"Spontaneous Evolution" Interview

SOURCE: Lanny Sinkin (lanny.sinkin@gmail.com)
SUBHEAD: The theories underwriting society are crashing all around us. Are you ready for a New World?

By Terrance McNalley on 27 January 2010 in AlterNet.org - 

Image above: Part of bookcover to "Spontaneous Evolution" by Bruce H. Lipton & Steve Bhaerman  

The ideas and institutions that define our culture are breaking down -- and that's a good thing, say authors Bruce Lipton and Steve Bhaerman.
Many of the ideas and institutions that define our culture are breaking down -- and that's a good thing, say Bruce Lipton and Steve Bhaerman. In their new book, Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future and a Way to Get There from Here, they write that today's crises are part of a natural process -- clearing out what no longer serves us to make room for a new way of being. Are they cockeyed optimists or do they see things others miss?

Reality is alive, dynamic and interconnected. Science has been saying so for nearly a century, and we experience it every time we walk on a beach or look into another's eyes. Yet most of our cultural, societal, political and economic structures act as if it's not so. We can no longer afford to indulge outdated worldviews. In order to deal with the crises we now face, we've got to act on the new realities and understandings revealed by science.

A cell biologist by training, Bruce Lipton taught at the University of Wisconsin's School of Medicine, performed pioneering studies at Stanford, and authored The Biology of Belief. Steve Bhaerman has been writing and performing "enlightening" comedy in the character of Swami Beyondananda for over 20 years. He is the author of several books.
Terrence McNally:  

Bruce, you first, a bit about your path to the work you do today?

Bruce Lipton:
When I was very young I looked into a microscope for the first time and saw cells moving around. That vision ultimately led to my becoming a cellular biologist and teaching in medical schools. I was a pretty conventional biologist who thought of the body as a biochemical machine run by genes. I was teaching the genetic control of a molecular body to medical students, but at the same time I was doing research on muscular dystrophy and cloning stem cells starting about 1967.

My research proved so mind-boggling that it led to my leaving the university. I saw that genetically identical cells put into different environments have different fates. I'd start with genetically identical stem cells, change some of the constituents of their environment, and the stem cells would form muscle; change the environment a little bit differently and genetically identical cells would form bone; change it yet again, and another group of genetically identical cells would form fat cells. I was teaching medical students that genes control life, yet my research said that the genes were actually controlled by the organism's response to the environment.

That work ultimately led to The Biology of Belief, and presaged epi-genetics, one of today's leading areas of research in biomedicine. Epi is a prefix that means above. Epidermis means the layer above the dermis. Epi-genetic control literally means "control above the genes."

How an organism perceives the environment or, in the case of humans, what an organism believes about the environment, actually controls its genetics. If we change our perceptions or beliefs or attitudes about life, we actually change our genetic read-out dynamically. This revolution in science empowers you to recognize that your health is under your control.

Now Steve, your path, which I assume may be even more circuitous than Bruce's?>

Steve Bhaerman:
I was a very idealistic young teacher in Washington, DC teaching during the late '60s-early '70s. I found some really fabulous ideas about how things could be, but how to put those ideas into practice escaped most people. I remember meeting a world-famous expert on communal living, but nobody could stand to live with him. For the last 30 or 40 years I've been exploring spiritual paths, learning about myself, and seeking ways of making our great ideas congruent with actual reality.

I thought it would be interesting to write a book about healing the body politic, applying a biological or medical metaphor to the wider world. When I read The Biology of Belief and met Bruce, I realized that he was the guy I was meant to do this book with. In Spontaneous Evolution we hope to help people see that many of the beliefs we've been living by are now burned-out stars, yet we keep trying to navigate by them.

Steve, you left out the fact that a big part of your path has been humor.

For the last 20-something years I've been performing and writing as Swami Beyondananda, the cosmic comic. Humor is a great way to allow new ideas to infiltrate, and I've learned a lot cohabiting with the Swami. As soon as I put the turban on [with Indian accent], oh then we've got a whole different set of wisdom coming out.

 Bruce, how did you decide to take on this collaboration?

I got so caught up with cellular biology and the biology of belief that I kept putting the biological understanding of civilization on the back burner -- until Steve and I started talking.

Most people get caught up in, "Oh my God, crisis here, crisis there. What are we going to do? The sky is falling!" For the last few years Steve and I have been crafting an understanding that says we're in a transition. Rather than focusing on what's coming apart, we want people to understand that this crisis makes it possible to move to a much higher level of evolution.

Let's pull apart some of the threads that you deal with in the book. You say 1) there are three perennial questions that any belief system needs to address; and 2) that the answers to those questions have changed. What are those three questions?

Why are we here? How did we get here? And now that we're here, how do we make the best of the situation?

And how have those changed?

If you look at recorded history, we began with animism -- simply "I am one with everything." There wasn't much of a distinction between the spiritual world and the material world, and indigenous people were able to navigate these two worlds fairly easily. Had we stayed at that point, we would be little more than human animals in a cosmic petting zoo. But we ventured out to explore.

We then began to see that there are many forces. We recognized the "me" and the "not me," and we began to assign powers to various gods. So we had polytheism. Then came the monotheistic view that there is only one God and one power. The institutionalized version of monotheism through Christianity was very powerful throughout the middle ages.
You single out the institutionalized version of Christianity, not Judaism or Islam?

Christianity is most powerful in terms of its impact on Western society. Christianity's worldview eventually gave birth to scientific materialism as a challenge to the institutionalized version of the infallible church.

The first little chip to fall: Copernicus recognizes that the earth actually revolves around the sun. It takes over 100 years for that belief to be integrated throughout even the thinking world.
As the church loses its infallibility, we see the rise of the current dominant paradigm: scientific materialism, the material world is what matters. Newton, Descartes and the rest say that the universe is a machine.

We are now at the threshold of a new understanding which we call holism, in which what we call "science" and what we call "spirit" are part of the same thing. Yet our institutions are still based on scientific materialism, on beliefs that have actually been disproved by science.

You point out myth perceptions: unexamined pillars that support modern thought. In science, some of these have been proven wrong, but the public hasn't been let in on that yet.

Bruce: When the general population accepts particular answers to perennial questions from some group or entity, they tend to turn to that same source for other truths about the world. When the Church was running the show, if you wanted to find out about health or what's going on in the future, you turned to the priest or the Church for answers.

Or prior to that, the medicine man.

Bruce: In animism. When science took over, we started saying, "You want truth? You don't go to the Church anymore. Now you go to the science people." The flavor of the answers flavors culture and character. When the answers change, civilization changes.

In the current vision of scientific materialism, belief in matter is primary. The Newtonian belief that the universe is a physical machine takes our attention away from the invisible realm. We focus on material acquisition as a representation of how well we're doing in our lives. We take the earth and the environment apart seeking more matter. The more matter you have, the more effective you are in this world. He who dies with the most toys wins.

Over 100 years ago, quantum physics said, "The invisible realm you ignore is actually the primary shaper of the physical realm."

Terrance: I hear you expressing a kind of duality: "We were paying attention to matter, now we've got to pay attention to the invisible." But holism doesn't pay attention to one or the other, it realizes they are in fact the same.
Bruce: Exactly. That's the conclusion we come to. If it sounded like we were emphasizing the spiritual over the material, it was only because that's the piece that's missing in today's world: the piece that says "Wait there's more to us than this physical plane."

