Archive for June, 2010

New video programs posted to ThinkTech

June 29th, 2010

ThinkTech Hawaii

Just to let you know that a number of new videos have been posted to Here's a partial list:

  • Carol Fukunaga at the HVCA Luncheon on June 24, 2010
  • Karen Nakamura on better energy construction practices
  • Mark Duda and what we can learn from the PV conference
  • Jay Fidell's blog posted on the Star-Advertiser on June 14th
  • Dan Leuck on the TechHui Conference set for June 26th
  • Chikako Ueki on Japan's perception of itself and of Asia
  • Pauline Sato on finding Agricultural Leadership in Hawaii
  • Chelsea Arnott on the threat of invasive species to Hawaii
  • Ken Rubenstein on the implications of new DNA sequencing
  • Peter Rosegg on HECO's important new sources of biofuel
  • Dan Masutomi on Hawaiian Telcom's network enhancements
  • Jeff Mikulina on getting concerned about energy in Hawaii
  • Sam Staley and the intersection of technology and traffic
  • HPEF's Clean Energy Day - Survey of Energy Pacesetters
  • LTGEN Hank Stackpole on Okinawa's role in Asia-Pacific

See these and other ThinkTech video programs on or

If you have comments about any of them, please let us know at

More coming soon,

Jay Fidell
ThinkTech Hawaii

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Longing for the ferry

June 26th, 2010

ThinkTech Hawaii

Last week my wife and I took a getaway weekend in Kauai. Once there, we had a wonderful time, but you always learn things when you travel.

We took Hawaiian Airlines, really the only choice, and they want you there 45 minutes before flight time. We had to spend $141 each for the cramp of coach, plus the insult of $10 per bag. That meant over $300 for airfare. Lucky it wasn’t first class - that would have been something approaching $700.

Then we had to wait on the TSA line to present our papers, take off our shoes, enjoy a good scan, and all that took much too long. It was a tedious experience from the curb to your seat, then to enjoy recorded welcomes on the plane with 40 minutes of watered down something kind juice.

At the other end, we rented a car for $221 after rejecting their insufferable scare pitch on additional but unnecessary insurance that would save our bacon in the event of a collision. I thought we must be past that now, but I guess everyone has to listen to it to get their car.

Two hundred dollars isn’t small change for a car over a weekend where you’re only going to your hotel and driving maybe 100 miles. I kept thinking how much more comfortable we would have been if we could have had our own car, and how it wouldn’t have cost us anything.

We saw a lot of tourists, and I guess that’s good for the economy, but we didn’t see anyone we knew on the plane, at the hotel or any place other else on Kauai. I don’t think there were a lot of people from Honolulu there that weekend. I would also guess that would be so every weekend.

This was different from the Igloo Days of our youth, where everyone you knew rushed off for a weekend on a Neighbor Island (we called them outer islands then). They went in scant clothes, carrying beach mats and igloos filed with picnic stuff. It felt like everyone on the plane knew each other. It was fun and inexpensive.

After our time on Kauai, we flew back the same way, but there was a little surprise at the airport in Lihue - full body scan. Lots of TSA, and that meant lots of delay. I figured they were testing or perhaps training on the new equipment. Either way, the security was rigorously overdone.

All in all, the creature comfort payload of this trip was well outweighed by the breathtaking travel expense and the distraction of navigating through the security obstacles. I kept thinking how much better such a trip would be if we could just have gone on a ferry. You know, the SuperFerry.

Yes, we have no ferry in Hawaii. Every water and island state in the world has ferries, multiple ferries going everywhere, fast, convenient and inexpensive. Hawaii is the most water and island state in the country, so you’d think we’d have at least one single interisland ferry, wouldn’t you?

Beyond that, you’d think we’d have interisland ferries that could carry cars and trucks and let passengers carry cargo in those cars and trucks. That’d be wonderful for weekenders like us, and for small farmers and mom and pop business people in general. What a great idea for Hawaii.

