Tag Archives: Charles A.S. Hall

Hawaii Energy Picture: Making Our Lives Better

How do we make the Hawaii energy picture, and our futures, better?

I sense that young folks know something needs to change in our modern world. And I see lots of folk helping each other cope.

This is all very encouraging, so I want to have a conversation: What can we do to make things better for all of us? I’m going to be posting about this in the next few weeks.

I’m going to talk about it being important that we take care of ourselves here in Hawaii, because nobody else is going to worry about us. In a world of declining energy, the pie is getting smaller and everybody is jockeying and fighting for a smaller piece of pie. This is when you get discontent. Look, for instance, at the current presidential election.

But the solution is not fighting with each other like what’s going on right now.  The solution is helping each other.

The bottom line is that in whatever we choose to do, the pluses have to exceed the minuses.

This is why I look at the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) as a plus. It supports education, and that helps us develop new technologies. Technology is not energy, but it helps us to extend energy. Also, investment in the TMT is all coming in from foreign dollars, instead of us taxing ourselves. All pluses.

Another thing we have that’s clearly a plus in terms of energy is geothermal. We will be over the “hotspot” that provides us with geothermal energy for 500,000 to a million years. That isn’t going away. A huge plus.

And GMOs are a plus because they help us find different ways to keep feeding ourselves, which of course is critical.

This is what it all boils down to. This is the graph that changed my life.

Hawaii Energy

I first saw it during the 2007 Association for the Study of Peak Oil conference in Houston. It shows, simply, that we have been using much more oil than we’ve been finding.

Obviously there will be consequences if we don’t either:

  • conserve what oil we have
  • find affordable alternatives
  • or use technology to extend what energy we have.

It takes energy to do work and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a measurement of work, so this graph implies the world GDP may be challenged if we don’t find alternatives.

It was clear to me that this was going to be the biggest challenge facing Hawai‘i.

I continued studying this and also attended four more ASPO conferences. And I realized I was the only person from the state of Hawai‘i that was attending these conferences and hearing all these experts, and Hawaii energy became my kuleana. It’s not that I wanted it or needed it; I just felt stuck with the knowledge and knew I had to do something with it.

My friend, Professor Charles A.S. Hall, who is known as the father of Energy Return On Investment (EROI), was someone I found clear and easy to understand.

Hawaii energy

What it’s about and what we can do

I am going to revisit a lot of what I’ve learned since I started studying about this problem in 2007, and write about it here. For example, it takes energy to get energy (for example, to get oil up out of the ground) and net energy is decreasing as we use increased amounts of energy to access more difficult sources.

Is it surprising that World GDP is lessening? Not many of our leaders seem to be paying attention to these things.

So to get back to my question above: What changes can we make? What can we do to make things better for all of us?

People have ideas, and I’m going to write some posts about what makes sense to me (and others). Stay tuned.


Dr. Charles Hall Speaking at UH Manoa Today & Tomorrow

Richard Ha writes:

Professor Charles A.S. Hall is giving two free lectures on O‘ahu. One is today at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. It’s at 3:30 p.m. in the Architecture Auditorium.

The second is tomorrow, January 10, 2013, from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m., also at UH Manoa. It’s at Holmes Hall 244.

His talk is titled “Peak Oil, EROI and Your Financial Future in Hawai‘i.”

Screen shot 2013-01-09 at 12.34.17 PM
We’ve been going around. I took Charlie and his wife Myrna up to see the sunset at Maunakea.

Here is Dr. Hall talking with Mike Kaleikini, general manager of Puna Geothermal Venture, as we toured the Puna Geothermal plant.

With mike kaleikini

Professor Hall is a hands-on guy. At the farm, he took off his shoes and got into the flume. He started turning over rocks in order to evaluate the health of that environment. It is relatively impoverished, he said.

Hands on

At ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, he talked to Master Navigator Kalepa Baybayan, who has captained voyages to the South Pacific and back using traditional navigational methods. Kalepa was describing how certain star clusters move in the sky as your position changes.

At Imiloa

We had coffee with with Monty Richards at his home. He is a wealth of information and history. He told us about the possibility of combining wind and 600′ pump storage using sea water, so one is not limited by the availability of fresh water. Although the soil is porous and cannot hold water, his reservoirs are lined with cheap plastic, which is common on the Big Island.

Monty Richards


World-Renowned Systems Ecology Expert Charles A.S. Hall Speaks in Hilo

Richard Ha writes: 

On Friday, Professor Charles A. S. Hall gave two free lectures at UH Hilo. Hall is a world-renowned systems ecology and biophysical economics expert, and is considered the father of modern day Energy Return on Investment (EROI).

Here is a video, approximately 30 minutes long, from a previous talk of Professor Hall’s.