Look over history. The primary differences between civilizations is whether they emphasize the spiritual or the material. With animism, both were the same thing. We're coming back to that. After taking civilization to the spiritual realm under the Church and then into the material realm under the sciences, science and spirituality are coming back to a midpoint, recognizing that they are both critical.

What is the old belief and what is the new belief?

The old belief: Genes predetermine our fate and control who we are. We didn't select our genes and we can't change them, so our lives are beyond our control. That kind of science says I'm a victim, so I need a rescuer. As victims, we turn over our healthcare to other people. But the new biology reveals that our thoughts and beliefs and how we interact with the environment control our genetics.

Until fairly recently I thought that I was born with a blueprint that would play out for the rest of my life. I think that's a common misconception. You're saying that, though we're born with a particular genetic structure, it's not a blueprint or a done deal. Again, not a simple either/or.

The scientific story we've been living says we have no power. But we say we are all active participants in the unfoldment of our own genetics, our own health, and the health of the world that we live in.

You say that from a position of science, not from a position of belief. We've talked about two of the false beliefs: Newtonian physics, and the belief that genes control our lives. What are others?

The premises of Darwinian evolution: that random mutations got life going and that life is based on a struggle for survival of the fittest. Those are beliefs that influence our culture well beyond the realm of science. As a consequence, we live in a world based on competition and struggle. But we have to ask: Is the world really that way or did our beliefs create that impression?

Now we learn that the entangled community called the biosphere is driven not by competition but by cooperation and community. This means our competing has been anti-evolutionary.

Humans evolved over a million years ago. What's evolving now is not the individual human, but the living superorganism called humanity. We are all cells in the body of one living thing. So we need to come together and recognize our unity.

The cells making up humanity will keep killing each other -- as in an autoimmune disease -- until we realize that we're all part of one organism and cooperation is key. The way we live in our world today mimics some of our biggest health issues: autoimmune diseases like arthritis, Alzheimer's and cancer. The fundamental underlying issue in almost all illnesses today is stress. When stress hormones are released into your body, the same hormones that get you ready for fight and flight, also shut off the immune system.

In the old days, fleeing or confronting a tiger, you didn't need immunity or digestion or much intellectual capacity. You needed speed and force. And so the body turns off certain things and turns on others. In modern society, however, those stressors are often symbolic and constant. What about the notion of random evolution?

"Why are we here?" If you start from random mutations, we're just an accident, a genetic crap-shoot. That belief disconnects us from the biosphere and all the other organisms on the planet. But the fundamental nature of evolution is that every new organism emerges into the biosphere to bring greater harmony and balance to the environment.

You're saying evolution is not about individual organisms, it's about larger and larger ecosystems.

We started this whole cycle of civilizations with animism and we have to return to that kind of awareness. Belief systems that allow us to pollute will go away when we realize we're part of an intricate and delicate network and web of life.

You conclude that the crises and breakdowns we're facing are in some ways a good thing that will allow the rise of new and better systems. That may not be such good news to a lot of people who are hurt in the process. Steve: Survival of the fittest is a dominator belief system. We must move to "thrival of the fittingest" where we disperse resources in such a way that everybody benefits and we build a common wealth.

When we allow every individual to thrive in a local garden, we allow them local energy, local autonomy, local sustainability. All of a sudden, every group makes a contribution, and we spend less time, energy, money and attention protecting ourselves from one another and fixing things that could have been prevented.

Underneath our skins we have a 50-trillion-cell, highly functional community with technology that far outstrips anything that we've invented with our human minds. When we're healthy, this system is so impeccable and harmonious that within us we have full employment, universal health care, no cell left behind. The organs cooperate with one another so that the whole system can thrive. You never hear about the liver invading the pancreas demanding the islets of Langerhands. It just doesn't happen.

We need to begin to imagine how to put these ideas into practice in our lives, our communities and our world. Awareness is the first step. Every phase of evolution involves expanding awareness and expanding connection.

Are you saying that even evolution that appears to us to be simply physical, arises through awareness and connection?

When single cell organisms "decided" they didn't want to be single any more, they combined in community. And the process of combining as a community enhanced the awareness of each cell. Each now had access to the information that was being gathered and used by other cells. Then we had specialization of cells, and some cells would never see the light of day but would get signals about what was happening out in the world.

Each of us is a community of 50 trillion cells working in concert. At this stage in human evolution, we don't need to grow another arm or a bigger brain. We need to grow greater awareness and connection in community.

What are the implications of that? How do we live our lives? How do we relate to other people? Politically we've been divided -- as if the liver said, "I'm not talking to the heart, to hell with him!" Can we begin to recognize that every nationality, every cluster of human cells, is an organ in this one body of humanity?

What would it be like if our systems -- the organization of money or health care or the law -- actually worked in concert with one another rather than in competition? These are important questions to begin to ask as we take the first steps of new awareness, as we lift ourselves outside the matrix of invisible beliefs that we've mistaken for reality.

What would a person want to know or learn or do to begin to participate in this spontaneous evolution?

We have to start recognizing that our belief systems are controlled by our mind, and that most of our mind is not under our control. We have a conscious mind, the creative mind, home to our wishes and desires, and we have a subconscious mind, a habit mind with programs downloaded. We generally believe that we're running our lives with our creative minds. A lot of people say, "We're facing a crisis, let's create answers and solutions." But 95 percent of our life comes from the habit mind, programmed primarily by other people and our culture.

So even with the best of intentions, we miss 95 percent of where the action is.

Absolutely. That's why we struggle so hard to get to where we want to go. We're operating from invisible beliefs about how life works that were programmed into us before we were six.

In the first six years of your life, you see the stresses and struggles your parents go through, and that becomes a behavioral program in your subconscious mind. Then when you're older, you say, "Let's have a life that's wonderful and joyous and happy." But 95 percent of your life is coming from behaviors downloaded from your parents.

Until we become aware of these invisible programs that undermine us, we look like we're victims to the world. If we want peace and love, harmony and health, and we don't get it, we may conclude that the universe is against us. But from the perspective of the new biology, we undermine ourselves with the acquired beliefs of our culture. We have to rewrite those beliefs to re-empower ourselves.

I knew we were facing lots of crises. Now I learn that 95 percent of what I do is out of my control. Where's the good news?

The good news is if we become aware of it, we can do something about it. Being forewarned is being forearmed.

What can I do about the 95 percent that's habitual?

 Once we recognize how much of our reality is programmed, we can begin to forgive ourselves and forgive others. We can begin to recognize that one thing we have in common is that we're all programmed. That recognition is a first step outside the matrix of controlled beliefs.

I've been told that a person out there is my enemy. We've both been programmed, but with different programs, therefore we disagree. So the first step is to recognize that we are all programmed.

The reality we have in common is not in our heads, it's in our hearts. Scientific studies have shown that we can walk into a room and begin to entrain with one another.

We begin to have similar heartbeats?

Like a tuning fork, we begin to harmonize. When you create situations where people can communicate and listen in a respectful way, an interesting thing happens. We begin to focus on what we have in common as humanity. We begin thinking like a species instead of like individuals.

We're in a similar situation to a caterpillar in the process of transforming into a butterfly. Most of the news is about the caterpillar that can't be fixed. Our book is about the emergence of the butterfly.

While still a caterpillar, the imaginal cells of a new butterfly begin to communicate with one another, allowing new structure to emerge as the caterpillar collapses.

We face a choice of focus. Do we focus on the Titanic sinking or the party boat doing fine?

