Tag Archives: Kuokoa

About the Hawaii Island Economic Summit

On Friday, I attended the Kona/Kohala Chamber of Commerce’s Hawai‘i Island Economic Summit.

One of the questions during an energy session I attended was whether Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi’s vision of “100 percent renewable energy by 2015” is reasonable.

I replied with some facts:

  • Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) estimates that it has 200MW of geothermal power at its present site.
  • At peak use, the Big Island uses less than 200MW.
  • Right now, PGV is authorized to produce 60MW.
  • Last time it took them just six months to get authorization from the Planning Commission.
  • That would leave three and a half months for building the needed production units.

This is doable. What we need is the will to do it.

A description of the Economic Summit:

This Summit will consist of a morning panel “conversation” comprised of five to six guest thinkers and leaders who will discuss their work, ideas that inspire them and what they see as the future for Hawai‘i Island.  Confirmed speakers include Dr. Earl Bakken, engineer, businessman, philanthropist, inventor of the pacemaker; William P. Kenoi, Mayor of Hawai‘i County; Sanjeev Bhagowalia, Director of the newly created State Office of Information Management and Technology, Robert Pacheco, President and Naturalist Guide, Hawaii Forest & Trail and Michele Saito, President of Farmers Insurance Hawaii. Moderator for this panel will be Steven Petranik, editor of Hawaii Business magazine.

Our luncheon keynote speaker is Eric Saperston, acclaimed film director and producer, successful author and award-winning speaker and storyteller. Eric is Chief Creative Officer for the ‘inspire-tainment’ company, Live in Wonder, a forward thinking experiential company on the cutting edge of communication to ignite, inspire and enliven the world.

Eric’s story:

Dr. Earl Bakken talked about his manifesto (read about June and I visiting him at his request to discuss geothermal), which includes inspiring kids to use a live cam during the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope, the development of geothermal and Ku‘oko‘a, as well as building a world-class hospital in Waimea.

West Hawaii Today wrote about the summit.

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Kamaaina Christmas at the Honolulu Academy of Arts

June and I attended the Kama‘aina Christmas event at the Honolulu Academy of Arts this weekend. It was very nice and a lot of fun.

The last time I was at a black tie event was when I was an Army officer a long, long time ago. Governor Abercrombie told me he knows my twin brother – the one who only wears shorts.

June&richard

At our table were Mina Brinkopf, Alan and Carole Tang, Pat and Jan Sullivan, and Henk, Akemi and Michael Rodgers.

Here’s June with Alan and Carole Tang. Alan is Chief Strategy Officer for Ku‘oko‘a.

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One of the dancers from Iona Contemporary Dance Theatre performing in real snow!

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With one of the Iona dancers.

Iona

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Speaking & Sweating

I just gave a speech to the toughest audience I’ve faced in a long time.

Several weeks ago, Ted Peck, President of Ku‘oko‘a, asked if I was willing to speak to a student group for no more than 10 minutes about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Of course, I accepted.

On Friday evening, I flew to Honolulu from the Big Island, picked up Ted, who was flying in from Chicago, and we arrived at Fern Elementary School just in time for the beginning of the program.

I heard that the Blue Planet Foundation had a display up, but they were not going to speak. There were several University of Hawai‘i instructors there, wearing matching t-shirts. I asked, “You folks speaking?” but they said no.

I asked who else was speaking, and the woman replied, “Just you.” I started to sweat.

She made introductions and then introduced Ted, who took a few minutes to introduce me as the Chairman of Ku‘oko‘a. Then he said, “Please welcome Richard Ha.”

After walking in, I took the microphone and looked out at the audience. There were maybe 70 students, from kindergarten to 5th grade, and a smattering of parents. I sweated some more.

I had to think fast. What could I say to these youngsters that they could understand and take away? Did they even understand what Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are? Surely they had no idea what Ku‘oko‘a was, let alone “Mr. Chairman.”

I decided to tell them what my Pop told me when I was their age. I told them about impossible odds, and pointed in the air and said, “Not, no can. CAN!” I looked out at the kids and could see in their faces that they were listening.

I said, “Get thousand reasons why ‘No can.’ I’m just look for the one reason why ‘CAN!!’”  They were with me.

