Tag Archives: Standard of Living

Dispatch from the Philippines: Visited a Geothermal Production Site

I’m still in Ormoc City. We visited the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) geothermal production site the other day. It generates 700 MW in the Ormoc City area. Its five projects range from 50 to 230 MW in this area, and they have other geothermal projects in other areas.

This is a company that knows what it’s doing. They have expertise in steam field geothermal, the kind that would be most applicable in Hawai‘i.

We toured the Tongonan field, which has a plant capacity of 112 MW. It consists of 17 production wells and 7 reinjection wells. Its source is a volcano that last erupted 100,000 years ago.

EDC is impressive because of its years of experience and because of the social and environmental component of its business philosophy. At EDC, they have been doing this as a part of their business model for many years. They work with the surrounding communities in many areas of mutual benefit – from tax credits, to schooling, reforestation, etc. Each of the plants has a nurse on station. They are very safety conscious.

However, I must note Hawai‘i’s standards for hydrogen sulfide emissions are much more stringent than either the Philippines or the Icelandic operations’.

Puhagan geothermal plant

Palinpinon Geothermal power plant in Sitio Nasulo, Brgy. Puhagan, Valencia, Negros Oriental. Photo by Mike Gonzalez (TheCoffee). Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. 

The Philippines, which lies alongside the Pacific Ring of Fire, is the second largest geothermal producer in the world. They are actively developing more geothermal there than the 1,400 MW that exists today. Using this stable, low-cost and proven technology resource will pay enormous dividends to its society in the future.

It is clear to see that as the price of oil rises, and they bring more geothermal on line, individual Filipinos will start to see their standard of living rise. If we in Hawai‘i took similar bold steps, our standard of living could also rise.


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!’”


Why Geothermal Will Increase Everyone’s Standard of Living

The paradox of living in Hawaii has long been that the native people give and give, and the economic system takes and takes.

Finally, we have a solution—one that is good for everyone and in multiple ways. I’m talking about geothermal.

We are using up our “cheap oil” every day now, and without cheap oil, our economy and world economies will not grow. Very soon, we will only have expensive oil, and when costs are too high we go into recession.

The growth of the world’s GDP will be less than it was yesterday, and maybe for as long as we can imagine. Neoclassical economists assume constant growth, but this is impossible when world oil supplies are decreasing as they are now.

This is why I’m such an advocate for using geothermal for energy on the Big Island. Its cost will not go up; it will stay steady even as world oil prices increase. As that happens, we will become relatively more competitive to the rest of the world. As the world’s standard of living declines, we will stay the same.

This means that our standard of living will actually increase, relative to the rest of the world.

Geothermal’s energy return on investment (EROI) is high. EROI is key:

…EROI is similar to its economic analog, which is return on investment (ROI). The idea is that you have a cost of getting a resource and hopefully you input that cost and you get some oil out. EROI is simply the energy produced from an energy extraction process divided by the energy you put in. We add up the cost of building the rig, the diesel fuel used on a rig, and what you get is a ratio of energy out divided by energy in. That number is essentially a measure of quality. It’s an efficiency calculation, but you can understand it as a measure of extraction and how difficult that extraction process is. Historically, if you look back at East Texas and see a lot of the big oil fields in the United States, the EROI was very high. Today, it’s obviously a much more complicated industry. For example, deepwater platforms cost billions of dollars and the wells are much deeper. The energy input has grown a lot. In general, EROI is this measure of extraction quality and how that changes over time…. Read more at The Oil Drum