The premise of all of this is holism, yet out of habit we end up with dualism. I don't accept that it's a choice between this or that. I'm not going to be satisfied focusing on the party boat and ignoring the hunger and inequity around me.

It will take a new structure for that hunger to be solved. We can't solve it at the level that we've created the problem.

 So you're not saying to focus on where the goodies are, you're saying focus on the possibility of evolution and transformation.

We're not saying to ignore the problems in the world. We're simply putting our attention on what we're building instead.

Today we write off whole populations because they don't fit into our economic models. There's hope in our future, because the breakdown is necessary to build a more sustainable foundation. Some people will have terrible problems and others will have great success, yet they're both part of a community.

In your body, no particular cells go hungry. Every cell must be fed for the body to be in harmony. When we begin to treat all humans as cells in one body, and make sure that they all get the basics in life, we create the foundation on which to build an exciting future.

Every cell counts. Every human counts.

• Interviewer Terrence McNally hosts Free Forum on KPFK 90.7FM, Los Angeles and WBAI99.5FM, New York (streaming at kpfk.org and wbai.org.). Visit terrencemcnally.net for podcasts of all interviews and more. He also advises non-profits and foundations on communications. Visit terrencemcnally.net for podcasts of all interviews and more.

Bottleneck Century

SUBHEAD: Human society is now on an unstoppable trajectory for a significant die-off.

 By Kurt Cobb on 31 January 2010 in Resource Insights - 

Image above: Humans in a bottleneck. From (http://quizzicaleyebrow.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/withdean-i/). 

 In his documentary What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire filmmaker Tim Bennett notes that many of the book authors now writing about peak oil, climate change, species extinction and myriad other urgent environmental and resource topics usually end their otherwise grim analyses with what he calls "the happy chapter," a chapter with solutions and responses which will supposedly help us to avert catastrophe. In a new book, Bottleneck: Humanity's Impending Impasse, William Catton, Jr. dispenses with "the happy chapter" altogether and simply gives us the grim prognosis. Human society is now on an unstoppable trajectory for a significant die-off.

 Catton, author of the well-known classic of human ecology, Overshoot, expects that by 2100 the world population will be smaller, perhaps much smaller, than it is today. We are in what he calls "the bottleneck century." He likens our situation to that of an airplane taking off at nighttime with a crew that is unaware that the runway is too short. The pilot will accelerate the plane as usual expecting a normal takeoff.

Unless the pilot somehow receives and believes a warning to brake and reverse the engines quickly, by the time he or she actually sees the end of the runway, it will be too late and the plane will crash. Well, the warnings have been issued, Catton explains. And, few people believe them. Catton spends much of the book explaining why this is so. As you read his explanation, it becomes clear why there will be no "happy chapter" at the end.

The main culprit, according to Catton, is the division of labor into ever smaller occupational niches. The marvel of such a system is that people who know nothing about one another's occupation can cooperate through the miracle of the marketplace to increase society's overall productivity and wealth. And, they can exchange every kind of good or service through the medium of money. The downside of such a complex and finely differentiated system is that no one can really understand it.

That might not matter so much except that fossil fuels have enabled humans to increase both their numbers and per capita consumption enormously in the last 200 years. The impact of that vast increase on the world's renewable and nonrenewable resources has been profound. It has lead to all the effects mentioned above and many others including deforestation, heavy erosion of farmland, toxic pollution of air and water, and overharvesting of fisheries.

 But how does our complex division of labor make it more difficult to respond to these problems? First, we cannot make an independent appraisal of these problems because of our limited knowledge, mostly confined to our occupational niches. As a result we must rely on experts. This leads to the second difficulty. We are often faced with competing opinions among experts.

Never mind that some of these experts are merely paid spokespersons for the fossil fuel industry or for big agribusiness or for the forestry industry. Without careful discernment, most of the public has difficulty differentiating scientifically-based statements from mere polemic and outright falsehood. The mass media thus becomes a conduit for propagating bad or at least inconclusive information. In short, the feedback we humans need to in order to run our society in a sustainable way is dangerously lacking.

Because language is the way humans coordinate much of their activity--especially in our complex society of highly differentiated occupations--when that language becomes corrupted or is used to deceive, it works against the survivability of the species. One problem is that we have outdated wordmaps which tell us, for instance, that natural resource extraction is really "production" and can therefore be expanded as necessary whenever we like. And, we believe we can throw things "away," when there really never has been any "away." We "throw away" our carbon emissions into the atmosphere and produce global warming.

We "throw away" our toxic chemicals into landfills which then leak into our waterways. Third, since nearly all humans now labor in exceedingly narrow occupational niches, they seek to maintain those niches by competing with others. The famed sociologist Emile Durkheim hypothesized that division of labor would create solidarity among humans through interdependence. Instead, it has created the alienation and competition that go hand-in-hand with the dominance of the market system in nearly every economic transaction.

Most humans now believe their lives are about acquiring money rather than resources since for so many money is the only gateway to the resources they need. This financializes their thinking and makes it difficult to talk about Earth systems in some other context than the market. Fourth, human beings evolve in response to current conditions, not future ones. Humans are known to discount possible future events greatly. This puts their focus on what they are experiencing right now and makes them vulnerable to large, abrupt changes since their inclination to prepare for future changes is exceedingly limited.

The competitive and impersonal nature of modern society, the corruption of language and control of mass communication by vested interests, and the focus of humans on the here and now combine to make it all but impossible to coordinate human efforts worldwide in the thoroughgoing way that would be required to avoid the bottleneck.

Those efforts would have to include an immediate drop in fertility rates below replacement, a vast reduction in the consumption of natural resources, and the complete abandonment of the burning of fossil fuels. You can see why Catton thinks such developments must be placed in the "impossible" category. None of these main points are dealt with systematically in the book, but appear and reappear in various contexts.

Catton could have used an editor to help him organize his message and make it more succinct and focused. For example, the many personal anecdotes sprinkled throughout the text seem as if they could have been eliminated or at least been more sharply written. The failure of style in this book may result from it being self-published. But I can understand Catton's urgency. At 84 he may have felt that he didn't want to wait to line up a regular publisher. Still, despite Catton's discursive style, the reader will be rewarded with his subtle insights into the nexus between nature and human society.

Rather than giving us a catalogue of our depleted resources; our poisoned water, food and air; or the data behind our endangered climate, he assumes all of this and tells us why human beings are unlikely to respond to these problems and therefore seem almost certain to face a bottleneck in this century. For those who have read his marvelous book Overshoot, this new book will not seem as challenging as it otherwise might be.

 "Bottleneck" ends with a disheartening message for it suggests that there is no alternative but to prepare for the bottleneck. Catton is nevertheless explicit about the advantages of knowing the worst rather than living in any temporary blissful ignorance. He does not believe humans will be wiped out, but rather that their numbers will be considerably reduced and their societies simplified. If his book contributes to some form of ecological awareness that can be transmitted beyond the bottleneck, then he says he will consider it a success. It's an oddly humble objective for a book so sweeping in its conclusions.

 See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: One Time Through the Bottleneck 4/26/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Ghost Slave's Carrying Capacity 9/8/09


Kauai Energy Plan Dialog

clickcSUBHEAD: Hinrichs defends Sentech recommendations. What do you think of the plan? Comments taken until Feb. 16th.

By Michael Levine on 22 January 2010 in The Garden Island - 

Image above: Aerial photo of diesel fueled electric lighting in Honolulu, Hawaii, at night. From (http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitonin/4001396164).

