Huaka‘i Kaho‘olawe

(Voyage to Kaho’olawe)
By Neola Caveny 

Day 1 – Thursday AM

On February 28, 13 intrepid souls under the auspices of the Maui Sierra Club began a four-day adventure unlike anything that any of us had ever experienced (other than the 2 that had been on a previous access) – one of the monthly service trips to Kaho‘olawe organized by the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana. For a history of the island and information on the PKO, I recommend their excellent Website, This article is being written from a purely personal perspective, as a journal of an extraordinary experience.

As a middle-aged ex-back-packer with a bad back and not in the best of physical condition (yes, I’m an SC hike leader, but you don’t see me on those 5-mile lava hikes, do you?), I had anticipated volunteering for kitchen duty as an alternative to active service when I heard that the particular work we would be doing was moving and stacking several tons of rocks in preparation for the construction of retaining walls at a later date. But, I show up at 6:30 AM (no mean feat in itself, from Huelo) on Thursday at Mākena Landing with an open mind and a back brace in my allotted two double-bagged trash bags of “ukana” (PKO for luggage). We form a line in the water and begin passing the bags and buckets out to the Pualele, a 33-foot fishing boat that comes within 50 feet of the shore. That’s the first lesson in laulima, or many hands working together, that becomes our way of life throughout the trip. We swim the rest of the way to the boat.


The water is calm and we have a smooth crossing marked by many welcoming spoutings and breachings from our winter whale visitors. The PKO Zodiac meets us off Hakioawa Bay, our home for the next four days, and we chant a request to land. Our group’s rendition wouldn’t have won any awards at the Merrie Monarch Festival, but the response is given, and Kaho‘olawe accepts us. We thank our Captain, Uncle Bobby, for the whale watch tour as we slide into the Zodiac. A minute later, we’re back in the water passing ukana in to shore.

After setting up camp, the pū (conch shell), which orders our lives for the whole time that we are on the island, calls us to the meeting/dining/kitchen area—a clearing under tarps, with picnic tables–for the first of many circles, holding hands, with one person offering the pule (prayer) concentrating our 48 individual energies towards a common goal. There are about a dozen kua (literally “backbone”– PKO volunteers) and another 20 folks from other islands and as far off as Germany, in addition to our Maui group.

One thing of which you can be assured when you’re with the PKO – you will eat well! These folks have been used to accommodating as many as 100 people on these accesses, for many years, and have meals, as well as everything else, really organized. Even the eight of us who were vegetarians had been well provided for, as promised. As hard as you work, don’t expect to lose weight on Kaho‘olawe!

NEXT – (Day 1 pm)

Kelly King of Pacific Biodiesel Comments on HECO/BlueEarth Biofuels Plan


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.

Blue Earth Biodiesel Plant

From Haleakala Times
by Karen Chun

One of the largest biodiesel plants in the U.S. is proposed for Maui. BlueEarth Biofuels will partner with Hawaiian Electric Company to build a 120 million-gallon-per-year plant in three stages. First stage is 40 million gallons earmarked for the Maui Electric Company electrical generators.  Any excess biodiesel will go to other HECO facilities.

The plant will enable MECO to switch from diesel to cleaner-burning biodiesel. MECO already uses biodiesel from Pacific Biodiesel for startups to avoid expensive pollution fines. Biodiesel from sustainably grown crops does not contribute to net CO2 releases nor global warming and it burns 60 percent more cleanly than regular diesel.

A bill to allow the company to borrow $59 million through a state-backed special purpose revenue bond is before the Legislature.

Robert Wellington, BlueEarth co-managing partner, sees the plant as a good match for Maui. The biodiesel process is simple and efficient, requiring less fuel input than ethanol.

Wellington’s partner, Landis Maez, has already relocated to Hawai‘i  and both see this project as a win for the environment and for energy self-sufficiency.

The BlueEarth facility will initially import canola, soy or palm oil from  North America, South America and the Pacific Rim. Wellington says, “We’re hoping that within five years, half the feedstock will be grown on Maui.”
But controversy looms.

Kelly King of Pacific Biodiesel says growing enough feedstock on Maui  is “something which is impossible to achieve.” Her company currently produces about one million gallons of biodiesel on Maui – less than one percent of the proposed BlueEarth plant.

“Statewide the Governor’s Hawai‘i  Biofuels Summit identified 139,400 acres available for biofuels throughout the state, exclusive on non-sugar agricultural lands,” said Wellington.