But wait - that's exactly what we did have. We had all that in SuperFerry for about a year and we threw it away. Try to explain that to somebody from the Mainland. Try to explain it to me and my wife. Hard to believe we chucked it all and left ourselves without a prayer of getting it back.

Somehow our state blew up a profoundly useful transportation system that could have and unified our islands and allowed us to travel among them at relatively cheap fares. It would have allowed us to take our own cars anywhere in the state. The efficiencies are mind-boggling.

It would have made the Neighbor Islands an extension of Oahu and vice versa. But we rejected all of that. Why, exactly, did we do that? I guess a lot of people don't remember exactly why, but the activists tell you it was because the bad guys who ran the ferry needed to be punished.

They will tell you that those guys, complicit with our governor, didn’t want to play by the rules. They wanted to trod berries to outlying places and violate the whale sanctuaries, and that no punishment was too stiff or stern for them, including that of terminating the ferry altogether. As I recall, they never checked our shoes for berries as we got on the plane.

And punished they were. Their investors, who actually did have state permission to proceed, lost everything, hundreds of millions. The employees, hundreds of them, lost their jobs. The two new and beautiful ferries they built were impressed into the rigors of emergency service to Haiti. They're not beautiful anymore.

The last news story I’ve seen appeared in PBN last week reporting that other harbor users, and the public, would have to pick up the cost of the abandoned $40 million of dock facilities the state had installed for SuperFerry. But that’s only a small part of a much larger and tragic loss.

Make no mistake - the need for ferries in Hawaii has not gone away. We’re still an island state and we still have a desperate need for interisland transportation and light cargo. A ferry or a system of ferries could still provide a much needed economic and social benefit for our people.

But there's been no hue and cry to bring SuperFerry back. The governor has been silent and so has the legislature. The paper doesn’t mention it. Neither Bishop Street nor Wall Street seems at all interested in risking another loss like SuperFerry. The whole thing has slid under the waves.

I guess we’ve forgotten we need a ferry, or perhaps we really never knew that we did. After all, if you don’t live in a place where ferries are running, you might not know how important they are. And if you never had a ferry you could use, well then you don’t miss not having one.

So SuperFerry and ferries in general are fading into history. The fickle finger of the news cycle has moved on, and the pain of the tragedy has been dulled by a year of mourning. Now, we just don’t think about it anymore, a kind of travel lobotomy locking us into the body scan and barge.

But what kind of thinking is this? It’s over? Forget about ferries for Hawaii? That’s crazy. We need a ferry system now more than ever. There should be an outcry and a campaign platform for every party and politician demanding that the state build or incentivize one immediately.

We know from SuperFerry that a state-wide ferry system wouldn’t cost more than $1 billion. Why would we spend $6 billion we don’t have for a contested rail system to serve part of one island when we can build a ferry to serve the people on all islands for a fraction of the price?

We’re on the threshold of spending something approaching $2 billion for an undersea power cable to carry electricity among the islands. Don’t you think it’s at least as important to enable inexpensive travel among the islands, for family, for commerce, for relating to the environment or even just for romance?

If you’re a politician running for office, don’t you think you should take a position on this? Our current policy is to run away from the issue because it’s too hot to handle. How about facing the issue, and coming up with a way that will give us the system we should have had so many years ago.

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Been away a week but it feels like more

June 14th, 2010

ThinkTech Hawaii

It’s not over yet - I’ll be continuing to blog in the Star (my short form for the paper), so watch this space. To start out, I’d like to catch up on some loose ends.


More than 200 showed up at Laniakea on June 4th, and it was great. The heavyweight panelists were Mike Gabbard, Mina Morita, Ted Peck and Jeff Mikulina. The Pacesetters movie Sharon Miyashiro and I made featured 18 energy leaders from all over the state (, followed by an astute and valuable analysis from Karl Stahlkopf. The Q&A after Duke Aiona’s speech was largely critical, Neil Abercrombie was generally passionate, and Marine Colonel Robert Rice, commander of K-Bay, was powerful to say the least, no pun intended. We’ve got to do this again, and we will.