[IB Editor’s note: After the recently unveiled Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan — specifically its recommendation of a 50-cent fuel tax — drew criticism from some members of the Kauai County Council, The Garden Island asked KESP consultant Douglas Hinrichs of Sentech Hawaii to respond to five questions. Those questions and Hinrichs’ answers, lightly edited for grammar, can be found below. An abbreviated version was published in Saturday’s print edition.]

The Garden Island #1:
The Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan draft drew some criticism that now is a bad time to implement a 50-cent fuel tax when people are struggling with unemployment, furloughs and a generally sluggish economy. Do you agree? When do you believe would be a good time to implement the fuel tax? Was the current economic climate taken into consideration when devising that specific recommendation?

Douglas Hinrichs:
First, let me say that I really appreciate this chance to address some of the questions and concerns about the public draft of the Kaua‘i Energy Sustainability Plan.

Regarding the timing of the proposed fuel tax — any plan that does not take into account the economic climate into which it is being introduced is not worth its weight in salt. The Sentech Hawai‘i team was originally put together because it had a solid mix of professionals whose job it was to know in detail national and state energy and economic trends, for example in support of various sustainability projects, the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative, etc. Once it was awarded the county contract to develop the Kaua‘i Energy Sustainability Plan, the team took several steps to ensure that it learned about Kaua‘i’s unique energy and economics situation:
By including Kaua‘i Planning and Action Alliance and Maurice Kaya on the Sentech Hawai‘i Team;

By convening 15 meetings with stakeholders and the general public;

By spending nearly a year analyzing the ground transportation and electricity sectors on Kaua‘i; and

By talking to countless numbers of every day folks on Kaua‘i who showed interest in what we were doing. We are very aware, for example, of the fact that many folks on Kaua‘i are working two or even three jobs to stay on top of things, that it’s not cheap to live in paradise.

This is not to suggest that our team knows everything — we’re still learning a lot after we rolled out the Plan to the public in early January. When we’re done with the final Plan in mid-February, our Team hopes to deliver a document that represents the will of most of the citizens and their elected leaders on Kaua‘i without imposing undue economic hardship on any one group.

Any time significant change is proposed, there’s bound to be some discomfort, dissatisfaction, and hardship, which is why the Team worked very hard to counterbalance any hardship with cost-effective alternatives to the status quo, to quickly alleviate any hardships. In the most recent version of the Plan are more frequent bus routes, incentives that would allow Kauaians to own/operate hybrid vehicles that cost less than half as much to operate as conventional vehicles, and so on. And the community is finding other ways to save fuel and money. Since the public rollout of the Plan, for example, the community has suggested that we include door-to-door vans to shuttle service industry workers between home and hotels.

Members of the community have also suggested a phased-in fuel tax, which may be an effective way to alleviate hardship, especially to working class folks who may be struggling financially.

Most politicians would be hard pressed to find a “good” time to introduce any kind of tax such as the proposed fuel tax, and bold political leadership is needed if Kaua‘i is indeed going to be a beacon of sustainable energy to the world. In a purely economic sense, however, investing in a local and sustainable energy future is a wise investment since it would:

Keep energy dollars local instead of shipping them abroad;

Create thousands of local jobs;

Let the community disengage from a global oil market that has exhibited high and volatile prices as recently as 2008;

Allow Kaua‘i to have control over future energy prices.

By paying (in early 2010) about $4 per gallon for gasoline with the additional fuel tax, the Kaua‘i community will reduce liquid fuel demand with better public transportation and vehicles that are twice as efficient as the current stock, support local ethanol and biodiesel production, and also be able to predict the cost of local ethanol and biodiesel. On the electricity generation side, an average homeowner would pay about 34 cents per kWh (which would be phased in as renewable energy projects came online) to stabilize electric rates into the future, and prevent rates of 50 cents per kWh (or higher) that he or she paid in 2008.

In this economic and “risk mitigation” light, Kauaians have a fundamental, soul-searching choice to make. They can:

Assume a measured, calculated risk by implementing this fuel tax (and finding a price support mechanism for renewable energy) and manage predictable energy prices while keeping most of their energy dollars on-island; or

Assume a risk completely out of their control and hope that oil prices stay manageable while sending most of their dollars abroad.

TGI #2:
You said today that it’s not your job to implement the recommendations or get into politics. Do you believe that the fuel tax recommendation is politically “palatable”? Do you care if it is? Did you weigh the likelihood of implementation when devising the recommendations, or would you say the plan is conceived in, and for, an “ideal world”?


To set the context correctly, the Sentech Hawai‘i team was selected, as part of a competitive solicitation, to develop a plan with specific recommendations that would convert the county’s current oil-dependent energy paradigm to one that is based on local and sustainable renewable energy and fuels. Within the “scope of work” parameters from the county, it was made clear that it was not our team’s role to implement the plan. It was also made clear that nobody wanted a plan that would end up never being used, but just forgotten on some dusty shelf.

The team most definitely considered how politically palatable and implementable the Kaua‘i-specific plan would be, at every step of the way. The fact that there’s a fair amount of “sticker shock” associated with the fuel tax is completely understandable, yet if Kaua‘i is to achieve 100 percent local energy sustainability, it won’t happen without political risk.

Yet, if the plan is carried out in full, its rewards should greatly outweigh its risks. Future generations will inherit a model of energy sustainability — while breathing cleaner air, paying less for energy, driving or riding to work in vehicles running on excess renewable energy or locally grown biofuels, and turning on their lights and TVs that are literally powered by the elements of nature that makes Kaua‘i the paradise that it is. But frankly, it will take some money to get from here to there — and the plan points to how other communities have achieved their goals with various levels of policies that deal with money such as fuel taxes, incentives, feed-in tariffs, and so on.

On the biofuels side, Kaua‘i has acres and acres of land that it can use to grow sugar, banagrass, jatropha, soybeans, or other crops that can be converted to ethanol and bioidiesel to replace gasoline and diesel derived from imported oil. Yet, landowners can make a lot of money by selling or leasing their land to condo developers, to grain crop growers, to a variety of purposes. If landowners are going to commit to growing biofuel crops, Kaua‘i needs a way to help them mitigate their risks, ensure a reasonable return on the millions of dollars needed, and ensure a market for their crops.

On the electricity side, sunshine may be free, but converting it to electricity is not. For example, concentrating solar power takes a large investment in the conversion equipment, thermal storage systems that allow generators to keep a reserve of energy (when the sun stops shining for short periods), biomass boilers that allow generators to have a backup source of heat, and in controls that allow that energy to be safely and efficiently integrated onto the grid.

It’s up to the community, of course, what path it chooses regarding its energy future. Yet, if Kaua‘i is serious about meeting its stated 100 percent local energy sustainability goals in 20 years, it will take some sacrifice, discomfort, and dissatisfaction as an entire paradigm is shifted, and rather quickly. Incremental change has not worked to date, and it will probably not work in the future.

TGI #3:
Some council members said disincentivizing fuel consumption and automobile use is a good goal, but that stronger alternate transportation options need to be available before that can happen. I know you live in/near Washington D.C., a major city with an assortment of sidewalks, bike lanes, buses, taxis, trains and the Metro. Do you believe a community with as much sprawl as Kaua‘i can in the next 20 years offer a sufficiently robust public transportation system to make owning a car truly optional?

Washington, D.C. and Kaua‘i are radically different in terms of their ground transportation needs, investments, capacity, and infrastructure so logically any ground transportation plan would have to be customized to these or other areas. While I live in DC, my work in Hawai‘i over the last 14 years has given me a strong sense of the unique transportation challenges it faces.

