POSTED: 23 JULY 2007 - 9:30pm HST

Kauai Ethanol & tomorrow's KIUC Board Meeting

image above: the coal fueled Blue Flint Ethanol Plant under construction near Underwood, North Dakota

by Ben Sullivan - Chairperson of Apollo Kauai on 23 July 2007

Thanks for the great discourse you have begun to foster on the subject of the Kauai Ethanol proposal. This will certainly lead to a more meaningful discussion in our public meeting on August 9th, focused on this project. We have, in our initial discussions, come to realize that addressing the needs of all parties (including those trying legitimately to make a profit) is critical to the successful outcome of a major community decision such as this. We recognize the importance of keeping the west-side in agriculture, and in preserving greater diversity in jobs outside the tourist industry. We also recognize the importance of emphasizing a healthier community vision including items as diverse as organic agriculture, local food production, soil remediation through composing, and clean energy production. We have discussed water use and conservation as well as toxicity and pollution. Because we are not experts in these fields, many of these discussions have not been ‘taken to ground’ as our beloved and outspoken Apollo Kauai member, Walt Barnes, might say. In my own limited view, it seems like we could solve a lot of problems if we simply agreed to ‘stop burning stuff’, but that may be a longer campaign than is appropriate for this proposal (LOL)

At the heart of it, the number one thing we must insist on is for those proposing this project to recognize that they are, in fact, unquestionably beholden to the public (all of us) in this effort. Let’s define ‘them’ as the major stakeholders (G&R, the outside investors, KIUC, the State) and ‘us’ as COOP members, State Tax Payers/residents, and Island/Global citizens. Apollo Kauai fits into the ‘us’ category particularly because we have expressed an interest and a willingness to try and understand the issues relevant to this proposal.

My primary intent in testifying to the KIUC Board tomorrow, both on behalf of Apollo Kauai, and as a Kauai Resident, is to achieve one thing; That is to point out as emphatically as I can simply that the collective ‘us’ have a keen interest in this project, one that has not been satisfied with the requisite disclosure of information. Questions posed to Alan Kennett from our December ’06 Apollo Kauai meeting have gone unanswered, and yet the project seems to be quietly moving forward. Several informal inquiries to KIUC since that time have similarly been met without any meaningful disclosure. We can certainly understand that there is some proprietary information here, but the notion that this entire deal is ‘confidential’ and one that might just be ‘laid upon us’ is as UNACCEPTABLE as it is RIDICULOUS.

It is my hope and belief that the KIUC Board will agree that this project mandates member discussion prior to the COOP moving forward with decision-making. This seems an obvious and simple conclusion, as if it were to go through, it would be one of, if not the biggest single decision for the COOP in the next decade. Certainly our community minded Coop Board recognizes that this is true, and that the very definition of a COOP would hinge on the presumption that the membership would be included in such major decisions. In closing, it is our hope that our elected Board recognizes that this is neither a decision to be taken lightly, nor one to be determined behind closed doors.

A secondary message to the Board, and to other major stakeholders, is that the lesser ‘we’ (Apollo Kauai as opposed to the broader public) have spoken unanimously about our opposition to buying energy generated from coal, and that we have several other important concerns about the project that, to date, have not been addressed. They include;

The overall carbon footprint of the facility (regardless of the fuel used)
The effect so much firm power implementation would have on our ability to incorporate a larger percentage of truly clean and truly renewable energy in the future (such as wind, solar, and hydro).

The effect of this project on realizing true energy independence. Because ethanol production is so fundamentally fossil-fuel dependent, are we really decoupling our energy cost from the cost of petroleum with this project? Will the cost of energy from this proposed project be substantially less than that directly from the generation of fossil fuels? Can we, as a COOP, decide to dump the contract on this power source several years from now if its energy cost escalates faster than expected? It seems to me a dangerously uninformed decision to just assume that this energy will be substantially cheaper than our current sources, especially if we decide as a community to omit coal burning!. Therefore, I return to the initial point that what we need, more than anything, is FULL DISCLOSURE and PUBLIC DISCOURSE on this project, which represents a long term commitment as much for you and I and all the community as it does for G&R and KIUC and others.