Then I told them: “For every problem, find three answers. Then think of one more, just in case.”

I said that if some of them felt they were not as smart as some of the others, to remember: “If someone is twice as smart as you, but you work four times as hard, then you can become twice as smart.”

“You can make up for everything by hard work.” I was on a roll.

I asked them what they would do if an earthquake came and everybody was falling down. They didn’t know. I told them my Pop told me to jump in the air and do a half turn. If you are not touching the ground when it shakes, you won’t fall down. And after two jumps you would have spun all the way around and seen everything.

Remember: “Not, no can. CAN!!

Whew. That was a tough audience. I liked it, though. I love talking to small kids.

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Talk: On HECO, ‘Time is Running Short’

Yesterday I gave a talk at the Sheraton Outrigger in Keauhou. The talk was for the Water Works Association of Hawaii, which is the umbrella association of all of Hawai‘i’s water departments.

The Water Works Association meeting agenda

I started off by describing all the different hats I wear: Farmer; Co-Chair of the Geothermal Working Group, and Chairman of the Board of Ku‘oko‘a.

I talked about the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) operating with one hand tied behind its back. HECO has a fiduciary duty to its shareholders and so it cannot do all the things it might want to do to help Hawai‘i’s people. For instance, it would have a difficult time lowering Hawai‘i’s electricity rates – by closing its oil-fired plants and bringing on significant amounts of geothermal – without hurting its shareholders’ stock price.

HECO is under much pressure lately. Ku‘oko‘a wants to untie HECO’s hand so it can be the utility all its people want it to be. We don’t want to take HECO over; we want to empower HECO for the benefit of Hawai‘i’s people.

The main point I tried to make in my talk was that time is getting short. And that there is more than enough evidence to show that oil prices will rise in the future. It is not about whether or not one particular theory is right or wrong. The evidence we see all around us is compelling enough.

The reason I know about this is that I have attended three Peak Oil Conferences, and this subject has been on my radar for more than five years now.

We know that the peak of oil discovery was in the 1960s. For the last 20 years, we have been using twice as much oil as we have been finding.

We also know that all oil fields decline eventually. In fact, the natural decline rate of all the oil fields put together requires us to find a Saudi Arabia every two to three years. Clearly we have not been doing this.

Oil exporting countries will use more and more of their own oil. This means less for the rest of us. They must do this, in order to keep their people happy, or the dictators will get thrown out of office.

China and India use much less oil per person than we do, yet their economies keep on growing. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser points out that our electricity rates are approaching the high point of 2008. Our people are suffering, and yet China and India can pay this oil price while their economies keep growing.

And we have not even passed the peak of oil supply. Trying to be safe by doing nothing is no longer safe. We need to think different.

More on all this in my recent editorials for Civil Beat.

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Kuokoa Board Member James Woolsey

James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and a board member of Ku‘oko‘a, was in Hawai‘i recently to deliver the keynote address at the Asia Pacific Clean Energy Expo and Summit in Honolulu.

His keynote speech is here; forward ahead to 37:00 to hear it.

A recent Civil Beat article starts:

Hawaii needs to take decisive action in moving away from its dependence on foreign oil and capturing local renewable energy sources to power its energy needs, according to James Woolsey, former CIA director under President Bill Clinton and board member of Kuokoa, the local start-up company that wants to take over Hawaiian Electric Co.

“This will not work, this moving Hawaii into a position of leadership and saving Hawaii from its terrible energy dependence — it will not work without decisive action,” said Woolsey. “One can’t halfway do it.” Read the rest

Though he delivers a very sobering message, Jim also has a great sense of humor. While here he also spoke in Kona, and during that Q&A session, he turned his back, unbuttoned his long-sleeve dress shirt, and untucked it. Then he turned back around to face the audience to reveal his t-shirt.

Tshirt

His t-shirt shows a cartoon figure with a gas nozzle in one ear, which is blowing his brains out the other ear. The audience screamed laughing.

Also while he was here, we took the opportunity to make sure he became culturally familiar with who the Hawaiian people are, and how much importance we at Ku‘oko‘a place on all our people having a good cultural grounding in how the people think.

Greg Chun, president of Kamehameha Investment Group and an expert on the Keauhou/Kona area, met us at Keauhou to give us an orientation.