However, the larger KESP team lives, works and commutes in Kaua‘i daily and is very familiar with all the transportation advantages and challenges from Kaua‘i’s sprawling community. It’s important to note, too, that the plan assesses lessons learned from cities of many and varying characteristics, from Austin, Texas, to Portland, Ore., to Boulder, Colo.

Our team believes that Kaua‘i can greatly increase their public transportation options as viable alternatives to driving cars and pickups without prescribing that anyone abandon their car. The team greatly respects the rights of Kauaians to make their own transportation decisions, and as such the plan actually increases the variety of options that they can choose from by building the proposed “Sustainable Ground Transportation Fund.”

This Fund, built by the fuel tax, would help provide more transportation options including organized ride sharing; increased bus route frequency; door-to-door van shuttles for service industry workers; public buses that use 32 percent less, and school buses that use 65 percent less diesel. The team also considered other options such as improved bike paths, highway modernization, and smart growth projects, but found that these options were already underway.

TGI #4:
Fuel tax proposals like the one recommended in the KESP draft have been described as “regressive” because the working-class drivers who cannot afford to purchase hybrid vehicles, even with thousands of dollars in county incentives available, are the ones who end up paying the tax, while more affluent drivers, who could afford to pay the tax, are also the ones who can afford to upgrade to fuel-efficient vehicles. Are you at all concerned about the social implications of a regressive proposal that taxes working-class and middle-class citizens more than upper-class citizens?

The implications of the plan’s fuel tax on working class, middle, and affluent citizens were seriously considered when developing the plan’s increased fuel tax recommendations. Our team is very sensitive to the fact that working class folks could potentially, although only temporarily, bear a disproportionate tax burden.

From recent history, the team is also aware that people at all income levels found inventive ways to conserve gasoline when it cost between $4 and $5 per gallon during the oil price run-up in 2008. The incentives that our team is recommending to make hybrid vehicles comparably priced to conventional internal combustion engines would make that decision less costly. It’s also important to note that the plan doesn’t suggest every citizen rush out and buy a new car in 2010, 2011, or ever. After an initial cycle of hybrid or flex fuel vehicles is traded in, used vehicles will presumably be more affordable for the working and middle classes if they choose to buy a vehicle.

Our team looked at several tax and program options for the ground transportation sector — including the ones that the county or state had jurisdiction over (e.g., the General Excise Tax, the Vehicle Weight Tax, the KIUC Franchise Tax, the TAT); and other options such as an Oil Barrel Tax, a Cash-for-Clunkers, and others. Each had their upsides and downsides, as well as program administrative costs.

The simplicity of a flat tax that is directly proportionate to the amount of a commodity consumed (gas or diesel) is by many standards the most fair, straightforward and transparent approach to disincentivizing the commodity. Nevertheless, the team is very amenable to continuing a dialogue that may forge a path toward alleviating even a temporary burden from the working class (with perhaps a revolving fund to help buy down vehicle purchases), while ensuring that enough funds are raised to accomplish the paradigm shift from imported oil to local energy sustainability.

TGI #5:
Councilman (Tim) Bynum seemed to use his criticism of the fuel tax proposal to undermine his faith in the KESP draft and your work as a whole, tying the fuel tax to the lack of wind energy analysis. Councilman (Jay) Furfaro told me today he does not agree with the fuel tax proposal but sees it as merely a funding mechanism for the other transportation-related recommendations in the plan.

Are either of them correct? Should the plan be taken in its entirety, or can each proposal be taken on its own? Does the fuel tax proposal make sense in a vacuum, as a disincentive for fuel consumption, or is it only useful if considered alongside other recommendations? And do those recommendations make sense with other funding mechanisms like the county General Fund, grants or the federal stimulus, or only if the fuel tax is implemented?


Most or all of the Sentech Hawai‘i personally agree with Councilman Bynum’s enthusiasm for wind, and I for one applaud his efforts to find some “common ground” approaches to getting more wind energy systems sited on Kaua‘i. Wind is one of the more cost-effective and clean renewable energy options out there, and Kaua‘i has tremendous wind potential.

The wind industry is growing at an exponential rate and advanced voltage regulation technologies on some of the turbines from Europe allow safer wind energy integration onto the grid. Large storage and control systems allow for higher dispatchability from an ISO perspective.

Yet part of what makes Kaua‘i the inimitable paradise that it is includes it rare and endangered species, including the Newell Shearwater. As the apparent standoff between wind developers and people dedicated to preserving endangered species became apparent to the team, it suggested compromises such as more aggressive Habitat Conservation Plans, high replacement ratios for bird takes, micro-siting in areas with wind potential but few birds, operational changes including turning the turbines off at night during migration periods, and even off-shore wind turbines.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, none of these “common ground” approaches can trump Federal legislation that protects endangered species — no matter how cost-effective and desirable wind energy is.

The fuel tax has received the most attention of any of the plan’s recommendations, yet the fuel tax — to make sense — has to be put into context, within the full set of the plan’s recommendations, for its full impact and objectives to be appreciated. The fuel tax is meant to disincentivize gas and diesel demand through:

Encouraging folks to find creative ways to drive fewer miles (like they did when gas climbed to between $4/gallon and $5/gallon in 2008);

Sharing rides with their neighbors;

Taking the bus more — especially if the buses ran more often;

Taking a shuttle van to the hotel where they work (if they work in the visitor industry); and

Replacing their current car or pickup with affordable hybrid electric vehicles that could cut their fuel bill in half.

And many of these alternatives would be available almost immediately if the fuel tax is passed — and the amount of money available for those alternatives would of course depend on the actual fuel tax. But the fuel tax would also allow the community to invest, on the supply side, in an ethanol and flex fuel vehicle paradigm that is working very well in Brazil.

In a similar fashion, the fuel tax would also help offset the costs to produce biodiesel from locally grown crops for use in commercially available vehicles. Cars such as the VW Jetta are winning environmental awards, as well as getting 42 mpg; many pickup truck owners are already using biodiesel in their trucks; and a new fleet of biodiesel-hybrid heavy trucks is on the market.

Recommendation #1: Fuel Tax (Ground Transportation) The following 10 blogs provide a broad overview of the 10 recommendations from the Draft Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan ("the Plan"). Please review each post and comment on those recommendations that are of most interest to you. Note that the comment period is open through February 16th. If you would like to comment to Doug Hinrichs personally, please e-mail dhinrichs@sentech.org or call 301-219-7647. Mahalo! To view the entire recommendation in the text of the Plan, please visit: http://www.kauainetwork.org/get-involved.asp.  

The first and most publicized recommendation is detailed in the images below. Public opinion has been varied, but passionate. See the Garden Island news articles for some opinions that have already been expressed: January 15, 2010: Members criticize ‘ridiculous’ 50-cent fuel tax proposal January 7, 2010: Energy Plan Calls for a 50 Cent/Gallon Gas Tax Click here to continue reading this post!

Recommendation #2: Efficient Vehicle Incentives This blog provides a broad overview of the second of 10 recommendations from the Draft Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan ("the Plan"). Please review each post and comment on those recommendations that are of most interest to you. Note that the comment period is open through February 16th. If you would like to comment to Doug Hinrichs personally, please e-mail dhinrichs@sentech.org or call 301-219-7647. Mahalo! To view the entire recommendation in the text of the Plan, please visit: http://www.kauainetwork.org/get-involved.asp. The second recommendation, which relates to ground transportation, is detailed below. Click here to continue reading this post!

