Is this really a thing?

NOTE: pick the correct link

There’s a power plant project in the works at Pepeekeo, just up the road from Hilo. It goes by the name Hu Honua Bioenergy, or at other times, Honua Ola.

It’s estimated to be on line by the end of this year, about three years behind schedule. There have been some challenges.

Here’s the deal. They propose to cut down about 5 acres of eucalyptus trees a day and lumber five to six trucks an hour, day and night, down to the power plant. There the wood will be burned to boil water to run a steam generator to supply power to about 14,000 homes. The resultant waste water will then be injected into deep wells at their oceanside site.

Sound good?

Sustainability is more than a buzz word in Hawaii nowadays. It’s the stated goal of Hawaii’s energy production strategy. This project has been labelled sustainable by its supporters because it utilizes re-plantable trees as an energy source rather than ancient and finite reserves of coal or natural gas. It gained a state nod with the offer of $100 million in tax credits.

There are problems, though.

Burning trees will emit about 1.5 times more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than coal and three times more than natural gas. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that warms the Earth, heats and acidifies the oceans, melts the ice caps and leads to sea level rise that threatens the existence of shoreline populations worldwide.

The Hu Honua Bioenergy plant in Pepeekeo in 2018. A plan to burn trees to produce energy has drawn fire. Jason Armstrong/Civil Beat/2018

Trees pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and sequester it while producing the oxygen we breathe. So we’re going to cut them down, burn them up, and re-release the CO2 into the air while reducing a significant stock of oxygen production?

On Mauna Loa sensors recently measured the highest levels of atmospheric CO2 ever. Then the Amazon jungle, source of 20% of the Earth’s oxygen, burns and releases into the air the world’s largest suppository of carbon dioxide.

Folks — we need trees, to live.

Meanwhile, On Maui …

Water is another thing vital to life. So the plan is to inject 21 million gallons of heated and chemically tainted waste water a day into deep wells adjacent to important fresh water aquifers and treasured marine ecosystems. Maybe this power company, like many energy and chemical industries around the country, is cheering for the success of a current Maui County challenge to a part of the Clean Water Act heading for the U.S. Supreme Court

Maui has been injecting partially treated wastewater into deep wells on land for years. That effluent has been found leaching into and polluting popular near shore waters and smothering corals with biotic fueled algae blooms. Maui County’s contention is that they are not responsible for the marine tainting. That’s the ground water’s fault. Convenient. Hu Honua could definitely get behind that alibi.

Thankfully, there are some current legal challenges afoot.

Thankfully, there are some current legal challenges afoot. The Hawaii Supreme Court has kicked the approval process for Hu Honua back to the Public Utilities Commission because they forgot to consider the greenhouse gas impacts and didn’t require an environmental impact report. Duh!

Because the facility had prior approval as a coal fired plant years ago, it was assumed that was good enough. I think environmental considerations have changed a bit since then.

So what exactly is sustainable about this project? Sustained release of CO2 into the atmosphere with consequent sustained global warming. Sustained heating, acidification and poisoning of aquifers and the ocean. Don’t even get me started on the sustained herbicide dispersals needed to support the replanting needed to feed the diesel fuming truck traffic lumbering up and down our roads day and night.

Somebody please tell me this is not a real thing.

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