Tag Archives: Hilo High School

Why Jennifer Doudna Has Trouble Sleeping

In my last post, Hilo High Grad Makes Crispr ‘Discovery Of The Century,’ I wrote about the amazing Dr. Jennifer Doudna and her CRISPr gene-editing technology, which is taking the science world by storm.

I also wrote that it can be controversial. Today I want to share an article by Dr. Doudna, one of CRISPr’s discoverers. She wrote this article for Nature, the international weekly journal of science. It’s about her concerns over the philosophical and ethical ramifications of genomes that are easily-altered.

From Nature.com:

Genome-editing revolution: My whirlwind year with CRISPR, by Jennifer Doudna

22 December 2015

Some 20 months ago, I started having trouble sleeping. It had been almost two years since my colleagues and I had published a paper describing how a bacterial system called CRISPR–Cas9 could be used to engineer genomes (see ‘Based on bacteria’).

I had been astounded at how quickly labs around the world had adopted the technology for applications across biology, from modifying plants to altering butterfly-wing patterns to fine-tuning rat models of human disease. At the same time, I’d avoided thinking too much about the philosophical and ethical ramifications of widely accessible tools for altering genomes.

Questions about whether genome editing should ever be used for non-medical enhancement, for example, seemed mired in subjectivity — a long way from the evidence-based work I am comfortable with. I told myself that bioethicists were better positioned to take the lead on such issues. Like everyone else, I wanted to get on with the science made possible by the technology….

 Read the rest


Hilo’s PUC Meeting Successful: ‘Enough is Enough’

Richard Ha writes:

Monday night’s PUC hearing in Hilo went very well. The overwhelming sentiment was that enough is enough. People will not take any more electricity rate hikes.

Big Island Video News has posted a video about the PUC meeting.

VIDEO: Aina Koa Pono, HELCO rate hikes blasted at PUC hearing

October 30, 2012

Video by David Corrigan, Voice of Stephanie Salazar

HILO, Hawaii: Residents of East Hawaii packed the Hilo High School cafeteria, to tell the Public Utilities Commission what they think about a proposed electricity rate hike and and biofuel surcharge…. Watch the Big Island Video News video here.

It’s hard to remember that until the BICC dared say it, no one could imagine we could actually get lower rates. We have made good progress. People are now saying they want lower rates, and expecting it.

In its “Off the News” section this morning, the Star-Advertiser wrote:

Electricity bill too high? Wear slippers

“Not to make light of a serious situation such as rising electricity bills, or a consumer group’s desire to show solidarity.  In an era when pennies – and dollars – must be pinched to get by, solidarity over cost-of living issues is a good thing.

That said, it was interesting to see that the Big Island Community Coalition opposed to a surcharge to finance the use of biofuels to produce power, urged its members to wear rubber slippers to last night’s public hearing as a show of uniform solidarity. This being Hawaii, what other footwear would folks don for a pau hana (after work) forum?

Of course this may have been a smart strategic move. This way the PUC might have scanned the room and figured that every last person was opposed.  It also ruled out slippers as a footwear choice for commission members, too….”

It was a civilized hearing and most of the many testimonies were on point.

About 150 people were in attendance and it was a diverse audience, including: Faye Hanohano, Fred Blas, Jeff Melrose, Richard Onishi, Russell Ruderman, PGV people from Nevada, Jim Albertini, Deborah Ward, Patrick Kahawaiola‘a, Mililani Trask, John Cross, Ka‘u people, ILWU, IBEW, Carpenters, Laborers, HELCO group, the Aina Koa Pono (AKP) core group, Sierra Club and other community members.

Other than HELCO, AKP and those who needed to be cautious, most of the rest were allies of low-cost electricity.

In today’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald, Mayor Billy Kenoi made it very clear that he is against the AKP project for several reasons.

Kenoi criticizes biodiesel proposal

By ERIN MILLER Stephens Media

Aina Koa Pono’s biodiesel proposal isn’t a good deal for Hawaii County residents, Mayor Billy Kenoi said Monday, hours before the Public Utilities Commission was set to begin its first Big Island hearing on the subject.

“This to me looks like one of those deals, after 10, 20 years, we ask how did we let that happen?” Kenoi said. “Ultimately, there is no benefit to the people of the Island of Hawaii….” 

Read the rest

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald also wrote about the PUC meeting itself.

Online Extra: HELCO rate hikes blasted

Tribune-Herald Staff Writer

No more increases.

That seemed to be the main message relayed to members of the state Public Utilities Commission on Monday night by more than 100 Big Isle residents who showed up at a public hearing at the Hilo High cafeteria to weigh in on two separate electricity rate hikes proposed by Hawaii Electric Light Co. Inc….

Read the rest here

Tonight is the West Hawai‘i PUC meeting (Tuesday, October 30, 2012) at 6 p.m. in the Kealakehe High School cafeteria.

And the third and final meeting will be held this Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 6 p.m. at Farrington High School.

Wear your rubbah slippahs!