Cropped group on roof with heiau

Left to right: Ku‘oko‘a Board Member Noe Kalipi; daughter-in-law of Jacqui Hoover; Board Member Jim Woolsey; Jacqui Hoover, President of the Hawai‘i Island Economic Development Board; Kamehameha Schools’ Greg Chun, and Ku‘oko‘a President Ted Peck.

We went up on roof of the Keauhou Outrigger, because from there Jim could see a paranomic view of Keauhou – from the bay to the heiaus and to the hillsides, large expanses that were formerly terraced and planted and which supported many people in pre-contact Hawai‘i.

Heiau

We have had a lot of conversations with Jim about these things we are so grounded in, but to actually see it all and walk it is different than just talking about it. We walked to the heiaus, and out to the ocean.

Heiau - view from roof

Before Jim was a lawyer and high up in government, he studied history. So he knows a lot about civilizations and this was not foreign to him; he understood it immediately. He gets it.

Noe Kalipi, Ted Peck, June and I had a very fun dinner with him the night before his speech. He is a really good guy!

He sees that Hawai‘i is a place where you can scale technology to demonstrate that these things can be done. His whole idea is that we can do this here in Hawai‘i.

He’s like us: We are all committed to making this happen. It’s not an “if.” We must do this.

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What Kuokoa is All About

The Ku‘oko‘a Board of Directors recently briefed a group of influential people on what we are all about.

Former CIA Director Jim Woolsey talked about our dependency on oil, and its national security implications. He talked about Hawai‘i’s situation – that we have the potential to free ourselves from the tyranny of oil – and explained that this possibility is what made him want to be involved.

Former U.S. Department of Energy Deputy Secretary TJ Glauthier, who brings a high level of experience to our team, spoke about the Ku‘oko‘a business plan, and said that the preliminary numbers do work.

Former Harvard Professor of Entrepreneurship, and current UH Shidler College of Professor, Rob Robinson acted as moderator. He explained why the Ku‘oko‘a model, which emphasizes a low cost of electricity, is so important to the future of Hawai‘i.

Venture Capitalist Roald Marth, who is also CEO of Ku‘oko‘a, spoke about how he came to be involved in the energy issue, and how he has committed his life to freeing Hawai‘i from fossil fuel. Ro has been relentless in his efforts.

Former Hawai‘i State Energy Administrator Ted Peck walked everyone through the basic Ku‘oko‘a plan.

It’s a powerful team. At the end, there was a Q&A period, during which board members answered questions and addressed comments from the audience.

I spoke first, and here is what I said:

Aloha Everyone,

I am Richard Ha, Chairman of the Board of Ku‘oko‘a. Ku‘oko‘a is trying to align the needs of the people with the needs of the utility.

I am a farmer, so I tend to go straight to the essential elements. The world has been using three times the oil it has been finding for the last 30 years. In 2003, oil price was between 20 and 30 per barrel. The price rose steadily, yet the supply did not increase. Sooner or later we will start to drop down the backside of the oil supply curve.  

In addition, because it is taking more energy to get energy, the net energy left over to do work will also decline. And on top of this, China and India’s people cannot wait to jump in their cars to drive to McDonalds. And the oil exporting nations have to use more oil for their own people, or they will get thrown out of office.

All these things occurring simultaneously tell us that the safety of the status quo, where Hawai‘i relies on oil for 76 percent of its electricity generation, is increasingly not safe.

Since we are talking story here, I want to tell you who I am and what my values are. Mom is Okinawan, Higa from Molokai. Pop’s father was Korean – Ha, and his mom was Leihulu Kamahele. Her mom was Meleana Kamoe Kamahele and her dad was Frank Kamahele. Our family land was down the beach at Maku‘u, in Puna.

We were very poor, but we didn’t know it. Pop would tell stories at the dinner table where he would talk about impossible situations, impossible odds.

Then he would pound the table and point in the air. “Not, no can. CAN!”

And he would say, “There are a thousand reasons why no can. I only looking for the one reason why can.” He told us to find three solutions for every problem, and then find one more just in case. He finished 6th grade but he was a wise man.

