Hawaii In The Time Of Peak Oil

Richard Ha writes:

In June of last year, Gail Tverberg wrote this post at The Oil Drum Blog, and just a few days ago she reposted it:

Hawaii seems to come up often in the thinking of people aware of peak oil. On one hand, it seems like an ideal place to relocate after peak oil – no need to worry about heating a house; clothing is mostly for protection from the sun; and crops can be grown year around. On the other hand, it produces no fossil fuel itself, and it is at the end of the supply line for both food and fuel. Hawaii's biggest industry, tourism, is already declining, and with rising fuel costs, can only decline further.

When the Kohala Center started planning its energy conference a while back, I recommended they invite Gail to be the featured speaker. I had met her at the Peak Oil conference in Houston and was very familiar with her writing on The Oil Drum. As
an insurance actuary, she assesses risk for the insurance industry. I like what she writes because it is clear and easy to understand.

She gave two talks in Hilo. The first was at the energy conference itself and the second, a free presentation to the Kanaka Council that I arranged.

I took her sightseeing around the Big Island over that weekend, so I got to chat with her quite a bit about oil supply matters.

Here is a very interesting post she did at the Energy Bulletin in March 2009. She wrote:

Nearly all of the economic analyses we see today have as their basic premise a view that the current financial crisis is a temporary aberration. We will have a V or U shaped recovery, especially if enough stimulus is applied, and the economy will soon be back to Business as Usual.

I believe this assumption is basically incorrect. The current financial crisis is a direct result of peak oil. There may be oscillations in the economic situation, but generally, we can't expect things to get much better. In fact, there is a very distinct possibility that things may get very much worse in the next few years.

Whether or not one believes Gail is right — that the current financial crisis is caused by Peak Oil — it is prudent that we plan for the worse and hope for the best. I think our most reasonable path is to actively pursue geothermal energy. We must help HELCO figure out how to decommission their oil-fired plants — put them in moth balls, in standby mode, and replace them with geothermal plants, preferably ones that are geographically diversified. At the same time, we need to figure out how to leave their stockholders whole. We can do this.

The reason we need geothermal is that geothermal energy costs are stable. With geothermal, our electricity and water bills would not go up as oil prices rise. And our transportation costs could stabilize, as well. We could have a successful economy here in Hawai‘i in spite of rising oil prices.

If we don’t go geothermal, rising foreign oil costs could bankrupt us. Our society could come apart.

Switching to geothermal is not an option; it is a necessity. We all know this.

2 thoughts on “Hawaii In The Time Of Peak Oil”

  1. Aloha Richard,

    I appreciate your and Gail’s sober appraisal that financial sector and corporate media cheer-leading of miraculous recovery is perhaps fatuous and irresponsible regarding a sustainable Hawai’i. However, your cautionary post and advocacy for geothermal also seems to imply that radical reduction of energy inputs (from off-island sources and otherwise) is not particularly relevant to the discussion. Does not peak oil’s economic implications for Hawai’i also necessitate challenging this aspect of the status quo?

    ps- seeds from the heirloom tomato did indeed propogate into a dozen more. Mahalo!

  2. Indeed, conservation is, and has for at least 4 decades been, the lowest cost and quickest way to reduce our reliance on petroleum.
    It is called efficiency and, in general, the way electricity and transportation are used in our islands is very inefficient. For example, one person driving a 250hp car to a grocery to buy one meal’s worth of food that came from everywhere except here and is displayed in open freezers.

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