Recommendation #3: Integrated Transportation Demand Management Plan This blog provides a broad overview of the third of 10 recommendations from the Draft Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan ("the Plan"). Please review each post and comment on those recommendations that are of most interest to you. Note that the comment period is open through February 16th. If you would like to comment to Doug Hinrichs personally, please e-mail dhinrichs@sentech.org or call 301-219-7647. Mahalo! To view the entire recommendation in the text of the Plan, please visit: http://www.kauainetwork.org/get-involved.asp. The third recommendation, which relates to ground transportation, is detailed below. Click here to continue reading this post!

Recommendation #4: Biofuels integrated Refinery Partnership This blog provides a broad overview of the fourth of 10 recommendations from the Draft Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan ("the Plan"). Please review each post and comment on those recommendations that are of most interest to you. Note that the comment period is open through February 16th. If you would like to comment to Doug Hinrichs personally, please e-mail dhinrichs@sentech.org or call 301-219-7647. Mahalo! To view the entire recommendation in the text of the Plan, please visit: http://www.kauainetwork.org/get-involved.asp. The fourth recommendation, which relates to ground transportation, is detailed below. Click here to continue reading this post!

Recommendation #5: Land Repurposing This blog provides a broad overview of the fifth of 10 recommendations from the Draft Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan ("the Plan"). Please review each post and comment on those recommendations that are of most interest to you. Note that the comment period is open through February 16th. If you would like to comment to Doug Hinrichs personally, please e-mail dhinrichs@sentech.org or call 301-219-7647. Mahalo! To view the entire recommendation in the text of the Plan, please visit: http://www.kauainetwork.org/get-involved.asp. The fifth recommendation, which relates to ground transportation, is detailed below. Click here to continue reading this post!

Recommendation #6: Incentives for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) This blog provides a broad overview of the sixth of 10 recommendations from the Draft Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan ("the Plan"). Please review each post and comment on those recommendations that are of most interest to you. Note that the comment period is open through February 16th. If you would like to comment to Doug Hinrichs personally, please e-mail dhinrichs@sentech.org or call 301-219-7647. Mahalo! To view the entire recommendation in the text of the Plan, please visit: http://www.kauainetwork.org/get-involved.asp. The sixth recommendation, which relates to Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), is detailed below. Click here to continue reading this post!

Recommendation #7: Energy Savings Performance Contracting for Existing Commercial and Public Buildings This blog provides a broad overview of the seventh of 10 recommendations from the Draft Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan ("the Plan"). Please review each post and comment on those recommendations that are of most interest to you. Note that the comment period is open through February 16th. If you would like to comment to Doug Hinrichs personally, please e-mail dhinrichs@sentech.org or call 301-219-7647. Mahalo! To view the entire recommendation in the text of the Plan, please visit: http://www.kauainetwork.org/get-involved.asp. The seventh recommendation, which relates to the electricity sector, is detailed below. Click here to continue reading this post!

Recommendation #8: Adopt LEED Standards for New Commercial Buildings This blog provides a broad overview of the eighth of 10 recommendations from the Draft Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan ("the Plan"). Please review each post and comment on those recommendations that are of most interest to you. Note that the comment period is open through February 16th. If you would like to comment to Doug Hinrichs personally, please e-mail dhinrichs@sentech.org or call 301-219-7647. Mahalo! To view the entire recommendation in the text of the Plan, please visit: http://www.kauainetwork.org/get-involved.asp. The eighth recommendation, which relates to the electricity sector, is detailed below. Click here to continue reading this post!

Recommendation #9: Adopt 2009 IECC Building Codes for New Homes This blog provides a broad overview of the ninth of 10 recommendations from the Draft Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan ("the Plan"). Please review each post and comment on those recommendations that are of most interest to you. Note that the comment period is open through February 16th. If you would like to comment to Doug Hinrichs personally, please e-mail dhinrichs@sentech.org or call 301-219-7647. Mahalo! To view the entire recommendation in the text of the Plan, please visit: http://www.kauainetwork.org/get-involved.asp. The ninth recommendation, which relates to the electricity sector, is detailed below. Click here to continue reading this post!

Recommendation #10: Legislate Feed-in Tariffs This blog provides a broad overview of the ninth of 10 recommendations from the Draft Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan ("the Plan"). Please review each post and comment on those recommendations that are of most interest to you. Note that the comment period is open through February 16th. If you would like to comment to Doug Hinrichs personally, please e-mail dhinrichs@sentech.org or call 301-219-7647. Mahalo! To view the entire recommendation in the text of the Plan, please visit: http://www.kauainetwork.org/get-involved.asp. The tenth recommendation, which relates to the electricity sector, is detailed below. Click here to continue reading this post!

Contact: SENTECH Hawai`i, LLC
Pacific Guardian Tower 1440 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1225 Honolulu, HI 96814 Phone 301-219-7647
In early 2009, the SENTECH Hawai'i office was opened in downtown Honolulu (Oahu) to provide on-the-ground support to two Hawaii-based initiatives: the Hawai'i Clean Energy Initiative and the Kaua'i Energy Sustainability Plan.

See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Energy Plan Failure 1/16/10 .

China leads Energy Race

SUBHEAD: As China takes the lead on wind turbines and solar panels, President Obama is calling for American industry to step up.

By Keith Bradsher on 31 January 2010 in the New York Times -

Image above: Chinese workers finishing a mold for a wind turbine blade part. 

China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world’s largest maker of wind turbines, and is poised to expand even further this year.

China has also leapfrogged the West in the last two years to emerge as the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels. And the country is pushing equally hard to build nuclear reactors and the most efficient types of coal power plants.

These efforts to dominate renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the West may someday trade its dependence on oil from the Mideast for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines and other gear manufactured in China.

“Most of the energy equipment will carry a brass plate, ‘Made in China,’ ” said K. K. Chan, the chief executive of Nature Elements Capital, a private equity fund in Beijing that focuses on renewable energy.

President Obama, in his State of the Union speech last week, sounded an alarm that the United States was falling behind other countries, especially China, on energy. “I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders — and I know you don’t either,” he told Congress.

The United States and other countries are offering incentives to develop their own renewable energy industries, and Mr. Obama called for redoubling American efforts. Yet many Western and Chinese executives expect China to prevail in the energy-technology race.

Multinational corporations are responding to the rapid growth of China’s market by building big, state-of-the-art factories in China. Vestas of Denmark has just erected the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturing complex here in northeastern China, and transferred the technology to build the latest electronic controls and generators.

“You have to move fast with the market,” said Jens Tommerup, the president of Vestas China. “Nobody has ever seen such fast development in a wind market.”

Renewable energy industries here are adding jobs rapidly, reaching 1.12 million in 2008 and climbing by 100,000 a year, according to the government-backed Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association.

Yet renewable energy may be doing more for China’s economy than for the environment. Total power generation in China is on track to pass the United States in 2012 — and most of the added capacity will still be from coal.

China intends for wind, solar and biomass energy to represent 8 percent of its electricity generation capacity by 2020. That compares with less than 4 percent now in China and the United States. Coal will still represent two-thirds of China’s capacity in 2020, and nuclear and hydropower most of the rest.

As China seeks to dominate energy-equipment exports, it has the advantage of being the world’s largest market for power equipment. The government spends heavily to upgrade the electricity grid, committing $45 billion in 2009 alone. State-owned banks provide generous financing.

