beretania Street Tunnel: 84 minutes
  • Current Route of the Project: 93 minutes"
Obviously judge Mollaway can do better math than HART's hired un-professionals. Even today during a normal school day I would have to dart in traffic in my sporty Miata in the rush hour to go from Ala Moana Center to the UH-Manoa were I work, in nine minutes. The city bus is no Miata and the likely time of the bus is well over 15 minutes. So the judge's comparison needs to be updated as follows:
  • Waianae to UH Manoa via Beretania Street Tunnel: 84 minutes
  • Current Route of the Project: 100 minutes
Clearly the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii has a point.

North American urban transit security (July 11 headlines)

NY: Subway Study Eyes Dispersal of Chemical Weapons
Subway riders can expect to see in stations Tuesday the installation of special equipment scientists will use as part of an experiment to see how...

ON: All GO Transit Riders Rescued From Flooded Train: Toronto Police
Hundreds of passengers that were stranded on a flooded GO Transit rush-hour train following heavy rain have been rescued, Toronto police said early Tuesday morning.