Since the closing of Hawaii’s last remaining coal-fired power station in September, there has been a statewide stockpile of used automotive oil.

Now, about 60,000 gallons of used motor oil is at the dock and will be shipped out in the next few days, said Blane Yamagata, president of Unitek Solvent Services, the state’s largest collector and processor of oil waste.

“As far as I know right now … we will be doing this from here on out.” Yamagata said. “Every three weeks, we will be shipping about 60,000 gallons.”

AES Hawaii Power plant coal burning electric powerplant located in Kalaeloa.
AES Hawaii Power Plant coal-burning electric power plant was shut down in September. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

Yamagata declined to specify exact destinations of the oil, but said that it’s going out of the country to be used as burner fuel.

Before the Barbers Point coal-fueled power plant shut down, Yamagata said it burned about 800,000 gallons of oil a year. The plant, which was once Hawaii’s leading source of toxic pollutant emissions, was shut down as part of the state’s effort to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2045.

But Alan Nakamura, 69, the owner of Kaimuki Auto Repair on Waialae Avenue, said the closure has had unexpected consequences.

“You shut it down — now the oil is piling up,” Nakamura said.

Nakamura, who inherited the shop from his father and started working when he was 17, said he’s been a Unitek customer for years, but the company hasn’t been able to pick up his dirty oil for three weeks.

The 500-gallon tank next to his shop is at capacity.

“I’m just worried about what will happen if it leaks,” Nakamura said.

Nakamura, who has seven grandchildren and said he worries about leaving them with a polluted environment, said that he supports the state’s effort to become more eco-friendly.

“But we’ve got to go gently, we’ve got to be smart about how we do it. You shut it down like this, now it’s going to cost everybody money,” he said.

Yamagata said until he can get a better handle on what the exact costs will be, Unitek will absorb the additional costs to ship off-island at this time. He said he expects to have everything “under control” by the end of January, when the additional costs will be passed on to consumers.

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