China’s top leaders are intensely focused on energy policy: on Wednesday, the government announced the creation of a National Energy Commission composed of cabinet ministers as a “superministry” led by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao himself.

Regulators have set mandates for power generation companies to use more renewable energy. Generous subsidies for consumers to install their own solar panels or solar water heaters have produced flurries of activity on rooftops across China.

China’s biggest advantage may be its domestic demand for electricity, rising 15 percent a year. To meet demand in the coming decade, according to statistics from the International Energy Agency, China will need to add nearly nine times as much electricity generation capacity as the United States will.

So while Americans are used to thinking of themselves as having the world’s largest market in many industries, China’s market for power equipment dwarfs that of the United States, even though the American market is more mature. That means Chinese producers enjoy enormous efficiencies from large-scale production.

In the United States, power companies frequently face a choice between buying renewable energy equipment or continuing to operate fossil-fuel-fired power plants that have already been built and paid for. In China, power companies have to buy lots of new equipment anyway, and alternative energy, particularly wind and nuclear, is increasingly priced competitively.

Interest rates as low as 2 percent for bank loans — the result of a savings rate of 40 percent and a government policy of steering loans to renewable energy — have also made a big difference.

As in many other industries, China’s low labor costs are an advantage in energy. Although Chinese wages have risen sharply in the last five years, Vestas still pays assembly line workers here only $4,100 a year.

China’s commitment to renewable energy is expensive. Although costs are falling steeply through mass production, wind energy is still 20 to 40 percent more expensive than coal-fired power. Solar power is still at least twice as expensive as coal.

The Chinese government charges a renewable energy fee to all electricity users. The fee increases residential electricity bills by 0.25 percent to 0.4 percent. For industrial users of electricity, the fee doubled in November to roughly 0.8 percent of the electricity bill.

The fee revenue goes to companies that operate the electricity grid, to make up the cost difference between renewable energy and coal-fired power.

Renewable energy fees are not yet high enough to affect China’s competitiveness even in energy-intensive industries, said the chairman of a Chinese industrial company, who asked not to be identified because of the political sensitivity of electricity rates in China.

Grid operators are unhappy. They are reimbursed for the extra cost of buying renewable energy instead of coal-fired power, but not for the formidable cost of building power lines to wind turbines and other renewable energy producers, many of them in remote, windswept areas. Transmission losses are high for sending power over long distances to cities, and nearly a third of China’s wind turbines are not yet connected to the national grid.

Most of these turbines were built only in the last year, however, and grid construction has not caught up. Under legislation passed by the Chinese legislature on Dec. 26, a grid operator that does not connect a renewable energy operation to the grid must pay that operation twice the value of the electricity that cannot be distributed.

With prices tumbling, China’s wind and solar industries are increasingly looking to sell equipment abroad — and facing complaints by Western companies that they have unfair advantages. When a Chinese company reached a deal in November to supply turbines for a big wind farm in Texas, there were calls in Congress to halt federal spending on imported equipment.

“Every country, including the United States and in Europe, wants a low cost of renewable energy,” said Ma Lingjuan, deputy managing director of China’s renewable energy association. “Now China has reached that level, but it gets criticized by the rest of the world.”.

Kauai Solar Farm in 2011

SUBHEAD: It’s official. Farming sunshine into electricity will become a reality for the island’s Westside.

By Coco Zickos on 31 January 2010 in The Garcen Island -  

Image above: Rendering of how the Westside solar farm facility would look from Kaumualii Highway before landscaping grows in and shields it from view. Multiple rows of 18-foot tall mirrors capture the sun’s heat, warming a fluid located in tubes which run above the solar collecting troughs.  

It’s official. Farming sunshine into electricity will become a reality for the island’s Westside.
Pacific Light & Power put pen to paper Thursday, signing a lease to construct a 10-megawatt concentrated solar thermal power plant on some 100 acres of “sub-optimal” farmland between Waimea and Kekaha, CEO Dick Roth announced at the most recent Apollo Kaua‘i meeting.
The first of its kind in the Pacific Region, efforts to bring the Anahola-based company to fruition have been ongoing since the fourth quarter of 2007, said Palo Luckett, chief development officer and managing member.

“This is a big step in reducing the island’s carbon footprint,” said Pacific Light & Power spokesperson Canen Ho‘okano. “We will be regaining our energy independence” and it will help “stabilize” energy prices.

Rather than being at the mercy of fluctuating oil prices, Luckett said, “the input is free, it’s the sun.”
Offsetting 15,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year from fossil fuels and saving the island from importing around 1 million gallons of diesel annually, the solar thermal farm will implement clean, renewable energy from the sun, Roth said in November.

Different from photovoltaic systems which use light from the sun to create electricity, solar thermal systems capture the sun’s heat.

“Like a magnifying glass burning one hole in one slippah,” Ho‘okano explained.

Multiple rows of 18-foot tall mirrors capture the sun’s heat, warming a fluid located in tubes which run above the solar collectors or troughs.

This 750 degree heated fluid is moved to a heat exchanger that boils water under pressure, generating steam which drives the turbine, thereby creating electricity for the local grid.

The industrial-sized facility will be more efficient, less expensive and will have a greater lifespan that a PV system, Roth said.

When a cloud blocks the sun, PV power drops instantaneously, he cited as an example.

“It would be a nightmare for a grid operator,” he said. Especially for a small grid like Kaua‘i where brown- or black-outs would occur.

Supplying electricity for about 8,000 single-family residences, the facility — located on land owned by the Knudsen family and Kikiaola Land Company — will have storage capabilities of up to three hours, Roth said.

And it won’t look unsightly, he added.

Plans are already underway to grow native vegetation to not only shield the mirrored troughs, but to help provide a habitat for endemic Hawai‘i birds.

“It will not be a huge, ugly thing,” he said.

Image above: Plan view of location forproposed solar power generating plant at turn off to Kekaka town.

Plus, the facility will not generate sound, heat or emissions, Roth added.

It is even expected to have a bike path. “We wanted to create something interesting,” he said.
And in an effort to be good neighbors, Ho‘okano has been spearheading community outreach by meeting with schools and neighborhood associations on the sunny side of the island.

“We’ve had tremendous support from everyone on the Westside,” he said Thursday.

Employees of Pacific Light & Power have also been doing their due diligence as far as preparation for the likelihood of future hurricane conditions.

“Our biggest challenge will be stuff blowing in,” Roth said regarding the possibility of shattered mirrors. But several efforts to mitigate wind, such as straps which will tie down the troughs are already in motion.

“We are planning for the hurricane we know will eventually come,” he said.

With the federal government “picking up 30 percent of the tab,” total costs are expected to be some $70 million, Roth said.

The engineering process and environmental work have already begun and Roth said he is “optimistic” construction will begin by the end of this year.

We would like to see it online by the end of 2011, he said.

For more information visit pacificpowerandlight.com.

• Coco Zickos, business and environmental writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or czickos@kauaipubco.com.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Farming Sunshine 11/19/09


Corporate logos for those elected

SUBHEAD: The bankruptcy of this country is already far advanced, and the process will be accelerated by making it an open kleptocracy.

By John M├ędaille on 25 January 2010 in Front Porch Republic -  

Image above: Photo of NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek in corporate racing suit. From (http://blog.al.com/blogoftomorrow/2007/09/lawsuit_offers_insight_into_na.html)  

Conservatives have long believed that the power of the courts to “legislate from the bench” was a great and anti-democratic evil which could only be remedied by strict interpretation of the Constitution combined with sensitivity to the “original intent” of the founders and deference to the legislative branch. And they had good reason to believe this, since it is unlikely that the founders would have approved of many pieces of court legislation.

