Letters for Sunday, September 14, 2008

• Traffic control idea

• Ethanol not filthy

• Where is the explanation?

• Kaua‘i’s energy future a no-brainer

Traffic control idea

Recent accidents have highlighted just how dangerous the Lihu‘e-to-Kapa‘a corridor is to motorists. This may be the most hazardous driving area on the whole island. Next year this corridor will be expanded to four lanes, yet the risk of head-on collisions will stay the same or get even worse.

A good idea to reduce head-on collisions and save lives would be to put a 12- to 18-inch-wide, waist-high, concrete barrier down the middle of the highway along the length of this corridor. This way, drunk or drowsy drivers that drift into oncoming traffic would be deflected back from the middle of the road by a barrier instead of killing or maiming people driving in the opposite direction.

A concrete barrier would have the effect of reducing the severity of car accidents along this stretch of highway and would most definitely save lives.

This idea is my wife’s. I’m not smart enough to have thought of it myself. I just wanted to introduce the idea for public discussion. If you think that this is a good idea, please let your newspaper editor and local politicians know your concerns.

Jason Badua


Ethanol not filthy

I felt it necessary to respond to Richard Olson’s letter (“Is ethanol the future?” Letters, Sept. 12):

He was in error. Ethanol is not anywhere near “filthy” to produce, and to compare an ethanol plant to an oil refinery is not even close to reality. Ethanol is alcohol, not oil. It is the same type of alcohol found in beverages. An ethanol plant is nothing more than perhaps an oversized distillery. Distilling ethanol requires heat, but none of the other additives that oil refining does, such as complex hydrocarbon chemicals, etc. To say that sugar is “outdated” and that there are more efficient sources of ethanol is also not accurate. Sugar produces nearly seven times the amount of ethanol by weight than corn, cellulose or any other source.

The nation of Brazil committed to sugar cane ethanol years ago … and the vast majority of their vehicles now run on pure ethanol (they call it “alcool”) or E85 … fuel that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Their country is no longer dependent on foreign fuels.

Time continues to run out for Kaua‘i. I just hope that the usual island governmental morass of interminable red tape and regulatory micromanagement doesn’t keep the project from getting online in time to actually do some good.

Elaine Albertson


Where is the explanation?

The price of oil has moved sharply in world markets over the last year. In July it hit $147 per barrel. Today the price was down to $100.

Kaua‘i gasoline prices have not reflected this dramatic change. The station where I buy my gas had peak prices of about $4.55 per gallon and are now down to $4.33. But if the price had declined proportionately to the change in the per-barrel price of oil, after reflecting gasoline taxes, it would be selling for $3.22.

Somewhere in the process someone is making a huge and unjustified profit. Will our government give us an explanation for what is going on?

Glenn Mickens


Kaua‘i’s energy future a no-brainer

I agree with Neil Clendeninn’s recent letter (“Worry about Kaua‘i’s energy future,” Letters, Sept. 12). Given the information shared at the recent Renewable Energy conference, we all should be very worried. We are in the middle of a “game changer.”

Imagine a future where electricity is spotty and unreliable, and rates are double or triple what they are today. How would businesses run? How would most of us afford to operate our washing machine or refrigerator? Would rolling blackouts be the norm?

The extent to which these events would re-shape this island makes almost everything else we worry about pale in comparison. Without affordable and reliable energy, almost everything else stops. Think about it.

• Kaua‘i is dependent on foreign oil for 90 percent of its energy needs. It is very vulnerable to unpredictable global events and interruptions in energy supply

• Consider the recent increase in the cost of oil and the associated increase in Kaua‘i’s electricity rates.

• Consider the increasing number of savvy commercial and residential users who are busy securing their own energy solutions like the Marriott, where the conference was held. If not reversed, this trend will leave the financial burden of the oil-based energy infrastructure to those least able to afford it

• Hawai‘i forks out $7 billion a year to foreign oil-producing nations. Kaua‘i is participating in one of the largest economic transfers of wealth in history. Imagine instead that this money was spent here at home on renewable energy solutions. This is possible.

• Kaua‘i has an amazingly rich set of sustainable energy assets: sun, wind, water, agriculture and ocean wave energy.

• We have hit the price point for electricity on Kaua‘i that fundamentally changes the economic energy equation. “At 47 cents per kilowatt hour, solar is a no-brainer.”

• Renewable energy technologies have matured and are more viable than ever before, including energy storage and transmission which have been stumbling blocks in the past.

• Recent legislation, the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Act, encourages and assists with the conversion to renewable energy sources

If we only said, yes, to all that is available to us, we could create a whole new industry and associated jobs here on the island that are based on clean and sustainable energy. We would be a model to the rest of the world. All we need to do is get out of out own way and say, yes, we need this change and need it now.

It’s going to be a very different future, whether we do nothing and essentially decide to live with scarcity or we decide to create a whole new thriving industry for the island. Each and everyone one of us is part of deciding which one it is going to be.

Kari Hovland



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