Thursday, February 28, 2013

Where is Hawaii Transportation Headed?

Remarks to the Hawaii Venture Capital Association and ThinkTech Transportation Panel, Plaza Club, February 28, 2013.

Aloha and thank you for the opportunity to present you my take on the future of transportation in Hawaii.
  • Honolulu has among the nation's worst quality roads.
  • Honolulu has among the worst traffic congestion particularly among peer cities.
  • Hawaii has among the highest rates for drunken driving.
To solve all these highway related problems, Honolulu ordered a 5 billion dollar train.

The unquestionable and predictable result is that all these problems will get far worse by the time the train is installed. And by that time Honolulu will be short on transportation funds.

With less funding, there is no doubt that the congestion, maintenance and safety problems will get even worse.

In December 2007 Hawaii got the private Superferry. This was a means to get bulky items, equipment and vehicles between islands in 3 to 6 hours instead of 3 to 6 days. However, Hawaii did its best to preserve its way of moving bulky items, equipment and vehicles between the islands in 3 to 6 days.  A key supporter of the Superferry's execution is now Hawaii’s Representative in Congress.

Hawaii is probably the most oil dependent place on earth. Sure many Greek and other small islands depend on diesel generators to make power but their winter population is usually 1,000 to 10,000 people. Here we have 1.5 million people in the middle of the Pacific and we are about 80% dependent on oil and its volatile pricing.

Instead of investing in solid alternatives like coal, natural gas, trash and geothermal, we are now approaching the waste of one half billion dollars on flaky wind and solar.

Worse yet, we are extremely fuel dependent for land, air and sea transportation. Smart government should have found means to develop gobbles of cheap electricity so that we can extract fuels from algae and biomass to fuel vehicles, boats and airplanes.

But our flaky government is concerned with plastic bags and shortcuts to development, like the PLDC. And we are losing the Tesoro refinery.

The Tesoro plant used to make asphalt, but county and state government wouldn’t commit to a schedule of road repairs. So about 10 years ago Tesoro stopped making cheap asphalt. So now we need to bring it in and store it.

Hawaii government promotes EVs by making expensive, anti-business mandatory parking and charging regulations. At the same time Hawaii offers EV buyers the highest electricity rates in the nation, to punish EVs as much as possible.

The cost of power in Hawaii is three times the US average. So the 90 MPGe Nissan Leaf is 30 MPGe in Hawaii. Do you know how many conventional cars you can buy that deliver 30 mpg or more, and have a much lower price, and require no subsidy like the five grand we dole out for each EV?

And answer me this. Why are we even promoting EVs when 90% of our electricity comes from oil and coal? Each EV that clocks about 50 miles per day consumes as much electricity as a modest house with 4 people. Isn't this a fake and indeed disastrous oil independence policy?

Again thanks to our silly renewable mandates the KWh rates will only go up, so we will get less power, less reliability, and higher rates.

What's the future of transportation in Hawaii you ask?  In the past quarter century, transportation (except for TheBus,) public education and energy performance in Hawaii have ranked in the bottom half in the US or very near the bottom. I expect that this level of poor performance will get worse.

Although there are great alternatives, Hawaii is actively burying its potential for a bright future. Cost-effective decision making, long term sustainability planning, and accountability with stiff penalties are all absent. And so is our chance for improvement.