Danny De Gracia: Why I'm Worried About Oahu's Future - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

Benjamin Franklin once observed that the British government of his time was like a desperate dice roller, always gambling their future on reckless endeavors where so much as one failure would result in their total undoing. “Thus empires,” Franklin would go on to say, “by pride and folly and extravagance, ruin themselves like individuals.”

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And now my Honolulu friends, let us pause to open this article on our mobile devices, and take a collective field trip outside to the wonderful world that is Oahu. As we stand in the knee-high, uncut grass that is flecked with trash and wrecked shopping carts, let us ponder why the feral chickens passing by pay no mind to us humans, and how the broken public bathroom across the street now has no toilet paper.

Last of all, lift your dejected chin just a few degrees up to gaze upon the brutalist, Honolulu rail structures that tower like the stone legs of Ozymandias yet are still not complete after all these years. After taking in these things, let us all let out a collective sigh and say this together: “Oahu has been ruined by pride and folly and extravagance.”

Alas, as bad as things are now for Oahu residents, I am concerned that things are going to get a lot worse before 2045. The next major crisis that looms large over us is how we are going to supply, sustain and pay for energy on the island now that we have committed – or should I say bottlenecked – ourselves to a future that relies only on renewable energy.

Brace yourselves. I’m not going to give some of you a trigger warning, because my purpose is to trigger you into questioning why we do what we do and why we think what we think. This renewable-only strategy is great on paper, but Hawaiian Electric reported only 38.4% of our energy came from renewable sources in 2021. And while that may exceed the state’s goal of 30%, there’s more to it than that.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration notes that “Hawaii uses about 12 times more energy than it produces. More than four-fifths of Hawaii’s energy consumption is petroleum, making it the most petroleum-dependent state.” News to state policymakers: Shutting down things to increase percentages isn’t the same as building new things to increase supply.

It is very important for us to reduce pollution and to be mindful of our carbon footprint, but our current idea of renewable, clean energy is based on an excessively utopian post-1973 Oil Crisis technological approach to weaning off fossil fuels. The two most popular “clean” energy sources of solar and wind power are great, but we need a lot of both of them in order to meet the energy demands of the public.

Solar and wind power are the two most popular clean energy sources in Hawaii, but it will take a lot of them to reach the goal of 100% renewable energy. Courtesy: Hawaiian Electric

In case you haven’t noticed, Oahu residents are at odds with each other when it comes to this policy. We want to virtue signal as healers of the planet and say “let’s go green,” but then we also want to protest when a giant wind turbine goes up in our backyard. Well, what’s it going to be, folks?

If we are going to go 100% renewable, we’d better change the state flower from the yellow hibiscus to a turbine propeller, because you’re going to need to cover the island with turbines and panels to meet future energy demands.

And how exactly are we going to pay for this? “Clean” energy requires platforms that are built with precious metals, rare earth elements and advanced composites, all of which are not cheap thanks to the debasement of the U.S. dollar and global instability. In the case of wind turbines, those devices are also not cheap or green or recyclable when it comes to disposing of the worn-out blades.

Now, I know from reading the kinds of histrionic comments that people leave on Gov. David Ige’s official Facebook page that some of you actually believe that tiny Hawaii imposing draconian energy bottlenecks somehow has the power to prevent ozone holes, stop Earth from turning into Venus, and possibly even prevent a mass extinction of all life.

But for every lump of coal or gallon of gas we stop using, I can tell you right now that plenty of countries manufacturing the very clothes you wear, the cars you drive and the cellphones you use to rant online are burning tons more to fuel the modern West’s consumer needs. We get to pretend to be clean saviors of the planet because poor people in distant places are getting dirty on our behalf. Think about that.

Opponents of the Kahuku windmills socially distance along Kamehameha Highway.
Most people agree it’s good to ‘go green’ but many residents don’t want wind turbines in their own backyards. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Oahu’s population is increasing. More people are going to be buying electric vehicles, electric landscaping equipment, big screen televisions, gaming computers, cellphones, tablets, you name it. Where is the power going to come from for this? More importantly, where is the money to pay for the energy for all this?