Hilo PUC Meeting Tonight; Read West Hawaii Today Editorial on Aina Koa Pono

Richard Ha writes:

Tonight is the Hilo PUC meeting and we encourage you to show up and wear your rubbah slippahs. The Rubbah Slippah Revolution is at 6 p.m. in the Hilo High School cafeteria.

The PUC will be hearing HELCO’s proposal for a 4.2 percent rate hike, as well as Aina Koa Pono’s proposed biofuel project.

http://hahaha.hamakuasprings.com/renewable_energy_sources/Mahalo to West Hawaii Today editor Reed Flickinger for a very insightful, timely and important editorial on the subject of Aina Koa Pono.

HELCO PUC hearing meaningless without more fiscal disclosure


West Hawaii Today

There is a fundamental problem with the Public Utilities Commission meetings scheduled on this island next week to discuss an application establishing a biofuel surcharge in HELCO’s energy cost for customers: How can the public comment upon unknown information?

HELCO and sister company HECO are seeking approval to enter into a 20-year contract to purchase biodiesel fuel from Aina Koa Pono, a company that has yet to build its proposed plant in Ka‘u, and pass on to us, the ratepayers, any costs that incurred if the biodiesel costs more than fossil fuel on the open market — over the 20-year term of the contract….

Read the rest

He’s exactly right – we have had a hard time articulating about this issue because of a lack of information.

But we figured out that the oil price Aina Koa Pono (AKP) is using is around $200/barrel. And if they were to predict a high oil price in 2015, then the amount the rate payer would pay could be predicted to be very low – like $1 per month. If the cost of oil were actually much lower than $200 per barrel, we would pay a lot more.

But getting back to the real issue: There is a lot at stake here. If AKP cannot demonstrate positive energy production – and they have not done any tests on the feedstock they will use – their product will always cost more than oil and they will run out of money. This also means that they use more oil than they make. But if AKP is successful at producing biodiesel for $200/barrel and the oil price stays below $200 for a long time, the Big Island’s path to economic survival/prosperity will have been blocked.

If oil rises to more than $200/barrel, the tourist industry and other businesses will be very hard hit. In that case, the Big Island will need the lowest cost solution that it can find. And $200/barrel cost is not it.

The rest of HECO’s plan would work, though.

Hu Honua, w/22MW of biomass-low $100/barrel oil equivalence, plus the 50MW of per-barrel oil equivalence geothermal, is lower cost. And if we can renegotiate the old 25MW geothermal avoided cost contract, that sets us on the right path.

The result would be 88 MW of stable and affordable geothermal, plus 22MW of stable affordable biomass. This would ensure that the Big Island’s electricity rates would be lowest in the state. And that is what we want.

Then if we could safely replace the 80 MW of liquid-fired generation at Keahole with geothermal, or ocean thermal or liquid natural gas – whatever makes economic sense – we could actually be looking toward prosperity for future generations.

The bottom line is that AKP is not in the interest of Big Islanders. And this is the defining battle. Everything else is inconsequential.

Please show your face at tonight’s PUC meeting, East Hawai‘i. Let’s make sure the PUC knows this is not okay with us.


The Big ‘Aina Koa Pono’ Risk

Richard Ha writes:

Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) and Hawaii Electric Light
Company (HELCO) are asking for PUC approval to pay Aina Koa Pono $200/barrel for biofuel, and they are asking for approval to pass the cost straight through to the rate payers (us).

Should we rate payers accept the risk and provide the
subsidy? No!

We need to attend the upcoming PUC hearings and testify against assuming the $200/barrel cost of biofuels. Please consider attending. The hearings are:

East Hawai‘i:

  • Monday, Oct. 29th, 6 p.m. at the Hilo High School cafeteria

West Hawai‘i:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 30th, 6 p.m. at the Kealakehe High School


  • Thursday, Nov. 1st, 6 p.m. at Farrington High School

Should we rate payers pay for biodiesel that costs $200/barrel, starting in 2015 and lasting until 2035? There is a great risk that the price of oil will not follow the Annual Energy Outlook 2012 ‘high price forecast’, and if that’s the case, we will be paying more for electricity than we would be otherwise.

Very risky.

There is also a technology risk. Fuel has not yet ever been produced using the feedstock that Aina Koa Pono proposes to grow. So far, the feedstock being used experimentally is white pine. The Micro Dee technology Aina Koa Pono wants to use is still experimental.


There is a risk that this process might use more energy than it generates. Generating electricity is generally about boiling water and making steam that turns a turbine. It’s cheaper to burn the product to boil water. Aina Koa Pono’s proposed process – making electricity to make microwaves to vaporize the cellulose to get the liquid and then refine it to make it burnable, and haul it down to Keahole in tanker trucks to make steam – is extremely energy intensive.

Very risky.

Mid-year last year, on the mainland, the EPA drastically decreased its 2011 estimate for cellulosic biofuel from 250 million gallons to a paltry 6 million gallons. Almost all the cellulosic biofuel companies went bankrupt.

This makes this project risky as well.

In 2010, cellulosic biofuel companies needed to buy their feedstock for $45/ton. But because farmers were making $100/ton for hay, the biofuel firms got a $45/ton subsidy. I asked how much Aina Koa Pono expected to pay for feedstock, and the AECOM Technology Corporation consultant said between $55 and $65/ton. The problem there is that Hawai‘i farmers have been earning $200/ton for hay for 10 years now.