That this project once again illustrates the continued subsidization of energy consumption by both State and Federal Government, and a real lack of prioritization on conservation measures as a MUCH MORE VIABLE solution. This last item is directed at the State/Federal Government, and much less so at the COOP. As an aside, I recently discussed this point with Representative Mina Morita, and although she recognizes this, she did point out that the ongoing work she and others are doing through the PUC to separate the ‘conservation/efficiency’ efforts from the utility is just one example of good progress in that direction. Once again, Mina is a step ahead of us in the right direction. It becomes our duty to continue to support such efforts going forward.

The numerous concerns cited above, and potentially others yet unheard, are exactly why we now insist that this project be discussed and debated in an open public process, and not be executed in that oft rumored and much maligned ‘Kauai backroom’ style that may or may not have existed here in years past. To steal a phrase from another wonderful and outspoken AK member, Jonathan Jay, it is time to ‘Let the Sun shine’ at KIUC.

In closing, let’s look at this in the simplest of terms;

If someone wants to propose spending 50-80 million dollars of taxpayer money on a project intended to benefit you and I as J.Q. Public, then we, as residents of the State, are certainly warranted in taking a good look at it.

If somebody wants to write a contract for nearly half of all the electricity we will generate on the Island over the next twenty years, then again, as coop members, we better damn well be entitled to disclosure and discussion as Jack and Jill F. Coop.

And finally, if someone wants to send thousands of tons of CO2 up into the atmosphere, I would assert that I have a right to participate in that discourse as Jim P. Global, and perhaps more so, as the father of Jim P. Global Jr.. This goes for all of us, so please consider making it tomorrow and contributing your message, whatever it may be, to our COOP board. My bet is that they will welcome our input.

Hope to see some of you tomorrow at the KIUC Board meeting, which begins at 1:30pm. If you can’t make it, then please consider attending our public discussion on Thursday, August 9th at 5:30pm at the HGEA meeting room on Akahi Street in Lihue. Please forward this message to anyone who you know has an interest in participating in this important COMMUNITY DECISION.



POSTED: 11 JULY 2007 - 9:00pm HST

Sugar Plantation Plans Ethanol Plant

image above: The Kaumakani SugarMill, the last operating on Kauai, seen from Baldwin Monument

by the Associated Press on 10 July 2007 in

Sugar plantation operator Gay & Robinson plans to invest $80 million to build the first sugar plant in the nation to turn sugar into ethanol.

The plant, to be constructed in the heart of the company's sugar fields in Kaumakani near Hanapepe, could open as early as next year.

It will have the capacity to produce more than a quarter of Hawaii's current needs for the gasoline additive, company officials say.

State law requires gasoline sold in the islands to be blended with 10 percent ethanol. It's part of an effort to reduce Hawaii's dependence on foreign oil and boost local sugarcane production. But companies here have had to import ethanol since the law went into effect last year because there aren't any local suppliers for the product.

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., a unit of Alexander & Baldwin Inc., has been mulling building an ethanol plant on Maui. The company produces two-thirds of the state's sugar.

Clem Lum, Gay & Robinson treasurer, says the Kauai plan would save 230 sugar plantation jobs and add dozens more jobs in the next year.
"Protecting the livelihood and lifestyle of our workers and pensioners, and keeping the west side of Kauai in agriculture, are of paramount importance to us," said Warren Robinson, Gay & Robinson chairman, in a news release.
The company is partnering with Pacific West Energy LLC, which secured venture capital funding for the project.

A Pacific West management team with experience developing renewable-energy projects will come to Kauai to develop the plant, officials with both companies said. Pacific West will also maintain an office in Vancouver, Washington.

Gay & Robinson has had plans to build an ethanol plant for nearly a decade, but ran into permitting and funding delays.

The plant is expected to use sugar juice and molasses as raw material. It has already received a permit from the state for air pollution, and is in the permitting process at the county level.

The investment could qualify for a 100 percent state tax credit for plant construction costs.

That allows companies to write off all or most of their construction costs against state taxes owed or to be reimbursed by the state if costs exceed what they owe in state taxes.

see also:
Island Breath: Ethanol Deadend
Island Breath: Ethanol Future
Island Breath: GM Madness
Island Breath: Bio-Fuels 12/15/05