Monday, June 27, 2022

Why Panos Prevedouros left Hawaii

Mahalo to Dr. Keli'i Akina for the invitation and probing questions.

The state is at risk of a major natural catastrophe, he says, and its “suicidal” energy policy will just make everything worse

Hawaii’s policy mandate to go to 100% renewable energy is nothing short of suicidal.

That was the message of Panos Prevedouros, former chairman of the University of Hawaii civil engineering department, who spoke with host Keli’i Akina, president of the Grassroot Institute, on the June 22 episode of “Hawaii Together.”

Described by Akina as “one of Hawaii’s leading public intellectuals,” Prevedouros moved just last year from Honolulu, his home of 31 years, to Reno, Nevada. During his half-hour conversation with Akina, he explained why. Foremost was his concern about Hawaii’s energy policy and its relation to personal safety.

Because of its geographical isolation, he said, Hawaii needs reliable energy. In the event of a natural disaster, for example, Hawaii’s hospitals “must have reliable electricity for 10, 15, 20 days, or however long it takes for the military and other external providers of health assistance to come help a highly populated island like Oahu or Maui.”

Renewable options like wind and solar farms are not highly reliable, he said, especially since they can be totally demolished by the strong hurricane winds. Thus, Hawaii should be making reliability its top priority, even if that means using coal.

In general, Prevedouros said, Hawaii is totally unprepared for a natural disaster.

“I don’t see the [power] plants [or airports] being hardened. … Our harbors are absolutely not prepared to deal with a major surge from a hurricane or a major surge from a tsunami. Our harbors will be a complete mess. There will be cranes and they’re toppled and there will be containers all over the place.”

And when the Navy arrives from San Diego to help, he warned, “there will be nowhere for them to dock. Nobody is preparing plans to have resilience in our harbor.” 

He said the failure of Hawaii’s politicians to prepare better for a disaster is not peculiar to Hawaii.

“That’s a malaise that exists almost everywhere politically, because politicians, really, do not take a 1% to 2% risk very seriously, and plan to invest big money in that. However, unfortunately, bad luck … really catches up with these things, and we really need to protect the population.” 

Prevedouros said aside from his fears for his family’s safety, he left his beloved Hawaii because of a litany of “wrong” policy decisions.

“One wrong decision does not really change the whole picture,” he said. “There were so many wrong decisions, a litany of which, that, actually after that, I said, ‘Enough is enough.’” 

Well known as a critic of the Honolulu rail, Prevedouros said the recent proposal to stop the system a mile or so short of Ala Moana Center is “definitely a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. They should have had the guts to stop it at Middle Street, and they probably will be forced to do something like that because now we have the other gift: inflation” — which is sure to drive up its construction costs.

To watch the entire conversation, click here.