I was a kolohe kid growing up. I went to UH Manoa, where I flunked out. Too many places to go, people to see and beers to drink. I was drafted and applied to go to Officers’ Candidate School, and then I volunteered to go to Vietnam. Ended up walking in the jungle with 100 other soldiers. If we got into trouble there was no one close enough to help us. The unwritten rule was that we all come back or no one comes back. I liked that and have kept that attitude ever since.

I went back to UH and majored in accounting so I could keep score when I went into business. Pop asked if I would come back and help to run the family chicken farm. I came back and saw an opportunity to grow bananas but I had no money.

“Not, no can. CAN!” So we traded chicken manure for banana keiki. By questioning everything, looking into the future and forcing change, we were able to survive in farming for more than 30 years. We farm 600 fee simple acres outside of Hilo with 60 workers. It just goes to show that anything is possible.

We are not afraid to try stuff. I was given the University of Hawai‘i College of Business’s “Hall of Honor” award, as well the UH’s Distinguished Graduate award, for my role in bringing theThirty Meter Telescope to the Big Island. That is a $1.3 billion project, and it was a foregone conclusion that it was going to Chile until we went to work engaging our Big Island community here. It’s now coming to the point in the legal process where construction can begin in a short time.

Our family’s company was the first banana company in the world to be certified ECO-OK by the Rainforest Alliance, the largest third party certifying organization. That was reported widely in the banana producing areas of Central and South America. In fact, they scrambled to find a farm in Costa Rica who could be certified along with us, so we both could say we were first in the world. And it had a big influence in changing the environmental behavior of the Doles, Chiquitas and Del Montes.

We were one of six national finalists for the SARE award, a sustainable production award open to all farms in the nation. I mention all these things because we live by the spirit, “Not, no can. CAN!” 

One day five years ago, we realized that our farming supply costs had been steadily rising, and found that it was all due to oil. So I went to go learn about oil so we could reposition our company for the future. I was the only person from Hawai‘i to attend three Association for the Study of Peak Oil conferences.

The main lesson there was that the world had been using two to three times the oil it had been finding for the last 30 years, and that soon, the game will be up.

Coming back to Hawai‘i, we repositioned our farm and soon we start construction of a hydroelectric plant that will take us completely off the grid.

Several years went by, and then I met Ro Marth and we embarked on this project. It made total sense to me. First it was Ro, myself and Ted Peck. The paper called us the government bureaucrat, the tomato farmer and the motivational speaker. It was kind of humorous.

We did not let ourselves get distracted, but went about doing our work – first by putting our board together. We needed to be credible with Wall Street, Bishop Street and Kinoole Street. Especially Kinoole Street. This needed to be a company that the rubbah slippah folks would see as local, and, preferably, their own.

It’s all about people, and we have put together a strong team. We have incredibly smart, caring and courageous people. Our diversity is what gives us our strength, and also we watch each other’s backs. And we would love for courageous folks, who can see a brighter future for Hawai‘i, to join us.

Ro and I visited Iceland recently. Iceland has managed to make itself energy secure and food secure by using cheap geothermal and hydro. Its electricity costs are less than half of ours. In Iceland, they export energy in the form of aluminum, and that allows them to buy food. The cheap-energy sector of their economy is helping the country recover from its banking sectors meltdown. Low cost energy makes them competitive with the rest of the world. Not high cost energy.

Mayor Kenoi will soon sign a sister city document with the Mayor of Ormoc City in the Phillipines. They have the same population as the Big Island, but Ormoc City produces 700 MW of electricity with its geothermal, compared to our 30MW.

We are very fortunate to have geothermal on the Big Island. It costs less than 10 cents/kWh to generate electricity from geothermal, while it costs more than 20 cents/kWh to generate electricity from oil.

Can we find the solution to our energy problems while taking care of the rubbah slippah folks too? It’s about the cost of energy. If we choose an expensive alternative for electricity, we know that folks on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder will get their lights turned off first. Leaving the rubbah slippah folks behind should not be an option. If we try hard enough to find solutions, we should be able to take care of everyone.

One of our solutions is to replace oil with geothermal as base load for the generation of electricity. One day, I asked Jim Kauahikaua, Chief Scientist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, “Eh Jim, how long the Big Island will be over the hot spot?” He said, “Between 500,000 and a million years.” I thought to myself, “That should be long enough.”