But supplying just the initial 40 million gallons for the first phase would take 216,000 acres of jatropha or 178,000 acres of kukui – more biofuel land than Hawai‘i  has.  At full capacity the plant would require an astounding 650,000 acres of jatropha feedstock – over four times the amount of biofuel land available in the State.   In comparison HC&S has only 37,000 acres under sugarcane cultivation on Maui.

The most productive oil crop, palm oil, can produce 581 gallons of  oil per acre in good soil with abundant water. Crops such as jatropha (185 gals/acre) and kukui (225 gals/acre) are more suited to Maui’s arid conditions.  Jatropha can be grown on marginal land  and will produce within two or three years. The facility will continue to import feedstock from outside Hawai‘i even if all identified Hawai‘i  land is put into biofuel crops.

An interview with HC&S Director, Energy Development and Planning, Lee Jakeway, revealed that HC&S is currently more focused on their own ethanol production and doesn’t have any present plans to produce oil for the BlueEarth plant. Wellington hopes that will change when the plant is a reality. Jakeway saw several challenges to providing BlueEarth’s vegetable oil requirement locally including water supply, water infrastructure and inadequate land area to produce in the quantities BlueEarth requires.

When asked if he felt local growers could compete on price with foreign palm oil Jakeway indicated that he hadn’t run the numbers but felt it would be “somewhat of a stretch” to think Maui-grown feedstock could be competitive with foreign sources with no import duties applied, even with the proposed subsidized feedstock processing plant.
Wellington stated that local feedstock may not have to compete on price.  “Hawaiian Electric Company’s board recently passed a policy to give preference to locally grown renewable energy feedstocks,” Wellington suggested that perhaps the project-funded  Biofuels Public Trust could provide price supports in addition to oil extraction facilities for local feedstock producers.

Labor, land and water costs will make local bio-oil more expensive than imported unless import duties are enacted. There is no guarantee that the Public Trust fund will have enough money to enable local growers to compete.

If a portion of the feedstock were grown on Maui, it would require a processing plant be built and a delay of from two-ten years while the initial crop grows to seed-bearing age. HECO has established a trust fund to help build a local oil processing facility. Lance Holter, Conservation Chair of the Hawai‘i  Sierra Club, feels that supplying the plant with locally grown feedstock is a problem. “Do we  we want biofuels to become a monopoly directed by one company growing fuel that would take up all of Hawaii’s ag lands to provide fuel to this one electric plant?”
Holter goes on to say that palm oil is in such worldwide demand that rain forests are being razed for oil palm plantations. Thus, the apparently eco-friendly facility could be responsible for a net increase in worldwide CO2 and destruction of the environment.

BlueEarth’s Wellington responds that all of their suppliers certify that the palm oil comes from sustainable sources and thus their use of palm oil will not contribute to rain forest destruction or increased CO2.

Holter’s position is, “Palm oil demand is so high, this simply means that someone who would have bought from these suppliers will now be getting their supply from the slash and burn plantations. Any increase in demand increases the acreage that is being destroyed.”

Kelly King added that the the non-profit Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance rejected labeling some imported palm oil as ‘Sustainably Grown Palm Oil’ in part for this reason.  According to her,  “At the quantities BlueEarth is proposing, it is certain to have an extremely negative impact.”

According to Peder Jensen, of the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen, “If you make biofuels properly, you will reduce greenhouse emissions, but that depends very much on the types of plants and how they’re grown and processed. You can end up with a 90 percent reduction compared to fossil fuels — or a 20 percent increase.”
Since BlueEarth can use any vegetable oil, they feel that focusing on palm oil’s problems is misleading. “Virtually any vegetable oil product can be used and we can mix different feedstocks.” BlueEarth is considering soybean, canola, peanut, cottonseed, and sunflower oil from the Americas and various palm and non-palm tropical oils from the Pacific Rim and Central and South America.

Since a majority, if not all, of the feedstock for the Maui plant will be imported, we asked about potential increase in Kahului Harbor traffic. Wellington replied that the imported vegetable oil just about equals the imported diesel which it will replace. He expects one ship per month to export biodiesel to other islands once the third stage is built in about 2011. A spokesperson for Save Kahului Harbor indicated that this was not a concern for them.

Rob Parsons, former Maui Environmental Coordinator, questioned the potential 20 million gallons of glycerin waste product per year. “It could end up in our land fill. Increased biodiesel production has led to a glut of glycerin on the market.”
“The glycerin could be used to power the biodiesel plant process using a glycerin powered cogeneration system to provide the required power and steam, converted via a newly developed technology to methanol for the biodiesel refining process, or even burned as cheap, low-grade fuel in Kahului Power Plant,” Wellington said.
“With all of this value in the waste stream glycerin, none of it will end up in the Maui landfill.”

