Tag Archives: Huffington Post

Nate Hagens on What’s Coming Re: Energy, Jan 12

I helped arrange for Nate Hagens, a well-known speaker on “big picture” issues facing human society, to speak at UH Hilo on Tuesday, January 12th. He’ll be at UCB 100 at 6:30 p.m. His talk will be about how we can cope. Here is a short preview of what he will discuss:

I want to share an article of mine that ran in the Huffington Post last April. It’s about the people I turn to regarding energy issues, and they remain the same.

Before I rerun it for you here, I’ll add that the fracking revolution, which no one saw coming, caused the oil price to plummet a year ago. But as Robert Rapier points out,  we are very close to the bottom of the oil cycle, and we are likely going to repeat the cycle.

And here is that look back at the Huffington Post article (4/1/2014):

The People I Turn to Re: Energy Issues

It is clear to me that the most important issue we face here on the Big Island right now is that of energy costs. There is a huge risk associated with the rising price of oil, it’s going to affect us all, and we don’t have the luxury of time to deal with it. We need to figure it out now.

We have resources here and ways to address this. It’s not rocket science. It’s all a matter of cost and common sense. What I find is that the rubbah slippah folks get it quickly.

It comes down to a matter of attitude. Instead of being the people who look for a thousand ways why, “No can!” we must become people who look for the one reason why “CAN!!”

Energy issues are completely interconnected with agriculture — together, they all lead to our food security, or lack thereof — and I appreciate all the supportive testimony from so many people re: my renomination to the state Board of Agriculture. Here is a full list of the testimony, which includes support from some of the very knowledgeable people I turn to to learn about and confirm information about energy issues.

If it sounds like I know what I am talking about re: energy, it is because I have spent a lot of time at conferences and also learning from these experts, whose testimony you can read at that link above:

#7 Mayor Billy Kenoi. Mayor Kenoi recognized early on that geothermal would play a crucial role in our energy future and that’s why he helped the Geothermal Working Group, authorized by SCR 99, accomplish its work. I was part of a delegation he took to see geothermal operations at Ormoc City, Philippines. We visited a geothermal plant sited on the flanks of a volcano that last erupted 100,000 years ago. (In comparison, Mauna Kea last erupted 4,000 years ago and so is likely an even hotter spot for geothermal.) The mayor also formed a task force to evaluate the health effects of geothermal on the community.

#204 Henk Rogers. Henk is founder of the Blue Planet Foundation and understands and appreciates the potential of geothermal base power energy. He operates his own grid at Pu’uwa’awa’a Ranch. He also has a fully functional hydrogen refueling station on site. Hydrogen fuel cell cars are coming to the Big Island. Henk is a doer more than a talker. When he does talk, it’s likely to be with the King of Bhutan or Sir Richard Branson about energy issues.

#89 TJ Glauthier has operated at the highest level of our national government. He was second in command in the Department of Energy in the Clinton Administration. His list of accomplishments is so long that when I introduced him to the senior assets managers at Kamehameha Schools, I did it like this: TJ has an extremely long list of accomplishments but let me just describe him this way: He is a “good guy.” That’s all I needed to say. Here in Hawai’i, we all know what that means. He is a good friend and we are in constant contact.

#257 Robert RapierLike Mayor Kenoi, Robert Rapier is a “scrappah.” His was the lone voice that opposed Vinod Khosla’s biofuel projects because the net energy did not add up. Several hundred million dollars of subsidies later, Robert proved to be right. He knows his stuff. He has actually operated industrial-scale chemical plants, and yet he can explain scientific concepts in a way that is easy for the layman to understand. I can call him at all times of the day or on weekends. We have become good friends.

#82 Nate Hagens. Nate was editor of The Oil Drum blog, where academics, oil industry professionals and investors came to see what was new. If you participated, you had better know what you were talking about. These folks did not suffer fools lightly. The Oil Drum did not stop publishing because Peak Oil was dead; I think it stopped because we know all we need to know. Now it’s time to do something about it.

Charlie Hall. (See his testimony at this post.) Charlie Hall is a world-renowned systems ecologist. He does not speak about biology from an individual silo but talks about how it involves energy and its effects on real people. Environmentalists who are not systems-oriented sometimes forget about the effects on people. Charlie is known as the father of modern day Energy Return on Investment (EROI). I helped arrange lectures for him to speak at UH Hilo as well as UH Manoa. His wife Myrna, Charlie and myself have become good friends.

