Letters for Friday, September 12, 2008

• Is ethanol the future?

• Obligated to protect workers

• Worry about Kaua‘i’s energy future

Is ethanol the future?

I’m very saddened and afraid for all the workers at Gay and Robinson whose jobs are looking wobbly now that the company is exiting sugar production.

But an ethanol refinery? Has anyone stopped to think?

First, although ethanol is relatively clean to burn, isn’t it rather filthy to produce? Are we sure we want what is essentially a modified oil refinery on Kaua‘i?

Second, sugar? That’s already outdated technology. There are many more efficient sources of ethanol. Is G&R going to transition to the future, or remain stuck in their grand past?

Richard Olson


Obligated to protect workers

In response to “Syngenta settles pesticide violations,” A1, Sept. 9:

This is a small victory on the side of the workers. Pesticide products are designed to kill and this world-leading agribusiness, leader in crop-protection products (pesticides), which in 2003 more than half of the major company’s sales came from selective herbicides and fungicides, which sales in 2007 was approximately U.S. $9.2 billion, and the “commitment to quality control in all aspects of business” could not prevent the workers from being violated and exposed. This was negligence both on the part of the company and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Government and private entities are obligated to develop a more comprehensive and aggressive worker protection program for health issues related to the agriculture industry and its products. The past mistakes by Syngenta and its predecessor Monsanto have been involved in numerous legal actions since the 1960s. Why wasn’t this learned realization used to form and implement a high priority preventative approach to protect their workers?

This demands a greater moral and collaborative effort to successfully address potential risks from pesticide use. Companies should not dawdle around for remedial actions. Local, state and national levels all play a crucial role in making sure that everyone accomplishes what is intended, to protect human health, development, environment and livelihoods.

Rather than be a casual suspect, Syngenta should well apply defensive action and code awareness on the side of social conditions, workers’ rights, working conditions, worker protection, worker safety, certification and training, technical assistance, risk communication, health insurance for regular check-ups, new approaches to monitoring standards, and go beyond the compliance of occupational health and safety. Their target audiences is their workers, the health care providers and the general public who should be educated about the risks and unreasonable adverse effects from pesticide use. Syngenta can be the outstanding example for working in partnership with the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance.

All the agribusinesses in Kekaha should have already drawn on their past mistakes, experiences and knowledge, and use these toward developing an aggressive strategy to strengthen and improve “ground truth” and trusting relationships on the field, in the workplace, proactively raise community concerns (e.g. schools, churches, neighborhoods, organizations) and be the principal vehicle for disseminating pesticide educational materials.

Agriculture and economic growth that creates good-paying jobs is a critical challenge. All sides ought to examine the role that social safety nets can play in productive capacity, improvement of labor practices to boost seed production, protection of human health to promote pesticide stewardship and the maximization of employer interest for the protection of the poor and the vulnerable to ensure healthy communities and ecosystems.

Genara Buza-Campos


Worry about Kaua‘i’s energy future

For those who read the articles in The Garden Island Sept. 9 and Sept. 10 and could not attend the Kauai Renewable Energy Conference, we should be very worried about our island’s future. We are the most vulnerable of the Hawaiian Islands to having our energy supply interrupted. We receive the majority of our oil not from Alaska (almost none) but from such countries as Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. O‘ahu, Maui County and perhaps the Big Island, but never Kaua‘i, can be connected by underwater transmission lines so they can have an interconnected electrical grid. This would allow them to share power.

Kaua‘i is on its own, a true “Separate Kingdom.” Kaua‘i’s energy rates are the highest in the U.S. (save an isolated community in Alaska) and as oil prices rise so will our electric costs. Most of us probably have noticed that as our electricity has increased, the price also of water and sewer. Soon local layoffs and a much softer local economy will follow, and the rising energy costs will be partially to blame.

You should worry when those attending were asked how fast we needed to work on drastically reducing our dependence on oil and getting renewables into our energy plan; almost all felt we have five years or less. We all need to make sure our politicians, our county and state governments, KIUC, energy users and energy providers start working together to come up with an integrated sustainable energy plan not years from now but immediately. This should be at the top of everyone’s agenda.

We must all think carefully in the coming weeks. There are many issues on our minds like taxes and a new tax bill, jobs, etc. but without a stable and secure energy future all other issues will not matter. I found it interesting that only one mayoral candidate and about five of the County Council candidates attended both days of this critically important meeting. The candidates who attended should be given our highest consideration in the upcoming elections. Some are the ones you have expected over the last 30 plus years to be deeply involved and committed to Kaua‘i and its future.

They are and were networking and bringing to the table those local, state and Mainland individuals and companies that can help us make a difference immediately in our energy future. Please keep this in mind as you vote on Sept. 20 and Nov. 4. Our political leaders need to be those who will propel us into the future, a future that is energy sustainable and green. We need political forward thinking leadership now, not nice guys.

Neil Clendeninn



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