Critics want to see agreements in place to build the the glycerin infrastructure before they’ll accept assurances it won’t end up in landfill. “‘Could be used’ doesn’t mean ‘will be used’”, said Holter, “That’s all pie in the sky without agreements and timetables.” According to Parsons, “This facility is way out of scale with local sustainability for our island. We shouldn’t rush into such an endeavor without a complete understanding of its ramifications. Small, methodical steps make more sense.”

Bill Akiona’s Email to State Senate About HECO/BlueEarth Biofuels State Subsidy Plan

‘Ano’ai kakou:

Hawaiian Electric Industries is proposing a Maui Biofuel Refinery that is truly unsustainable; and will force Hawaii to become dependent upon importing „Palm Oil.‰ What‚s more, this BlueEarth project will readily negate the opportunity for Hawaii‚s locals and rural communities to participate in the development of a much more sustainable and worthy renewable energy/biofuel program for Hawaii. (See Link Below)


MECO announced using 72 million gallons of petroleum diesel in 2005; they are expected to use a 15% blend of biodiesel by 2015, which comes to only 10.8 million gallons of pure biodiesel (B100) stock ˆ to be used in making a B15 blend to meet the 2015 biofuel requirements. Then why is it that they need to import 120 million gallons of Palm Oil? That‚s over 110 percent more B100 stock than what they really need! Could it be that they are trying to control Hawaii‚s new and lucrative emerging biofuel industry-economy-marketplace?

Palm oil is the primary plantation crop responsible for rainforest destruction throughout the world. It is presently destroying wildlife habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia; and now threatening the Sumatran tiger, Asian elephant, Boneo orangutans and Sumatran rhinoceros into extinction. Moreover, these affected countries‚ poor indigenous people are being forced from their ancestral forest lands and displaced, having to live in shanty towns and city slums. (See Link Below: One of many articles of environmental injustice, concerning palm oil.)

The yearly purchases of 120 million gallons of palm oil will insight the destruction of more than160,000 acres of rainforest habitat.  In Hawaii, there is only a small fraction of rainforest type lands available for palm oil monoculture. A much more sustainable oil tree crop would be Jatropha curcas, in which 350,000 acres of land will be needed to satisfy BlueEarth‚s throughput of 120,000,000 gallons of feedstock. Coconut and Kukui tree monoculture is costly and both can be difficult to harvest and process efficiently.

However, in-state production of biofuel crops will be stymied by the BlueEarth business model. Growers will be held to a low „take it or leave it‰ price control, dictated by this over-scaled processing refinery.

Therefore, instead of creating hundreds of small locally-owned enterprises and thousands of jobs in our State‚s rural communities ˆ fostering an economic multiplier within each ˆ we will now be held to only 40 to 50 jobs at the most, offered by an offshore company, importing offshore feedstock. Through BlueEarth‚s controlling of the production and marketing of Hawaii‚s biofuel industry; they will obviously spend their revenues elsewhere and re-invest abroad ˆ exploiting poor indigenous people and their natural resources.

As a grower of tree bearing oilseed (TBO) crops, we will be organizing into a USDA growers‚ co-operative: recruiting growers throughout the islands‚ rural communities and Hawaiian homestead regions. Our goal is to consolidate our efforts and production; to economically produce biodiesel feedstock, on marginal lands, through the planting of Jatropha curcas ˆ a hardy, fast growing, high yielding oilseed tree crop. We will also properly develop our production into a vertically integrated system, thereby processing the oilseeds, within several rural outlays, and utilizing the by- and co-products to be value-added through local community-based economic development programs. (See Link:

Sustainability and innovation is our theme and the objectives in which to meet our goals. To allow a large offshore corporation model, to control this industry, will mean the misappropriation of Hawaii‚s biofuel industry‚s sustainability; with the loss of our locally innovative production programs and thousands of rural community jobs… Even moreover, the potential extinction of several high-profile, critically endangered species will also be blamed on Hawaii, which will definitely affect our tourism industry.

Rob Parson’s Letter on Biodiesel

There’s a difference between renewable and sustainable.

Before we rejoice at the announcement of Maui Electric’s proposed $61 million biodiesel refinery, many tough questions must be asked.The project would initially import palm oil to produce 40 million gallons of biofuel by 2009 and 120 million gallons by 2011. But, palm oil production in Maylasia, Borneo, Indonesia, Thailand and elsewhere has been one of the great ecological disasters of our time.

More than 60 million acres of biodiverse rainforest has been slashed and burned to make way for palm oil plantations, endangering orangutans, the Asian elephant, Sumatran tiger and rhinoceros and dozens of other creatures.