#84 Gail Tverberg. Gail is a former insurance actuary whose job was to price risk. She has a stark view of the future. Although I cannot find fault with her view of things,  I am the eternal optimist and spend my time looking for workarounds. Gail wrote in support of our Big Island Community Coalition’s efforts to lower electricity rates. (As it turned out, we were successful in defeating the Aina Koa Pono biofuel project, which would have cut off options for lowering our electricity rates.) I helped bring Gail to Hilo for a presentation at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel and spent a whole weekend taking her family around the Big Island. I asked her a million questions.

I wrote this in November, and it’s still true. From Let’s Adapt to Change and Survive: “Charles Darwin said it’s not the strongest nor the smartest who survive, but the ones that can adapt to change. Let’s survive, and more.”

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Huffington & Omidyar Visit Hamakua Springs

By Leslie Lang, blog editor

Thursday was such an interesting day. Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, and Pierre Omidyar, founder of Honolulu’s online newspaper Civil Beat (and founder of eBay), spent some time at Hamakua Springs Country Farms.

The background is that Huffington Post and Civil Beat have teamed up to start HuffPost Hawaii (and they asked Richard to blog for the new online news organization. Here’s his first HuffPost Hawaii post, by the way.)

So this week, Arianna and Pierre were making the rounds in Hawai‘i for the big HuffPost Hawaii launch. They spent Thursday on the Big Island, where they were welcomed with a big reception at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.

The only other Big Island stop they made was to Richard’s farm. They had asked if they could come and meet Richard and learn about what he’s doing. So that happened Thursday afternoon, and Richard invited me to join them there.

What a completely fascinating day. There’s something about being around really smart people who are doing big and really interesting things, making things happen and making a difference. Richard is completely like that, too, as you know if you’ve been reading this blog. It’s invigorating to be around that kind of energy.

Both Arianna and Pierre are very friendly and down-to-earth, and both are interested in issues of sustainability and what Richard is doing.

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Richard told them about his background — flunking out of college the first time around and ending up in Vietnam, coming back and trading manure from his father’s chicken farm for bananas to start what eventually became Hamakua Springs Country Farms — about seeing prices start rising, rising, rising and wondering why; about attending five Peak Oil conferences and starting to learn what was happening. He talked about how he forces the changes needed to get to where he needs to be five or 10 years in the future.

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He talked about the current threat to Big Island farming from anti-GMO bills, and Pierre asked some very salient (and polite) questions about some common GMO fears, such as of:

  • Commercial control of seeds. Richard replied that in many cases, such as with, for instance, the Rainbow papaya, virus-resistant seeds are developed by the university and not controlled by any big business at all. This, he said, is often the case.
  • Cross-pollination, or “pollen drift.” Richard responded that due to numerous studies, we know how much drift there is for different crops. Farmers work together, he says, to plan what is planted where, plant so many lines of “guard rows” and it’s completely manageable.

They asked about Richard’s new hydroelectric system, and we took a dusty, bumpy country road drive out to see where the water runs through an old sugar cane flume, and then through a turbine.

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Arianna and Pierre were very interested in this, and in how, when the switch is thrown very shortly, the farm will be saving perhaps almost half of its monthly electric bill, which now averages $10-11,000.

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Pierre asked about returning excess power to the utility, and was shocked to learn that due to a technicality, Richard will not be paid for the power he feeds to HELCO. Pierre kept returning to that and said, more than once, “That’s just not right.” Richard finally replied, “Well, at least it’s not wasted.”

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Richard Ha, Arianna Huffington, Pierre Omidyar, Leslie Lang, June Ha

Richard talked about how they have converted the farm from growing mostly bananas to being a family of farms, which brings in local farmers who then have a close-to-home place to farm. This, in turn, means the farm produces a more diverse crop.

He told Arianna and Pierre about growing their current experiment growing tilapia, to learn how to add a protein component to the food they produce and also use the waste as fertilizer. Workers can fish for tilapia there and take some home for their families.

Arianna and Pierre both seemed sincerely interested. They paid close attention and asked good questions.

Richard told them about talking with Kumu Lehua Veincent, who was principal of Keaukaha Elementary School back in the early days of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) push. He told them that he asked Kumu Lehua, “What if we ask the TMT for five, full-ride scholarships to the best schools in the nation for your best students?” He told them that Kumu Lehua thought about it for a minute and then quietly asked, “And what about the rest?”

This was a turning point, explained Richard, who said that at the time he could feel his ears turning red. He told Arianna and Pierre that that phrase, What about the rest? gives him an “unfailing moral compass.”

It always brings him back to the rubbah slippah folk, he told them. The “rubbah slippah” folk are in contrast to the “shiny shoes” folk. When he explained this, Pierre looked down at his own shoes.

“I wore my shiny shoes today,” he said, “but I meant to change into my sneakers before coming to the farm.” He mentioned his shiny shoes a couple more times during the visit.