We’re not going to make it to 2045, let alone 2030 with the way that we’re thinking or acting both as a people and as a government. Humans are different than all the other animals because our brains developed from eating food cooked by fire, and having mastered fire, we made technology and science.

We need a free-market approach, not a rigged plantation store when it comes to energy in Hawaii. If energy becomes too expensive, it will become too expensive to live, work and innovate in Hawaii. We need to use all forms of energy production here in Hawaii and stop thinking like we’re still in the Jimmy Carter administration.

You’ll hate me for saying this, but I for one think the only way we can meet our clean energy goals is to employ nuclear power. The rest of the world is building nuclear power plants because they know the 22nd century needs more energy. Are they wrong? Or is Hawaii wrong?

Either way, the permanent ruin of Oahu just so some elected officials can say they forced us to go green is so not worth it. That’s just pride, folly and extravagance, as usual in Hawaii.

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About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

Latest Comments (0)

I couldn't agree more with you on this Danny. The greenie narrative is based on the fallacy of battery storage, solar farms and wind turbines. As some of us know the cost to mine materials like Lithium and create carbon fiber, outweigh their lifetime energy production and they cannot be recycled when used up. Think about that for a minute. There is not enough and no reliable source for Hawaii to get to the unrealistic goal, set by a politician for the purpose of nothing other than politics. It sounds good, but like most political gab here has little substance. One avenue that Hawaii does have that is reliable and is plentiful is geothermal from Hawaii island to the rest of the state. Once there is an intelligent conversation based on this source, let the politicians know that they are just kicking the can around to appear that they looking at alternatives, when they ignore the only source that can get us to where they want to be. And lastly, Danny brings up an important fact that Hawaii is peanuts in carbon pollution compared with places like China. You can also imagine what kind of pollutants get spewed out of a volcanic eruption as well. How do you cap that?

wailani1961 · 7 months ago

Danny De Garcia concludes it's energy transition panic time here on the home front. Previously, Sen. Dela Cruz wrongly concluded solar and wind plus storage were incomplete energy replacement solutions, and concluded we need burn trees and trash in order to successfully replace fossil fuels. Both conclusions are wrong, but there is a thread truth in each belief. 1- Assuming HECO will meet its RPS obligations based on the utility's track record, is a prescription for failure and public disappointment. 2- Believing wind-solar and storage are not up to the replacement task for the state's fossil fuel grid dependencies is also a mistake in terms of energy flexibility, application, and 24x7 reliability when scaled to the task.3- Forsaking Hawaii's solar rooftop + storage ability to close the RPS compliance gaps in HECO's plans is another assumption mistake:In 2020, solar power provided almost 17% of Hawaii's total electricity, primarily from the increase in generation from small-scale, customer-sited solar panel systems that nearly doubled since 2015. (US Energy Information Administration)4- Ignoring efficiency options is the final failure in current RPS thinking.

BeyondKona · 7 months ago

The focus of this article continues to tell a tale of which the State of Hawaii, and its leaders, have continually failed to truly envision what the state needs to do to "wean" itself off of "fossil fuels" for energy generation for its residents. And once again I think the people of the state of Hawaii - the Akamai ones and not the ones that just believe the hype machines of the environmentalists on all this - probably should go to sleep and inform the rest of everyone "wake me up when you want to have a serious conversation about any of this". Because right now, despite all the papers and, again, the hype machine from the governor's office/office candidates, all the way down to the environmental volunteer cleaning up a beach, no one is having a real, adult conversation about what we really need to do. Danny did put out a potential solution, of which will be shot down so hard that it will be policy dust before it even gets a hearing. So again, wake up the akamai when the state wants to start taking this issue, seriously.

Kana_Hawaii · 7 months ago

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