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Ka`u News Briefs Monday, Jan. 6, 2014

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`Aina Koa Pono was touted locally as an economic savior for producing jobs, similar to Range Fuels, a failed energy project in Georgia.
Image from ainakoapono.com
SIXTY MINUTES, THE CBS NEWS PROGRAM, last night featured chemical engineer and biofuels specialist Robert Rapier, who helped Big Island community groups, The Ka`u Calendar and local government analyze `Aina Koa Pono’s proposal to install a biofuel farm between Pahala and Na`alehu and a refinery on the edge of Wood Valley. AKP proposed to sign a contract to sell high-priced fuel to the electric utilities. The proposal was turned down late last year by the state Public Utilities Commission.
Robert Rapier, a chemical engineer and biofuels expert, helped guide community groups
and the county to study AKP. See him on 60 Minutes from last night's segment called
The Cleantech Crash. Photo from CBS
           On Aug. 16, 2012, Rapier sent an email to The Ka`u Calendar, writing, “To me, the most important item is to protect ratepayers if they fail to deliver. That’s what I consider absolutely unacceptable, but I worry about it. They build a plant, it fails to deliver, and they push through a surcharge to pay for a failed plant. Utilities do things like that all the time.”
           He also asked the question, “Would tying up one power plant fuel contract for 20 years set a precedent for other power plants around the state? I.e., if the Keahole power plant’s fuel oil costs raise electric rates in O`ahu, Maui and Hawai`i Counties for the single power plant, what if Hawaiian Electric Co. wanted to do the same for X number of power plants around the three counties it services? How many oil-burning power plants are there in Hawai`i, outside of Kaua`i?” (Kaua`i is not a HECO island).
           Rapier also asked other questions, such as why a process similar to the one chosen by AKP did not result in a contract in Wyoming and pointed to a local paper there at wyomingnews.com/articles/2007/02/11/news/local_news/02local_02-11-07.txt.
           He also wrote to The Ka`u Calendar saying, “I think there are definitely cheaper ways than this of producing electricity. Just combusting biomass for electricity is a cheaper way to make it. HELCO of course wants a liquid fuel so they can continue to use their infrastructure, but it isn’t going to be cheap, nor is it going to be environmentally sound. I say the latter because the energy balance of this process can’t be good, which has the potential to increase – not decrease – fossil fuel consumption.
           “On the other hand, I think it’s important for companies to get long-term fuel contracts like this in order to convince investors to invest. But my problem with this case is that promises are being made that can’t be kept. This technology is oversold. It does not produce a ‘drop-in’ diesel fuel. It produces a very low-grade oil that can be upgraded – at great expense – to diesel in very low yields.”
Investor Vinod Khosla founded Range Fuels.
Photo from wikipedia
           In regard to AKP’s contract with Mansfield Oil, which the company is still saying it will attempt to fulfill by manufacturing transportation fuel and selling it to the mainland company, Rapier wrote, “Getting a fuel contract is nothing. I can get a fuel contract without ever producing any fuel. The question to ask is ‘Has fuel been delivered? Can I have a sample of it for testing?’ That’s when the story will break down.” 
       Rapier also told The Ka`u Calendar that he would personally research more on AKP if it attempted to use government funding for its projects. AKP, to date, has said it uses no government funding for its biofuels venture.
      On the 60 Minutes segment called The Cleantech Crash, Rapier focused on mainland projects that used taxpayers’ money for such ventures including Range Fuels, a failed biofuel venture in a needy rural community that was touted as an economic savior for producing jobs, in much the same way as AKP was promoted locally. The Range Fuels venture, which aimed to use trees to make biofuel, led to a boom and bust economy, leaving the tiny town of Soperton, Georgia in worse shape than before the biofuels venture.
      On 60 Minutes, Range Fuels’ founder Vinod Khosla, a Silicon Valley billioinaire and investor in some 50 energy projects, used a slogan similar to an AKP statement for his latest KHiOR biofuels project. In explaining the wood chips-to-energy process, Khosla said, “Nature takes a million years to produce our crude oil; KHiOR can produce it in seconds.” He also explained that the process adds “this magic catalyst and then out comes something that looks like crude oil.” 
      AKP’s website at ainakoapono.com says that AKP “is aimed at cracking dependence on fossil fuel by using a microwave process to compress to 50 minutes the millions of years it takes nature to convert biomass into crude oil.”
      AKP also says its process needs an imported catalyst to produce the biodiesel.
      Dr. Steven Koonin, a former U.S. undersecretary of Energy who has a physics degree from Caltech and a doctorate from MIT, weighed in on the wave of energy investments. He said that there has been a lot of arrogance in biofuels ventures. He said venture capitalists have underestimated the risks in the energy market. He pointed out that venture capitalists usually want to get in and out in three to five years. He also noted that there is an expectation that nine out of every ten startups will fail. 
      On 60 Minutes, Rapier pointed out that many of the venture capitalists getting into energy in recent years had little background in energy. “You know Khosla is very smart, but would you let him operate on your heart? No, because that is not his area of expertise.”
      He said the Khosla and other venture capitalists got caught up in their own hype. Khosla, for example, “over-promised and under-delivered, and so the public and the politicians all developed unreasonable expectations.”
      See the 60 Minutes segment at cbsnews.com/videos/the-cleantech-crash.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