In modern Hawaiian history, the economy has taken taken taken and the culture has given, given, given. We have a unique opportunity now where the economy can give and the culture can receive. If we can stabilize energy costs at a low level, we will become more competitive to the rest of the world as oil prices rise and our people’s standard of living will rise. We can address the energy problem and take care of the rubbah slippah folks too.

We can look forward to handing our children and their children’s children a brighter tomorrow.

We are looking for like-minded, brave folks to join us and help bring about the kinds of change that will take all of us into a brighter future.

As my Pop used to say: “Not, no can. CAN!”

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“How Could I Not Know This?!”

Noe Kalipi also spoke at the Council of Native Hawaiians conference last week.

I knew Noe was on Senator Akaka’s staff for many years, and I thought she was a wonderful Hilo girl, very unassuming and nice.

But then I saw her in action, in Washington D.C., when we went up to see TJ Glauthier and Jim Woolsey. She is at home in Washington, and can jab elbows with the best. Who would have imagined that she was in the Airborne Judge Advocate Corp?

This Hilo girl was an Army lawyer and also jumped out of airplanes.

This is the speech she gave:

Why I Joined Kuokoa

I was born and raised in Hilo and spent 18 years in D.C., going to school, serving in the U.S. Army, and working on Capitol Hill for Senator Akaka. I moved back to Hilo in 2006 with my husband, Gaylen, who is from Molokai, to raise our two daughters, Hauoli and Kuuipo, in Hilo. It was important to us that they grow up in Hawaii, in our culture, exposed to the way we think, the way we live, and the way we do things in Hawaii. 

I worked as the Government & Community Relations Director for First Wind. It was in THAT job where my eyes were opened to how dependent Hawaii is on fossil fuels and how DANGEROUS that is for our future, for our children’s future, for our moopuna’s future. Not blow up dangerous — dangerous because we have no control over the pricing for the one thing that we rely on for one of our most basic needs: energy.

I thought to myself, how could I not know this — I had been was working at the top levels of government in Washington DC!  

It’s because I took things for granted. My thought process was – I need lights, turn on the switch; I need gas – go to the gas station – I need food – go to the store. I never thought about what made the lights go on or how the gas and food got to the store. I never thought about WHAT IF SOMETHING HAPPENS AND THE BARGES CAN’T COME TO HAWAII, and not just because we have a tsunami or hurricane, what about if we run out of oil?

Knowledge can be a blessing and it can be a burden. Once our eyes are opened to issues such as energy and food security then we have the kuleana to figure out how to address it. 

The good news is that we live in Hawaii. We have the resources, the tools, to fix this situation. We have land and water to grow food, we have indigenous resources wind, solar, ocean, water, geothermal to generate electricity.

But most importantly, we have us, the indigenous peoples who have lived here for 2000 years,  who have the moolelo, the history, of this place.  We can look back to our history to figure out how we can go forward, embracing technology and finding solutions that are based and shaped by the knowledge of our incredibly scientific ancestors. As someone told me yesterday, we had the first light switch BEFORE THE WHITE HOUSE. 

This means not only generating electricity but conserving and preserving our resources — turn off the lights, use energy efficient appliances, reuse, reduce, recycle.

What scares me is that this is not a new issue — people were talking about this when I was five years old — back in 1975 — how we had to get off of oil and use our resources. 

I’m 41 years old. When are we going to stop talking and start doing?

So . . .when I learned about the Kuokoa plan from Richard Ha, our Chairman, I said YAY!! FINALLY — a collaborative way to do what we — as the box & rope, grassroots, rubbah slippah folks — whatever you want to call us — know what needs to be done. We can stop closing our eyes and pretending that someone else will take care of it. We can stop thinking that this is too hard, too complicated, too overwhelming.

As Richard said, get thousand reasons why no can, we need to focus on finding the ways that CAN. I thought, well, if HE, then I can, so WE GO

And that is why Kuokoa is at this convention. We need Native Hawaiians to lead this effort — WHY? Because this is OUR homeland.

This is a way to shift the paradigm — shift the way things are done. Base the action on culture, on history, on the knowledge that our ancestors left to us.  