At UHH, he talked about a systems approach to energy issues here in Hawai‘i.

A “systems approach” is a fancy way to say: Use what you have to come to a good result. It’s about using all we have available to us, in a commonsense way, to move in the right direction. It’s not rocket science.

For a long time now we have known that the resources supporting our world population are finite. Professor Hall approaches these issues from a scientific point of view, i.e., one based on data. His analysis and conclusions can be duplicated by others.

Friday night’s audience was made up of legislators, environmentalists, proponents of Hawaiian culture, University of Hawai‘i staff and students, etc. When Professor Hall advocated for a “systems approach” to our resource issues, they broke into spontaneous applause.

He was startled by the response, but the folks in the audience knew that if we do not start working on commonsense solutions, we’re going to be in deep Kim Chee in the future.

We’ve begun a conversation now about bringing together multiple disciplines, such as agriculture, engineering, energy and more. The idea is to cut to the chase and work on solutions.

For example, in food production, we know that the micronutrients that might be deficient are zinc and boron, and the macronutrients that might be limiting are nitrogen and potassium. Phosphorous
is there; it’s mainly tied up in the soil. So, as we attempt to solve energy issues, how can we simultaneously address issues of food production?

And maybe we should be teaching this to our keiki, so that by the time they are ready to run things, they have a true view of the world.

We all need to be on the same page, solving real problems for all of us—not just for a few of us.

The folks in Professor Hall’s lecture were all realists. This is why I say that I am optimistic about our future here on the Big Island.


Free UH Hilo Talk from Expert on the Economics of Energy

Richard Ha writes:

Professor Charles A.S. Hall will give a free lecture on “Peak Oil, EROI and Your Financial Future in Hawai‘i.” It will be at UH Hilo on Friday, January 4th at 6:30 p.m.

Professor Hall received the Matthew R Simmons/M. King Hubbert Award for excellence in education at the 2012 Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) conference, mostly for his work on Energy Return on Investment (EROI).

From UH Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney’s blog:

Dec.13, 2012


Charles A. S. Hall

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo College of Agriculture, Forestry & Natural Resource Management and Chancellor Don Straney will sponsor a free public lecture on the economic impact of rising energy costs by New York State University Professor Charles A.S. Hall.

The address, “Peak Oil, EROI and Your Financial Future in Hawai‘i,” is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. in University Classroom Building room 100.

Hall, the author of Energy and the Wealth of Nations: Understanding the Biophysical Economy, will explain how high energy prices reduce discretionary incomes by using the concept of Energy Return on Investment (EROI).The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Alyson Kakugawa-Leong.

He will also speak on O‘ahu on January 10th; details of that free lecture to be announced.

You can read more about Professor Hall in this post Economics & a Hawaiian Way of Thinking.


Economics & a Hawaiian Way of Thinking

Richard Ha writes:

It’s not whether or not the energy is green; it’s the price of
the energy that matters.

High price energy results in people having less
discretionary income. We know this to be true in our gut.

Professor Charles A. S. Hall explains how this works using
the concept of “Energy Return on Investment” (EROI). This concept takes the world of economics and ties it in with our physical world.

It’s a different way of understanding economics in that it
explains how things actually work, and it’s a way that Hawaiians can relate to
at a gut level.

Ancient Hawaiians had a gift economy that was land- and environment-based: The more one gave, the more one received. This traditional system is quite different from the modern market economy, where the more one receives, the more one receives.

Many modern-day Hawaiians can play in both worlds. But there
are many other Hawaiians that just don’t feel right. Me included.

Professor Hall will give a series of lectures at UH Hilo and
UH Manoa. At UH Hilo, he will speak on January 4, 2012 and at UH Manoa, on
January 9th and 10th.  Details to follow.

He is retiring soon, and we have asked him to be a guest lecturer here during the Winter/Spring semester. He has agreed. He will be using his new book Energy and the Wealth of Nations.

This video, titled Peak Oil, Declining EROI and the New Energy-Economic Reality with Dr. Charles A.S. Hall, is very much worth watching. It’s 1:38:18. Watch it straight through, or jump straight to specific topics as follows:


4:54                    Importance of energy to economics

26:39                   Peak Oil is not the focus. Cessation of oil and energy production is the problem

27:54                   Energy Return on Investment (EROI)

33:35                   U.S. has lots of coal – in an emergency

34:30                   EROI is driving prices

38:55                   The trouble is, we need high EROI. How do we do that?

45:15                   Cheese slicer model. Higher energy price in, less discretionary income out

50:44                   Conclusions for the U.K. The principles are the same everywhere

1:32:40                Charles Hall talks about guest lecturing in Hawai‘i