The huge scale of the proposal could actually harm rather than encourage local biofuel crop production, which could never compete with oil prices purchased from countries with cheap labor.

Is the goal to refine enough biodiesel to supply HECO’s proposed 110 megawatt generation facility on Oahu? Why was BlueEarth Biodiesel selected, with no track record in Hawaii if anywhere? Shouldn’t fuel purchases require proper procurement process and Public Utility Commission approval?

We should be very cautious of confusing renewable energy sources with sustainable production. Maui would do much better to follow a path of small-scale efforts for local energy generation and conservation and to use liquid fuels for transportation needs, not fueling electrical plants. While limited local biofuel crop production may be beneficial, use of ag lands to offset food imports is a more vital need.

Rob Parsons

Lance Holter’s Viewpoint on Proposed Biodiesel Plant

News recently of a proposed $61 million Bio Diesel refinery on Maui rippled thru the Islands. Blue earth Biofuels is seeking $59 million from the Hawaii state legislature by way of special purpose revenue bonds to build the project. Blue earth plans to produce bio diesel from imported Palm Oil and will import at least 40 million gallons per year. Importing oil? How does this create a sustainable local renewable energy economy? I thought we were trying to get away from this paradigm? Gee whiz Mr. Wizard! Uhhh?

I did some research into palm Oil and was awestruck by the devastation Palm Oil plantations are causing to the worlds great tropical rain forests. Palm oil production is driving deforestation and cultural destruction in Africa, the Amazon, Central America, Indonesia, New Guinea, Malaysia, Borneo, SE Asia, and Islands in other Asia Pacific regions. 60 million acres is planned for Palm Oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia alone because Palm oil is in such demand.

The main culprit of deforestation is China’s burgeoning economy consuming huge tracts of tropical forest. In fact Palm Oil plantations using slash, burn, wetland draining methods are the third largest CO2 producer in the world contributing 8% of all global CO2 emissions. In April 2006, China purchased 28.2 million cubic feet of Indonesian old growth hardwoods to build sports facilities for the 2008 Olympic summer games at cost of one billion dollars. Huge swaths of tropical forest have been illegally logged by the Indonesian military and sold to China. After the land is logged it is converted to Palm Oil plantations. Palm oil is used for cooking and consumer products by companies like Proctor and Gamble. In fact Pam oil is now found in one out of three food products, with the price of petroleum rising it’s now become an alternative fuel Palm oil/bio-diesel.

The Borneo rain forest is considered the lungs of SE Asia and since 1996 ½ of the Borneo forest has disappeared for Palm Oil plantations. This ecosystem is home to 7,000 species with a Bio-diversity unlike anything on earth. It is home to elephants, miniature rhinoceros, the sun bear, orangutans, tree dwelling gibbons, deer, incredible bird life, nearly extinct wild forest leopards, cats and botanical specimens both discovered and undiscovered with untold medicinal value.

At one field station in Borneo’s Kayan Mentarang National Park, dozens of new species of trees, mosses and herbs, butterflies, frogs, fresh water prawns, snakes, and entirely new species of mammals were found since 1991. “This field station alone has more frogs and snake species than in all of Europe” said research station director Stephan Wulffraat, a conservation biologist with World Wildlife Fund.

The unsustainable destruction of the worlds tropical rainforests will prove disastrous to valuable ecosystems required by plant communities, animals and people who depend upon the viability and economic benefits of intact watersheds, fisheries and sustainable resource harvesting. To put it bluntly, this idea that somehow sustainable Palm Oil can be produced is an erroneous one. All of the worlds Palm oil can or could be consumed by China. If you somehow find and take away the small amount of “sustainable oil” the unsustainably produced oil will just fill the void and cancel out the benefits.

The solution, Why does Maui need an unknown mainland company (Blue Earth) and no track record, with undisclosed or secret financial backers, subsidized by the State to produce quantities of Bio Diesel which are unsustainable thru local production and which will always be dependent upon foreign oil imports? I believe it far better to invest in our local Hawaii Pacific Bio diesel company and with Hawaii farmers who have proven accountability. We should invest this $59 million into putting our own Ag lands into bio fuel oil seed crops. Invest in research and in identifying the best sustainable oil seed crops for local harvest and production. Invest in the local community and keep the wealth for our Island and State by not sending monies off shore perpetuating environmentally destructive palm oil production. For example, 600 workers were lost and unemployed on Oahu when Del Monte closed down. This was a lost opportunity when 600 experienced and trained agriculture workers could have been put to work producing sustainable organically produced agricultural products. Our problem is that there is little or no current ongoing Hawaii based bio fuel research and crop studies underway in the field of Bio fuel seed crop production.