But Ramsay, Richard, and I cannot do it alone. Between the three of us, we know many of you in the audience and we hope that you will invite us to talk story with you so that we can explain what we are trying to do in more detail and to ask for you to join us in this effort. Kuokoa cannot succeed without you — because we need everyone working with us if we are going to make the changes that need to be done to secure Hawaii’s energy independence.

Kuokoa’s plan is simple — we build a clean tech industry in Hawaii and in that process we will:

– transform the electrical grid so that instead of running mainly on imported fossil fuel, it will use Hawaii’s indigenous resources: geothermal, wind, solar, water, ocean, biomass, etc. This stops our electricity prices from rising with oil prices.

– make electric vehicles a reality in Hawaii – this stops us from being slaves to the price of gas — it’s $5.49 a gallon on Molokai — what is going to happen when oil goes up further?

– to utilize excess electricity to create energy exports — hydrogen, for example, which can be exported as ammonia which sells globally and can be used for farming

In doing this, we make our universities and our schools the best schools in science, technology, research and development AND we make Hawaii the place to look to learn how to utilize indigenous resources in a culturally appropriate AND environmentally sensitive way.

In doing this, we create jobs and companies. We create opportunities for communities participate — and hopefully– to own the companies that are going to be created to make this plan successful. Let the Hawaiians hire the consultants to work for us instead of us always being the consultants for the mainland companies.

It’s not just science.  It’s everything — farming, housing, education, economic development, cultural preservation, hawaiian language, health care –its everything we all are involved in because energy is a basic need — it either drives what we do or it prevents us from doing something. Lights or no lights. Gas or no gas.

All of our policy priorities that we just discussed ASSUMES that we have energy, ASSUMES that we have power. We need to make sure we address this basic need so that the policy goals that we are discussing this morning can truly help us to move forward the way we intend.

We are just three Hawaiians up here — our canoe is very big, and very heavy. We know we cannot paddle by ourselves. We hope you will be willing to pick up a paddle and join us and help us figure out how to get where we know we have to go.

Mahalo.

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My Speech at the Council of Native Hawaiian Advancement Conference

Noe Kalipi, Ramsay Taum and I – all board members from Ku‘oko‘a – each spoke for five minutes at the Council of Native Hawaiian Advancement conference.

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Noe and Ramsay were just awesome. It’s clear that Ku‘oko‘a is a native Hawaiian company with native Hawaiian sensibilities. The good wishes and warm requests for information were very humbling.

Senator Akaka spoke right before us.

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Here is the speech I gave.

Aloha Everyone,

I am Richard Ha, chairman of the board of Ku‘oko‘a. Ku‘oko‘a is trying to align the needs of the people with the needs of the utility.

I want to start by telling you who I am and what my values are. Mom is Okinawan, Higa from Moloka‘i; Pop’s father was Korean, Ha. My pop’s mom was Leihulu Kamahele. And her mom was Meleana Kamoe Kamahele and her dad was Frank Kamahele. Our family land was down the beach at Maku‘u in Puna. We were very poor but didn’t know it.

Pop would tell stories at the dinner table. He would talk about impossible situations, impossible odds. Then he would pound the table and point in the air. “Not, no can. CAN!”

And he would say, “There are a thousand reasons why no can. I only looking for the one reason why ‘Can.’”

He told us to find three solutions for every problem, and then find one more just in case. He only finished sixth grade, but he was a wise man.

I was a kolohe kid growing up. I went to UH Manoa, where I flunked out. Too many places to go, people to see and beers to drink. I was drafted, and applied to go to Officers Candidate School, and then I volunteered to go to Vietnam. Ended up walking in the jungle with a hundred other soldiers. If we got into trouble there was no one close enough to help us. The unwritten rule was that we all come back, or no one comes back. I liked that and kept that attitude ever since.

I went back to UH and majored in accounting so I could keep score when I went into business. Pop asked if I would come back and help run the family chicken farm. I came back and saw an opportunity to grow bananas, but I had no money.

“Not, no can, CAN!” so we traded chicken manure for banana pulapula. By questioning everything, looking into the future and forcing change we have been able to survive in farming for more than 30 years.