HAWAI`I COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT’S statistics for 2013 automobile accidents show decreases in most categories as compared to 2012.
      Major accidents in 2013 numbered 1,326 compared with 1,466 in 2012, a decrease of 9.5 percent.
      There were 25 fatalities on Hawai`i Island compared with 38 fatalities in 2012, a decrease of 34.2 percent.
      Thirteen fatalities in 2013 were related to drugs only, alcohol only or a combination of both, compared with 28 in 2012.
      There were 308 drivers arrested for driving under the influence of an intoxicant who were involved in traffic accidents in 2013 compared with 352 in 2012, a decrease of 12.5 percent.
      There were 123 drivers arrested for driving under the influence of an intoxicant who were under the age of 21 in 2013 compared with 104 in 2012, an increase of 18.3 percent.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Ka`u's Council member Brenda Ford wants to get water
to Ocean View's Kahuku Park in 2014.
HAWAI`I COUNTY COUNCIL HOLDS its first meetings of the New Year this week. A special meeting at 8:15 a.m. tomorrow is expected to go into executive session as requested by chair J Yoshimoto. A 2/3 vote is necessary to hold an executive session. The Council will consider hiring of a legislative auditor and conduct interviews of the top three applicants during this meeting. Members will also consult with Council’s attorney on questions and issues pertaining to the Council’s powers, duties, privileges, immunities and liabilities. 
      Governmental Relations & Economic Development Committee meets tomorrow at 11 a.m. On the agenda is Council member Margaret Wille’s proposal to establish “HIPP” (“Hawai`i Island Produce and Products”) as the logo for Hawai`i Island; and in the case of organic produce and products, “HIPP-O” (“Hawai`i Island Produce and Products - Organically Grown”).
      The Planning Committee meets at 1:45 p.m. to discuss Ka`u Council member Brenda Ford’s bill relating to the maximum amount of lots permitted in a subdivision. It adds a new section to the County Code requiring that the square footage of certain improvements and features within a subdivision be subtracted from the total land size of the subdivision prior to determination of the maximum amount of lots permitted within that subdivision.
      Other committees meeting tomorrow are Public Works & Parks & Recreation at 1:30 p.m., Finance at 2:30 p.m. and Public Safety & Mass Transit at 3:30 p.m.
      The regular Council meeting begins at 9 a.m. Wednesday. One agenda item is Council member Brenda Ford’s proposal adding the Parks and Recreation Kahuku Park Main Water Line Improvements project for $150,000 to the Capital Budget. Funds would be used to plan and construct a main water line from Ocean View Well Number One to Kahuku Park.
      Funds for this project would be provided from general obligation bonds, capital projects fund balance and/or other sources.
      All meetings take place at Council Chambers in Hilo. Ka`u residents can participate via videoconferencing at Ocean View Community Center.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Tomorrows's After Dark in the Park program features geologist
Tim Orr. Photo from USGS/HVO
HAWAIIAN VOLCANO OBSERVATORY GEOLOGIST Tim Orr reviews highlights from the past 31 years of eruption on Kilauea’s east rift zone and talks about recent developments tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Kilauea Visitor Center Auditorium in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. $2 donations support park programs; park entrance fees apply. 

AB KAWAINOHOIKALA`I VALENCIA and Puamae`ole O’Mahoney share the art of lei making Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Kilauea Visitor Center lanai in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park.

BLAISE DE LIMA, A STAFF MEMBER from U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s office, meets with constituents and assists with casework and other issues Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Pahala Community Center. Call 541-1986 for more information.

HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW THE VOLCANO IN YOUR BACKYARD? is the title of a program Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Ocean View Community Center. USGS volcanologist Frank Trusdell discusses Mauna Loa’s eruptive history and current status.

KA`U HOSPITAL URGES RESIDENTS to complete its Community Health Needs Assessment atsurveymonkey.com/s/93HQ5MX. The deadline has been extended to Jan. 31.

SEE THE DIRECTORY from the Ka`u Chamber of Commerce at http://snack.to/fzpfg59c.

SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS AT PAHALAPLANTATIONCOTTAGES.COM AND KAUCOFFEEMILL.COM. KA`U COFFEE MILL IS OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.







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