“I felt they absolutely got what I meant when I advocated for the ‘rubbah slippah’ folks,” Richard told me, “and completely support that idea.”

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Richard’s daughter Tracy had laid out a beautiful spread of Hamakua Springs produce back by the office, where there was a tent set up, and Arianna zeroed in on the longan.

“What’s this?” she said, and Tracy explained that it’s a delicious fruit. She handed one to Arianna, along with some wipes (they are juicy and messy), and Arianna loved it.

Arianna gives the impression of being very family-oriented. “At what point did you and June get married in this long process?” she asked, when Richard was explaining how he got started farming 35 years ago. (The answer: 32 years ago, and when June joined the family she took all the farm receipts out of a big banana box and straightened out the accounting.) Arianna asked Tracy if she had siblings. When she was introduced to Richard’s grandson Kapono, she looked at him, and at his parents, and asked, “Now, are you Tracy and Kimo’s son?” (Yes.)

She gave June a copy of her book, On Becoming Fearless.

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Both Arianna and Pierre are such interesting people. One of the things Richard talks about is forcing change, and that is something that both his guests are all about, too: Looking down the road and fixing things, forcing the change instead of letting things bumble along.

It is refreshing to be in the presence of such interesting thinkers and doers. Great day.

This is a video Civil Beat did with Richard recently, before Arianna and Pierre’s visit. It’s really nicely done and you get to hear a bit about some of the topics they discussed yesterday (while seeing gorgeous views of the farm).

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Arianna Huffington & Pierre Omidyar Coming to Farm; New Blog

Richard Ha writes:

Have you heard that Huffington Post and Honolulu Civil Beat are partnering up to launch a new online site called HuffPost Hawaii?

As part of next month’s launch, Arianna Huffington and Pierre Omidyar are coming to the Big Island, and they have asked to visit the farm to learn more about the nexus of energy and agriculture here in Hawai‘i.

They have also asked me to write a HuffPost Hawaii blog, starting during their launch week. I’ll link to that here when it’s available.

We are in such a unique position here in Hawai‘i, with our own set of energy issues, limitations and resources and how all that relates to our situation in terms of sustainability (being able to produce what we need here, vs. being dependent, for example, as we are, on 85 percent of our food being transported here from the U.S. mainland) and food security (being able to get adequate and sufficient food, regardless of where it comes from).

Both Arianna and Pierre’s farm visit, and our HuffPost Hawaii blog, will be great in terms of helping show how Hawai‘i fits into the big picture of energy and agriculture.

They are also great opportunities to continue our GMO discussion and to discuss other sustainability practices.

We might have a lot to gain once HuffPost Hawaii starts up. We will have additional, knowledgeable, people in Hawai‘i, as well as worldwide, reading about our energy/ag situations here and possibly helping us make informed decisions as we chart our course.

What an exciting venture this HuffPost Hawaii is.

HuffPost Hawaii Is Coming Soon!

Posted: 05/29/2013 12:07 pm EDT  |  Updated: 05/29/2013 2:16 pm EDT

NEW YORK CITY AND HONOLULU – May 29, 2013 – The Huffington Post and Honolulu Civil Beat today announced a partnership to create HuffPost Hawaii, a site that will bring together the resources of The Huffington Post and CivilBeat.com. The new site, expected to launch this fall, will give a global audience access to the wonders of one of the world’s most famous destinations and the authentic community of Hawaii, including its Aloha spirit. The site will explore Hawaii as an oasis for unplugging and recharging. It will also offer Hawaii residents local news and perspectives, along with Pulitzer Prize-winning national and international coverage…. Read the rest

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Civil Beat & Huffington Post Coverage

Honolulu's Civil Beat came to the Big Island and interviewed Richard for this really good article on energy and Hawai‘i – and then today it was picked up by the Huffington Post. Wow. 

From Civil Beat:

Energy Prices Shock Hawaii Farmers Into Alternatives

by Sophie Cocke  8/15/13

HAMAKUA, BIG ISLAND — Lush green fields rise and dip through the rolling hills that stretch down to the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean. The verdant surroundings and tropical air suggest this farm could be one of countless others. So does the water that flows past leafy, green taro fields, stalks of corn that sway in the breeze and the sweet potato patch.

But the subtle, steady swooshing of the water signals how this farm is different. The water has been diverted from a mountain stream, down a 150-foot slope and into a small, blue shed where it sends blades spinning to generate electricity.

Yes, Hamakua Springs Country Farms has its own hydroelectric plant.

Farmer Richard Ha borrowed money to install the plant as part of a 19th-century solution to a very 21st century problem: sky-high energy rates….

Read the rest here

There's a short video interview with Richard at the end, too.

- posted by Leslie Lang

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