We farm 600 fee simple acres with 60 workers.  Five years ago, we noticed supply costs had been steadily rising, and we found it was all due to oil. I was the only person from Hawai‘i to attend three Peak Oil conferences. I went to learn about oil so that we could position our business.

There I found out that the world had been using twice as much oil as it had been finding for the last 30 years. This is a very serious situation. I am stuck with this knowledge and that knowledge has become my kuleana. I know what is likely to happen and so try to find solutions that are good for all of us.

There are truly Native Hawaiian sensitivities embedded in our Ku‘oko‘a team and organization. The board and the team we have put together are the best we could find. Ramsay Taum and Noe Kalipi are members of our board and we will each say a few words. Board members went to Hilo to participate in the festivities for the seven vaka that came up from the south. We felt that it was important.

Right now there are no guidelines to choose the low-cost, proven technology solution that eases the pressure on the rubbah slippah folks. We can do this. You folks all know the consequence of rising cost of energy, water, school lunches, etc. It is the folks on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder who will get their lights turned off first. Too often they are Hawaiians.

Iceland has managed to make themselves energy secure and food secure. Their electricity costs are less than half of ours. Can we find the solution to our energy problems while taking care of the rubbah slippah folks too? Leaving them behind is not an option. If we search for the solution, if we ask the question, we can find the answer.

In modern Hawaiian history, the economy has taken taken taken and the culture has given, given, given. We have a unique opportunity now where the economy can give and the culture can receive. If we can stabilize energy costs at a low level, as oil prices rise we will become more competitive to the rest of the world and our people’s standard of living will rise. We can address the energy problem and take care of the rubbah slippah folks too.

As Pop used to say: “Not ‘no can;’ ‘CAN!’”

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Huge Turnout at Annual Native Hawaiian Convention

I am at the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement‘s 10th Annual Convention today. More than a thousand people are participating.

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Ku‘oko‘a supports the goals of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement

Noe Kalipi, Ramsay Taum and myself, three native Hawaiian board members of Ku‘oko‘a, will speak about our group’s vision for Hawai‘i. We believe that Ku‘oko‘a’s focus on stable, low-cost, clean energy is in line with Hawai‘i’s needs and especially the Hawaiian people’s needs.

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That’s Robin Danner, Council of Native Hawaiian Advancement head, with Department of Hawaiian Home Lands chairman Alapaki Nahale‘a (middle)

To generate electricity, we will utilize geothermal to replace liquid fuel, which is projected to continue rising in cost. It is proven technology that is, for instance, used in Iceland to help make their electricity 100 percent fossil fuel-free. They deliver electricity to their people at less than 10 cents kWh – one-third of what electricity costs on O‘ahu and one-fourth what it costs on the Big Island and Maui.

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Two of our other board members will be keynote speakers at the upcoming Asia-Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo.

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Fork in the Road

We are coming to a fork in the road. Which way do we want to go?  

Cost of Electricity Insert1
Cost of Electricity Insert2
If we stay on our present course, represented above by the blue line, electricity costs will keep on rising. The graph assumes a modest doubling of oil prices every 15 years, but it might be even more than double.

If we stay on the present path, we will have an increasingly difficult time paying our bills. Schools will pay more money for electricity, and less for education. Supermarkets will pay more for refrigeration, and farmers will get less for their produce. The hotel industry will be hit with higher electricity bills and fewer tourists. Small businesses will have a tougher time. More people will be homeless. And it will be the folks who can least afford it that will end up getting their lights turned off.

On the other hand, following the Ku‘oko‘a ala kai (path), where we use more geothermal as our primary base power, we can go to a place where we use all the renewable energy available to us and electricity costs stabilize. (See the red line above.) Our schools will be comfortable for our keiki to learn in. People will have more work opportunities and we will have fewer homeless people. Because our energy costs will be stable and reasonably priced, we can become competitive in many different areas of production. People will have more money in their pockets and so they will support local farmers, and more and younger farmers will start to grow things.

And because we helped each other to take this positive, renewable energy fork in the road, we will aloha each other.

In the uncertain future that is fast approaching, we will need to have stronger communities, we’ll need to make more friends and we will need to stay closer to our families. The Ku‘oko‘a path will lead us there.

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