Friday, April 27, 2012

J. Free Band, May 2

We'll be playing the Black Rock Cafe at 6:30 or so Wednesday, May 2. We're sounding better than ever, have a full show of fun original tunes, look forward to seeing you all there!

Monday, April 23, 2012


So I've been asked about my opinion a lot lately on the whole local "geothermal" thing, so I thought I'd drop a few notes here about the whole deal.

First, my opinion on whether I'd support such or not--which is: "I don't know."

And I think that's a good position for a lot more people to hold, as I find often that those with the strongest views are the least informed. Maybe we could clear up a few misunderstandings here and ask a few intelligent questions.

First, let's be clear. Geothermal is not a renewable energy source. It IS an "alternative" energy source, and an important one. You must drill for heat just like you might oil, and while the "hot spot" under the island will be there for a very long time, the rate of harvest of that heat from the rock surrounding the drill site is much higher than the replenishment rate, and eventually, especially on an industrial scale, you use the viable amount of it up, and you've got to re-drill somewhere else. How fast is and how much you get out is largely speculative until you drill, though good predictions may be made, and other unknowns involve how much erosive and corrosive dilapidation of the well casings will occur, and how fast, and how soon they will need to be replaced. It's not like one sticks a hole in the ground and electricity comes out. But compared to many other alternative energy schemes, especially biomass to energy-- it has the potential to be vastly more effective with vastly lower complications-- and it uses proven, scalable industrial technologies. There's very little pie in the sky on that score.

Second, it's completely unclear about how if at all the local economy will be helped in the slightest by expanding current geothermal capacity. It's not at all like the proposals pledge to delivering megawatts at competitive industrial rates at all, it's not at all like the actual business entities that profit by ownership of the projects will return any of the value to the local economy(a few jobs, sure, but you can say the same about the guys delivering gasoline in trucks.) There is some systemic risk of property damage present, and in fact appears to me that local value, and heritage, is being harvested without due compensation for that risk. A weak pledge of  "lower electrical rates" isn't enough to set those concerns aside. It would help a lot if real numbers were discussed, but of course no one wants to do that because no one really knows whats down there, and it's the fact that we're held hostage by high and rising oil based costs that makes Hawaii as compelling to the geothermal industry as much as the fact that there's heat down there.

Third, comparisons keep getting made to Iceland. These aren't very fair. Iceland is an island, but one pretty close really to industrial centers, it's very far away from China, it has a capable educated workforce, and it has tons of hydro power as well. It has an electrical grid that is capable of supporting industry and a history of it as well. It has serious ports capable of shipping real industrial capacity in and out. It has its own currency and banking system, that it can manipulate for favorable purchasing of raw materials. It has a government that recently went through major upheaval and threw the bums out. Hawaii, and Puna in particular possesses none of those characteristics-- it only has hot rocks. So why on earth would a geothermal company want to drill here if there's no customers doing anything worth purchasing it? Well, it doesn't take much speculation to figure that one out-- but again, not a bit of local benefit for those taking the risk and loss of value. Remember, that heat in the ground is energy just like oil is, it's worth money just like oil is, and nobody has any business taking that resource away from the common state ownership without due compensation for its value. Seriously!

Lastly, without other checks in place, adding geothermal does nothing at all, at all, for the environment. It simply adds capacity to make it easier to consume what we already do and more so. We'll burn both the fuel we currently do and the geothermal electricity as well. That's a net loss for the ecosphere, and there's really no other way to spin it.  I know that's a bummer, and a lot of people can't bang this one through their heads, a fact others exploit-- but "conventional energy" plus "alternative energy" equals more consumption. And sorry to say, but that's bad. If we had caps on consumption in place, by perhaps credits or tax, that might not be the case, but without 'em, well, you just get more dead penguins. So let's drop any pretense of the "green" angle, OK???

So heck, I don't know, but a lot of things would be pretty helpful to clear things up. 1) A pledged rate of delivery per KWH, and numbers at discount for industrial users. Iceland pays 4.3 cents per KWH-- maybe the developers could commit to a contractual obligation to delivery at 10 cents?  2) At least a discussion of something like the oil funded Alaska State Fund or some such, where residents are compensated for the loss of their natural resources. 3) A sensible discussion of the alternatives, even if just to clear the air of misunderstandings about algae based biofuel or other such horseshit. 4) a reasonable discussion of global fossil fuel depletion at the state level, free of baloney, as the whole island economic plan needs to kinda wake up-- seriously, and let's get climate change on the table as part of the discussion as well. Otherwise, we're looking at status quo piecemeal profiteering, and that's not going serve anyone, 'cept a few, at all.

Just my two bits. I do believe that geothermal could be a boon for the Big Island. I also am certain that we must do something, as the status quo of reliance on diesel fuel is extremely dangerous. We are hanging by a thread on that score. It's just important that while we face that urgency we don't sell ourselves out in the rush to do so.

Feedback, of course, is welcome.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Earth Day

So a friend ( I use the term loosely, for sure) says. . .

"Hey Jay, saw your last post, how's your Earth Day?"

I respond. "Actually, I've never actually done the Earth Day thing much, and pretty much think it's stupid."

He snickers, "Yeah, but you seem a little down in the dumps about all that. . ."

"Sure," I say, "The big picture is grim indeed."

"Tell me something I don't know," he rolls his eyes. "Told ya so."

"Did you?" I reply. "Must not have been paying much attention."

He grins. "So what you going to do now that you've given up on sustainability?"

"Well," I say, "Let's be clear. Sustainability could have worked. It worked for me. We as a culture simply had to care enough to make the sacrifices to lead the world by example for a future where it worked out for everyone." I pause. "I haven't given up on sustainability at all, it's just that as a concept it's obsolete. Now it's a basic matter of survival."