The time has come for Hawaii to control it’s destiny and not be at the mercy of foreign oil imports and mainland corporations who come to Maui/Hawaii with their hands out looking for us to give them the money. Let us invest in ourselves.

For more info;

Lance Holter is the chair of Hawaii Sierra Club Maui Group and lives in Paia.

Rob Parson’s 2nd Article

Read Rob Parsons First Article
Read DuByne’s Response to Parsons’ first article

The Rob Report
Maui Time
April 5, 2007

Back in February, I got an email from David DuByne, a former Maui resident now working on bio-fuel development and organic farming projects in Northern Thailand. He had read my Feb. 15, 2007 article, “Potential Energy” and wrote to tell me he had just finished a book on biofuels. He said the book was written as an ESL (English as a Second Language) text, so that oil and energy jargon can be simplified for the average reader.

Dave recently wrote back, with a lot of valuable information on the rush to implement biofuels for our energy needs. His letter appears on Page 6.

Hawai`i, like many other places worldwide, seems enamored with the idea of ethanol and biodiesel fuel crops helping to wean our dependence on imported fossil fuels. At the same time, drawbacks to the ambitious efforts are surfacing.

Ethanol not only reduces automobile engine performance and gas mileage, but can be damaging to marine or garden equipment engines, since the alcohol component attracts water. Ethanol also requires a large input of water for processing, and produces an odorous organic byproduct, vinesse, at a 12 to one ration for each gallon of ethanol.

Two proposals are afoot to build mega-sized biodiesel refineries to Hawai`i. Maui Electric handpicked two Mainlanders who formed a corporation called BlueEarth biofuels, and hope to construct a facility to produce 40 million gallons per year by 2009, and 120 million gallons by 2011. Last week, Imperium Biofuels of Seattle announced plans for a 100 million gallon capacity refinery on Oahu. Both indicated they would have to import vegetable oil, as there is no current production of oil crops on Hawai`i ag lands.

There is a growing awareness that cheaply produced oil crops worldwide contribute to rainforest destruction, soil erosion, water pollution, and social justice issues. Palm oil produced in Malaysia, Borneo and Indonesia has attracted much of the attention over ecosystem devastation, even while millions more hectares of rainforest are imperiled due to increased interest in palm, as a non-trans-fat oil, and as a biodiesel feedstock.

Soya oil cultivation in South America is equally disastrous, according to a report by the Institute of Scientists In Society. The ISIS report, GM Soya Disaster in Latin America, details the multiple environmental and socio-economic problems associated with large mono-cropping efforts in Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina. “As long as these countries continue to embrace neoliberal models of development and respond to demand from the globalized economy, the rapid proliferation of soybean will increase, and so will the associated ecological and social impacts.”

Competition for ag lands between food and energy needs will raise food prices for everyone, while reducing our fossil fuel dependency only minimally. Since President Bush’s mention of ethanol in his 2006 State of the Union address, corn prices have risen to four dollars a bushel, prompting street protests in Mexico, where the price of tortillas has doubled. The push to bioenergy may continue to have a large ripple effect across a wide economic spectrum, as well as environmental.

Locally, our public utility monopolies seem to be trying to think outside the box of their petroleum-fueled, centralized power grid old paradigm. But it’s increasingly obvious that the plans for a huge biodiesel refinery are leading us down a dead-end road.

Bills at the state legislature to support $59 million in special revenue bonds to finance the BlueEarth plant sailed through early hearings, but now are facing opposition. Ten statewide environmental groups and at least 50 individuals sent opposing testimony, which had minimal support. But BlueEarth, HECO, and MECO brought in the cavalry, including building trade unions and the Maui Chamber of Commerce. A decision will be made this week, though the proposal would still face due diligence for the bonds, and Public Utility Commission approvals.

Karen Chun, Sierra Club Maui board member and webmaster, has put together an impressive compilation of articles and information on biofuels at Chun also offered these strategies as keys to our energy sustainability:

• Decentralization: Rooftop solar hot water and photovoltaic, personal wind generation.

• Conservation through intelligent building design, transportation choices, infrastructure, town design, and building codes.

• Conservation through fewer disposable products and more efficient energy use design.

While we hurry towards so-called renewable alternatives, we have barely scratched the surface on these approaches. One clear obstacle is the existing roadblock to net-metering decentralized electric generation, due to bureaucratic red tape as well as a limit on the number of participants.

State funding and incentives to biofuel production will be best applied to small, gradual local efforts, not continuing to send our energy and food dollars out of the state. Local bioenergy efforts hold more promise than those rooted in the rocky soil of large corporate global economics.