Spoke to the Hawaii County Council’s Energy Committee

Richard Ha writes:

Wally Ishibashi and I gave a briefing to the Hawai‘i County Council Energy Committee yesterday. We are co-chairs of the Geothermal Working Group, which submitted its final report in time for this legislative session. Wally briefed them on the Working Group report, and I briefed them on the four Peak Oil conferences that I have attended.

People testifying commented about public safety such as evacuation plans and gas emissions, as did council members. As co-chairs, Wally and I are strongly in favor of addressing safety issues. Nothing is more important. The Working Group suggested streamlining procedures, but never at the expense of public safety.

Although the working group was not required to abide by the sunshine law, Wally and I believe in transparency, so we operated in the spirit of that idea as we worked on the Geothermal Working Group report.

We’ve had about 25 meetings with the community and we strongly believe that we must continue to "talk story." The discussion must start from the ground up, and we encouraged the council members to arrange opportunities for us to engage their constituents.

The council members expressed support for energy independence, and for geothermal in particular. They are very aware of the vulnerability we face because we are located in the middle of the Pacific, where we rely on fossil fuels to sustain most of our lifestyle. It is about safety: physical, economical and societal safety.

I shared my perspective after having attended four Peak Oil conferences. The most significant thing that has changed recently is that the price oil is now being driven by increasing demand, rather than abundant supplies. For the past 150 years, it has been driven by abundant supplies.

That’s why we now have oil that costs $100 per barrel, even in a recession. If world economic activity increases, the price will go even higher. The changes that will come from this will be profound, and the effects will have human consequences. The rubbah slippah folks understand this clearly.

I offered my opinion that we do not have the luxury of waiting 10 years. I think that we may be lucky to have five years to make meaningful change. It is clear that we are moving too slow in terms of safeguarding the well-being of our people.