"Sure," He laughs, "Must get ya down."

I shake my head, "Intellectually, absolutely. But strategically in my personal life it seems things couldn't be better."

"I bet." He replies.

"Look," I say, "I've got 9 acres of mixed forest and koa trees, more food outside the door than I could eat, even if kinda boring. It's paid for.  I've got really no bills to pay at all. I've learned a great deal about sustainability and learned primarily that sustainability was about efficiency, economy, and diligence. About doing the math and being as slick and skillful as possible. That's where your quality of life comes from." I pause. "I've the skills and infrastructure to live on a footprint that isn't even 10% of my peers, and on an income that most would consider dire poverty. It's pretty comfortable really."

"Bullshit" he snorts. "I love the inefficiency of my F250, and I can afford it. I like my big house. I like spending money, even before I made it." He leans in for effect. "I love spotted owl eggs for breakfast."

"Very nice," I reply. "It may be that efficiency is an acquired taste."

There in the air lingers an awkward pause.

"So," he grins, "you still haven't answered my question. What you going to do for your next stunt?"

"Funny you should ask," I reply. "I filed all the paperwork last week. I'll be bidding against you. . ."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I hate losing

Well, it's taxes again and that always puts me in a crappy mood, but I doubt it cheers many. Still, it forces one to take the time to sit down and really sort through the last year and enumerate a lot of things one might often not take the time to put in such detail. For myself, over the last few years with my work in sustainability I've had to put a lot of time in with a calculator in hand--working out in as much detail as I honestly could what it really meant to live a life where the balance of one's activities contribute to an "measureable good" rather than "purely harmful" and I've learned a lot about it. I've learned personally, for sure, that while it takes a serious person sincere effort and significant compromise, it's completely possible and reasonable comfortable to earn an income and live a life confident that one isn't participating in the larger ecocide. I've learned a lot and it's brought me insights and a whole new set of skills-- as well as a vastly more accurate understanding of the dynamics of the systems that we inhabit. It's been a lot of work but also a lot of fun. Nothing, nothing, is more precious than the simple joy of discovery. And while unforgiving of ignorance, ineptitude, or dishonesty, a life of authentic benevolence is pretty rewarding in its own way, if what many might call austere. After a couple of decades of lifestyles that demand such a high level of integrity it simply becomes impossible to kid oneself about stuff anymore, not as a matter of morality but simple fact: one just loses the knack for it.

In that spirit and having set the calculator aside its time to report a important truth. We're fucked.

I mean really fucked.

Now I know I've often been accused of being a doomsdayer, but in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, I believed that it was going to be difficult indeed to avert the crisis looming from over-population, resource depletion, and climate change-- very difficult in fact, but I hadn't believed it impossible. In fact, I believed that it was possible for courageous individuals to move personally in their own lives towards that goal and in fact set an example that many others, paralyzed in the headlights, might be able to follow. So, that's what I set out to do personally, and that's what I've done now for the last 5 or so years. And in fact my message has been inspirational to many, and convincing as well. But it's been motivational to damned few-- and our culture as a whole has moved even further from solutions to even and ever worse policies-- in fact the rate of destruction has significantly increased. I have been wrong about my fellow man and his grasp on reality and the depth of his love for life and his children. And so, a time comes when it's time to call "abandon ship" -- well, I pride myself on being the kind of sailor(or human being) that would be the first to sound a high water alarm but the last to head for the lifeboats, but that time comes even for me. And, well, fact is, it's here.

So what's that mean? Well, for me personally, different strategies now make sense. Where I had deliberately lived very modestly and frugally I'm force to admit that to do so no longer matters. Whatever I elect to consume will be consumed by the suicidal raving hordes. While I deliberately limited my income to both not contribute to malignant governmental policies and programs and lighten the actual impact of my "earning" to levels I could actually clean up-- I'm forced to admit to do so no longer matters. The hordes will take care of all that too. While I doubt I'll quit planting my trees or stewarding my few acres of forest for whoever or whatever survives this century, I'll do so strictly for and as my own pleasure-- besides, it's now become a habit to think that way and I enjoy the trees. These actions that I had taken in the past are no longer in my mind practical, perhaps not even morally defensible-- as we've entered a world where preservation for much is no longer an option, and we must desperately grasp and protect all of that which we possibly can in whatever manner we might. This is now a triage formula situation. Much must be categorized lost. In this context and again, different strategies are called for--and uncomfortable judgments must be made.

As I see it now, perhaps the most imperiled and endangered parts of the evolutionary wealth of our planet aren't so much rare trees, forests, or ecosystems-- but much to my surprise it is indeed the better and most evolved elements of humanity that is the most threatened. I took for granted that others felt the way I did, and would act how I might see humane. I was wrong about that, and in fact that generosity, honesty, courage, integrity, intelligence-- which might well be claimed to be the highest and most advanced expression of the evolutionary process, and certainly the most precious as it's from here solely comes the valuation of the rest-- it's precisely these elements that are in greatest risk of loss. As we drift further into graver circumstances I see not the best elements of humanity exhibited but more often than not the worst--certainly not noble heroism but rather bestial delusional brutality. Certainly I knew the veneer of civilization was thin, but I did not anticipate it would prove to be so brittle.

So, anyway, stay tuned for the explosion of creative energy that will be my next project, tuned to these necessities, freed of certain constraints. . .

And so sure, there are those who may smugly find themselves satisfied at sneering at my personal admission here, and point to it as a failure. "We knew the ship was lost all along" some might laugh, "there was never any point in even trying to save her." And sure, there may be some slant truth in such a statement, but in fact as we go down together some may discover that my time at work at the pumps and bilges in desperation has conditioned me to be a damn fine swimmer. . .

So I'll chock it up as a personal win, thanks.