Abortion, for example, could not be part of the original intent, and such a “right” is neither in the Constitution nor in its “penumbra” (to use Justice’s Douglas’s rather inventive term.) Indeed, many prominent features of American life are, for better or worse, not products of our democracy, but of our judicial system. Alas, when conservatives themselves gain control of the court, it seems they are no better at exercising judicial restraint than are their liberal counterparts. Indeed, the “conservative court” has on several occasions completely changed the political landscape of the United States. This happened, for example, in Bush v. Gore, when the election was decided by five members of the court. And it happened again this last Thursday in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

The case concerns a movie entitled “Hillary” (as in “Clinton”) put out by a non-profit corporation, “Citizens United,” whose president is Floyd Brown, a long time political activist who is credited, among other dubious achievements, with the Willie Horton ads. “When we’re through,” Brown remarked, “people are going to think that Willie Horton is Michael Dukakis’ nephew.” Brown came up with a clever way around the campaign finance laws which banned political ads from corporations or unions 30 days prior to an election. He would run ads for the movie, and since he was just advertising a movie, it wasn’t political advertising at all. Never mind that the movie, and the ads, were derogatory at best. The Federal Election Committee refused to go along with the ruse, and CU sued.

All CU wanted was for the court to bless their end-run around the campaign laws. Corporate contributions were not an issue in the case, and not part of the relief that plaintiffs were seeking. But for some unknown reasons, the court decided to re-hear the case on grounds that had nothing to do with the plaintiffs plea. The rehearing was peculiar, not only in widening the grounds of the case beyond the issues that were placed before it, but in ordering the rehearing for September 9th, a full month before the court’s session normally began. This seems to indicate some undue haste in deciding so pivotal an issue. One is tempted to think that the majority wanted this issue decided in time to dismantle the current laws in advance of the coming congressional elections. One is permitted to ask here whether the court’s agenda is judicial or political.

In ruling on the issues presented to it, the court upheld the FEC against CU. But on the issues that were no part of the original case, they voluntarily threw out restrictions against corporate funding of campaigns, restrictions that date back to 1907 and have been upheld by every court since then, in test after test. They have, at a stroke, undone 100 years of legislation and judicial precedent. This is not evolution, but revolution, and a revolution predicated on some very peculiar grounds.

The majority of the court treated this as a “free speech” case. Yet, this is somewhat perplexing. As far as I know, CEOs have always had the right to say whatever they liked, to support whatever candidate they wanted, to go to whatever rallies they wished, and to write letters to the editor whenever they felt the need. That is, they enjoyed all the rights of free speech that every other citizen has. As far as I can recall, there are very few corporate executives in prison for expressing their opinions.

The court, however, was not interested in the rights of the executives, but in the rights of the corporations as “legal persons” endowed with all the rights of natural persons. This is a rather peculiar doctrine that originated in another example of legislating from the bench, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific (1886), which granted “personhood” to corporations. This rule was a complete overturning not only of the court’s previous rulings, but of the long history of corporation law dating back to the Middle Ages.

The Founding Fathers of our Republic were very suspicious of corporations, since the royally-chartered companies had been used as instruments of oppression against the colonies. The Navigation Acts, for example, gave them exclusive shipping rights to the colonies, much to the detriment of American entrepreneurs. And it was East India Company tea that the colonists used to color the waters of Boston harbor in the original tea party. For a jurisprudence that pretends to be interested in “original intent,” the colonial attitude towards corporate power cannot be overlooked.

Corporations, prior to the Santa Clara case, were creatures of the state that had no “rights” save those that were granted by their charters, charters that always excluded their participation in politics. Santa Clara extended the protections of the 14th Amendment (no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”) to the corporations. The Amendment was originally designed to protect the freed slaves, but since Santa Clara it has been used mainly as a tool to protect big business.

The new ruling allows corporate executives to use the company treasury, the money that rightly belongs to the investors and the workers, to influence political contests. Since corporate executives command resources measured in the trillions of dollars, this means that there will be an inexhaustible source of funds with which to command the political powers. But this money is supposed to be invested to increase the profits of the corporation. And it will be. Politics are treated like any other investment and expected to get a return, a return in the form of subsidies and favorable tax treatment. And as David Brooks noted, corporations also want rules which protect them from smaller and more nimble competitors. As the Independent Business Alliance noted in its amicus brief;
Precisely because a corporation enjoys significant state-created economic advantages designed for the narrow purpose of furthering wealth-accumulation, corporate participation in candidate campaigns promotes market entrenchment and corrupts the political marketplace in a fundamentally undemocratic manner.
Somewhat ironically, the ruling may actually lower the cost of political participation for the corporations. The mere threat of spending an unlimited amount of money in any politician’s district may be sufficient to obtain compliance. Blackmail will be all that is necessary to ensure the docility of the legislative and executive branches. As of last Thursday, the corporations are formally in charge of the government of the United States, and all of its constituent political subdivisions. But corporations are not capable of running a country, save for running it into the ground. Indeed, they can barely run their own enterprises without support from the public purse. With this ruling, the line between the corporate treasury and the public purse—already stretched very thin—will completely dissolve. America will be formally a plutocracy and substantially a kleptocracy.

Yet for all that, there is some justification for the court’s attack on the campaign finance laws. Indeed, they are only recognizing what is practically an already established fact. Money will always find its way to power, and where there are large concentrations of wealth, they will come to own the political powers; they will become the state. The current miserable situation in campaign financing is the result of the last abysmal reform, with attempted to correct the problems of the previous reform, and so on back to the Tillman Act of 1907. All the law can do is to raise what roadblocks it can, for as long as it can, until the powers that be find a new way around the laws. And then we begin again.

So what’s to be done? Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Recognize the reality that power follows property, as Daniel Webster noted. Allow the corporations to give as much as they like. However require that all donations to any cause or candidate be instantly posted on the group’s website, which any one may examine. At least we would know the truth of the situation, and while the truth in this case may not set us free, it will at least let us know where we stand.

But we can go further in this truth-telling to include truth-in-labeling. Each congressman will be required to wear those NASCAR suits which prominently display the names of their corporate sponsors. So the typical congressman might have Big Pharma on his chest, Exxon on his ass, and the big banks running up and down his arms. Each politician would be required to begin and end each speech with the statement “This message brought to you by …” and list the names of his three top contributors. And each bill will be required to bear the logos of its corporate sponsors.

This won’t make politics any more democratic, but it will make it a lot more fun. And a lot more honest. We can dispense with the fictions of “liberal” and “conservative” and go directly to the real issues: “I favor the big banks” or “I favor the manufacturers,” and such like. We can debate the size of the subsidy, the magnitude of the tax break, the height of the barrier against competition. These are the real “issues.” Everything else is rhetoric.

With the Citizens United ruling, the court revealed the depth of its contempt for judicial restraint, original intent, and deference to the legislature. The ruling is nothing short of a coup, a fundamental change in the structure of the America polity. It will work not only to the defeat of democracy, but to the destruction of what’s left of the small businessman. From this day forward, no one will hold office who does not have the approval of the corporations, no small business will exist save by their sufferance.

But it will not last. Greed consumes everything, until it finally consumes itself. The bankruptcy of this country is already far advanced, and the process will be accelerated by making it an open kleptocracy. So, welcome to the plutocracy; enjoy while it lasts, which will not be long..