Letters for Saturday, April 1, 2006

• The trouble with alternative energy

• No drilling means no drilling

• Wasting our money…

• Legacy looming?

The trouble with alternative energy

People who advocate alternative energy all mean well, for they, like almost everyone, chafes at the idea that we are paying ever rising price of fossil fuel to generate our electricity. However, the reality is that as an isolated electric utility which the users allegedly are the owners who acquired the total system at an inflated price from its former owner Citizens Utility of Connecticut, with a big loan from the Rural Utility Service for which we will for decades be paying off.

Under this set of circumstances, unless the demand for electricity keeps on rising, every time we switch to an alternate way of generating electricity we leave idle a part of our generating capacity that now operates on fossil fuel but for which we continue to pay the loan with which we acquired the total system. This is referred in the parlance of the industry as “stranded capital.” Therefore, unless the amount of electricity generated by alternative, non-oil, means is balanced by an equivalent increase in the demand for electricity on this island, the total cost of supply the residents with electricity will go up, because of the stranded capital. All the talk about alternate energy is actually, for this island, primarily “public relations”. That is precisely why neither Kauai Electric and now KIUC does not really promote meaningful alternative energy; and why both entities have made it difficult and expensive for residents to convert to solar water heating, which the utility knows takes about one third of the electricity the typical home consumes.

The reality is that it would be catastrophic, for instance, for this county to require that all new home constructions be required to install solar water heaters, because that would instantly idle one third of the generating capacity of KIUC, but without reducing the cost of amortizing the cost of the generating, and, to a lesser extent, the cost of the distribution system. As I have mentioned, at least twice, in my letters to this newspaper, both KE and KIUC insist on using their choice of “approved” contractors” to install solar water heaters, at a price higher than that charged by a “non-approved” contractor, the price differential being used to give the customer (who uses an approved contractor) a rebate by KIUC or, earlier, by KE. In other words, the customer pays for his own “rebate”!

All the alternative energy systems that KIUC is bandying about add up to no more than a percent or two of the current generating capacity of KIUC, which, by the way, is some-what over the current demand due to the purchase of the new generator at Hanama’ulu. What the new KIUC board members should be talking about is not alternative energy, but about increasing the operation efficiency, despite the absence of a real chief executive officer and a new chief operating officer of unknown qualifications, and cutting down the down-time of the system such as we have experienced during the past year, and by honestly charging the customers for what is advertised as “Energy Adjustment” on our monthly bills, which energy adjustments bear no resemblance to those charged by other utilities in this state.

For the longer term, the new board members ought to order a detailed analysis of the real cost, to the customer, of the substitution of Alternative Energy for Fossil Fuel Energy, in the absence of a matching increase on the demand side of the equation. It does not require any high tech knowledge; it is the kind of simple arithmetic that even the much depleted technical and managerial resources of the current KIUC can well support.

  • Raymond L. Chuan

No drilling means no drilling

No means NO when we say no drilling in Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. Can we stop raping the Earth and take a good look at our weather. I do believe we can all agree that this is not our normal weather and we “may” need to take a good look at what we do next to our planet.

  • Catherine Hirsch

Wasting our money…

Referring to Associated Press on March 26 TGI reported that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad with a staff of more than 5,700 is the largest U.S. mission in the world; furthermore that its staff includes 2,300 privately contracted security personnel. The numbers look impressive, but they deserve a second look.

According to the U.S. State Department our embassy in Beijing operates with more than 600 employees. Well, China is big; it has 1.3 billion people, perhaps we have to issue a lot of visas there. But the population of Iraq is only 28 million. How does this justify the 5,700? Do we have to issue more visas in Iraq than in China? I don’t think so. According to the State Department’s website presently no visa service is available at the U.S. embassy in Iraq. Perhaps they are getting ready for the armada of Iraqi tourists who would like to visit the U.S.? I doubt it.

The 2,300 privately contracted security jobs seem to be more than an eyesore. According to the current U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual, Volume 12 – Diplomatic Security the security of U.S. embassies worldwide is to be provided by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. Well, it makes sense, since they have to guard U.S. secrets, and they are part of our budget. Private security guards get at least $1,000 per day per person. That is an extra $2.3 million per day, $840 million a year just for this embassy. But one more question remains: why are privately contracted security firms more trustworthy and reliable than our Marines and Navy? Are they better trained? I don’t think so; I think it is the money. Our tax dollars make some staffers very rich, or maybe Abramoff’s spirit still has a visitors pass to the Department of State.

No wonder why President Bush keeps begging for more money for Iraq, for that highly elusive victory. But I don’t understand how the American middle class can put up with all this? What’s their benefit? I know: footing the bill for the President’s delusions. Time to wake up, middle class Americans!

  • János Samu

Legacy looming?

Just a thought … when I lived on O’ahu in 1960 and was watching Wiki Wiki Burger give way to Ala Moana shopping center … little did I realize that in 40 years’ time, all that uncontrolled development in Waikiki would lead to raw waste being the outcome.

Think about it, Kaua’i. That will be your legacy to the grandchildren.

  • Norm Smith
    Lincoln, Ore.

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