The supply of feedstock is a risk.

There is agriculture production risk, as well. Palm oil is the only industrial-scale biofuel that can compete with petroleum oil. In the tropics, it produces 600 gallons of biodiesel per acre of production. Say Aina Koa Pono can produce 500 gallons of bodiesel, since we are located 22 degrees north of the equator. To produce 16 million gallons a year at 500 gallons per acre would require 32,000 acres of productive land. Add 10 percent more for roads and unusable land and you would need 35,200 acres. But we only have 12,000 acres to use. Is the feedstock throughput adequate to cover the capital costs? We don’t know. They have not decided on a feedstock yet.


Imagine the 12,000 available acres could produce 16 million gallons. Then each acre would need to produce 1,333 gallons to get the required throughput.

This would be twice as productive as the best biofuel producers in the world.

It’s a risky assumption.

Ka’u Sugar relied on natural rainfall. Depending on natural rainfall makes achieving optimum production very risky, due to the very real possibility/probability of occasional drought.

According to Energy Expert Robert Hirsch, in his book The
Impending World Energy Mess
, the best model is a circular one, where processing is done in the center of a field (which does not exceed a radius of 50 miles) that consists of flat land, deep fertile soil with irrigation and lots of sun energy. This situation exists in Central Maui, where Hawaiian Commericial & Sugar Company (HC&S) is located. That is exactly why HC&S is the sole surviving Hawai‘i sugar plantation.

If Aina Koa Pono is supposed to serve as an example from which to expand, then there is very limited suitable land on the Big Island
that meets the criteria. To compete heads up on the world market will require the best possible combination of production factors. These are not them.

Locking into a 20-year contract would preclude lower cost alternatives. Geothermal, for example, is the equivalent of oil at $57/barrel. Oceanthermal has the possibility of being significantly lower in price than $200 oil. Water-to-liquid fuel is a possibility, too.

The amount of risk involved is just far too great. In the investment world, the reward is generally commensurate with risk. Except for protection from $200 per barrel oil in the later years, there is little reward for all the risk we would assume.

This is a very bad deal for consumers.


Women as ‘Economic Growth Strategy’ & East Hawaii’s Business Woman of the Year

Richard and June had a table at the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce’s Athena luncheon yesterday, for the presentation of East Hawai‘i’s Business Woman of the Year, and they invited me to join them. It was a good lunch at ‘Imiloa, and a nice event.

Before the Athena award was presented, Connie Lau, President/CEO of HEI, gave a talk about empowering women that I found really interesting.

She discussed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s High-Level Policy Dialogue on Women and the Economy at a recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

(Clinton) articulated important steps in a path toward the Participation Age—where every individual has the opportunity to be a contributing and valued member of the global marketplace—including strategies to remove barriers that have prevented women from being full participants in the economy and unlock their potential as drivers of economic growth.

Clinton said that unlocking the potential of women in the work force, where women are underutilized or are bumping their heads on glass ceiling after glass ceiling, would add 9 percent to our GDP, 13 percent to the Euro Zone’s, and 16 percent to China’s.

At a time when the U.S. is struggling to have a 2.5 to 3 percent GDP, seeing it bump up to 12 percent would mean we would even surpass China (currently at 8.5 percent), Lau pointed out.

It’s all about “women as an economic growth strategy.” Wow, what a sentence. Another interesting concept: “Empowering women is not only the right thing to do, it’s an economic imperative.”

From here:

If we address the barriers to women’s economic participation, we can fundamentally transform our economies.

  • The World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report shows that where the gender gap is closest to being closed in a range of areas—including access to education, health survivability, economic participation, and political participation—countries and economies are more competitive and prosperous.[ix]
  • Reduction in barriers to female labor force participation would increase the size of America’s GDP by 9 percent, the Euro Zone’s by 13 percent, and Japan’s by 16 percent.[x]
  • Narrowing the gender gap could lead to a 14 percent rise in per capita incomes by the year 2020 in several APEC economies, including China, Russia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Korea.[xi]
  • Globally, women will control $15 trillion in spending by the year 2014. And by 2028, women will be responsible for about two-thirds of consumer spending worldwide.[xii]
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent. This increase could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent and reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent, or up to 150 million people.[xiii]
  • Women disproportionately spend more of their earned income on food, healthcare, home improvement, and schooling, which has a multiplier effect in local communities.[xiv]
  • Research shows a correlation between the number of women on boards and higher corporate profits. One analysis found that companies with more women board directors outperform those with the least by 66 percent in terms of return on invested capital, by 53 percent in terms of return on equity, and 42 percent in terms of return on sales.[xv] Another study indicates that one-third of executives reported increased profits as a result of investments in employing women in emerging markets.[xvi]

I found the data and topic really interesting. There’s lots more, and you can go here to read the rest.

And how about East Hawai‘i’s Business Woman of the Year, you ask? Congratulations to Charlene Masuhara, a counselor and Key Club Adviser at Hilo High School.