Regarding the response from HECO/BlueEarth Biofuels to Bill Kamanu’s letter of concern about their proposed 40 to 120 million gallons per year biodiesel refinery, maybe the title should have read “Biofuels Here Won’t Harm Environment Here”. There have been countless articles – from the Wall Street Journal to the Asia Times – written about the devastating effects of the importation of large quantities of palm oil. Some of these articles indicate that Europe, which was producing biodiesel almost a decade before it became experimental in the U.S., is now backing away from palm oil feedstocks because of deforestation and the actual increase in carbon-based global warming. If HECO is truly interested in making a positive impact, it would not have been difficult for them to find the information: Environmental organizations such as Friends of the Earth are helping to expose these atrocities.
HECO’s plan will actually increase global warming until all 120 million gallons of biodiesel are produced from oil crops grown in Hawai’i, something which is impossible to achieve. Thus, Hawai’i will still be hostage to unstable, potential hostile nations that control palm oil, like anti-U.S. Malaysia and Indonesia, both large Muslim countries.
The claim that “HECO takes no profit … from this biodiesel enterprise” is not quite accurate. The profits will be made, and put into a trust fund to be controlled by HECO and the large agriculture entities represented on the Board of Directors of HECO. Electrical rates will have to reflect the cost of constructing and operating the biodiesel refinery. This will be paid by ratepayers but owned by HECO/BlueEarth. This means that HECO will have two monopolies – one on electricity, and the other on oil-based fuels; the first monopoly giving a no-bid contract to the other. Both monopolies should be subject to PUC regulations. As for supporting research on local biofuel crops, that has already begun on an island by island basis – constructing a 120 million gallon biodiesel refinery is not needed to undertake this research.
Europe is leading the field on evaluating truly renewable and sustainable energy sources for electricity such as wind and solar. These sources of energy are essentially free once the wind and solar farms are installed. True efforts toward sustainability would work toward reducing the use of imported oil-based fuels in our utility plants and saving those fuels for vehicles and vessels. Substituting crop-based diesel fuel for fossil-based diesel fuel just moves cash from one pocket to the other. Hawai’i needs to investigate alternatives to yet another diesel-based power plant.
HECO’s mad rush to secure approvals and public support for such a negative-impact project indicates they are unaware of the issues and may be using unknowledgeable industry experts, if, in fact, they are even consulting experts.
Kelly Takaya King, Vice President
Pacific Biodiesel, Inc.