Despite the dancing in the streets over Duke Aiona’s recent veto of SB 2401, it’s no cause for celebration. As one wag put it, last year the government blew our brains out, and this year they blew them back in. In fact, the veto does nothing for tech investment going forward. The death blow to 221 and our business image was dealt a year ago, and this grandstand can do nothing to repair it. Get used to it: 221, a brilliant and visionary bill that could have led the development of a new and vital industry, is dead and neither 221 nor its investors are coming back any time soon. Duke’s committee may think that people will treat this veto as his own and a departure from the administration’s eight year war on 221, and that the tech industry will now see him as a tech hero. Given the Q&A at Energy Day, that seems unlikely.


ThinkTech and friends have just about polished off the lineup for “Recovery and Transformation – Straight Talk about Dealing with our Troubled Economy”, a half-day panel program at the Plaza Club on Wednesday, this August 25th. There are some two dozen blue ribbon speakers from developer Dick Gushman to banker Peter Ho, all dedicated to exploring the nature and depth of Hawaii’s recession and how it will affect the state's future. One speaker will join us by Skype from Sweden. Craig Howes and Jon Osorio will report on their new book about Hawaii’s current issues, and much more. Save the date – August 25th. We’ll be emailing the program flyer and activating the signup websites shortly.


We had a really good interview with Peter Rosegg of HECO last week to delve into the news about the new biofuel sources HECO has arranged for its peaking plant at Kapolei and the MECO plant on Maui. Yes, exactly, biofuel in diesel plants – a big step forward. See For that matter, take a look at our other topical videos on, including the ThinkTech and Asia in Review channels and our new Fresh Air Hawaii and High Energy Hawaii channels. I’ll let you know more about them here on the blog.


ThinkTech is always interested in raising public awareness about technology, energy and globalism in Hawaii. If you want to speak out on issues related to these subjects, please let us know, and we’ll see if we can schedule you for a video interview or commentary. Write to me at We want to be a video exchange for events, news and comments on these subjects. We’ll link to them on this blog and elsewhere to try to raise public awareness. Now, more than ever, it's important that we do so.

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June 1st, 2010

Books need to be written about the relationship of the Neighbor Islands with Oahu and each other. One thing is clear - everyone in Hawaii needs to visit a Neighbor Island on a regular basis. And it’s different to visit them on energy business than for pleasure. I had the good fortune of making three trips over three weeks – to the Big Island, to Maui and to Kauai. These trips were to shoot footage for a movie the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum asked me to make for Clean Energy Day on Friday June 4th.

The progenitor of all this is the HEPF Executive Director Sharon Miyashiro. She put the trips together, called ahead, made the arrangements, handled the issues, and came with me on the three trips to the Neighbor Islands as well as the on-location shoots in Oahu. Sharon has been great – this whole project could not have gotten off the ground without her. She is a symbol and complete mover-shaker for energy.

The interviews we filmed on these trips were all of energy entrepreneurs, person for person some of the most interesting people you will ever find. At the core, they are energy-tech people, with great technical and people skills. They are thoughtful and motivated and fully understand the fossil fuel and clean energy issues, along with other sustainability issues of increasing concern in these times. Including Oahu, we filmed some 20 people. Let me tell you about some of those that come to mind.

Dennis Rose runs the Wailuku Power Plant up the hill east of Hilo. He’s a mechanic by background. The plant is a man’s toy – big noisy steel powerhouse equipment, in beautiful shape, in harmony with the environment there, sluicing off power from the river and delivering it to HELCO. The whole thing is done by remote control. What’s interesting is it’s not new. The facility is 20 years old, updated for computer controls, but evidence is that we were thinking about and acting on these issues 20 plus years ago.

Adam Esquith runs Kauai Farm Fuels, an oil recycling plant in Hanapepe. He’s a Ph.D. in biology and brilliant. He’s so full of energy he can hardly contain himself. He calls the place Sanford and Sons, but in the same moment eloquently explains its role in the development and protection of the community and in alternative energy going forward. Adam is a hands-on visionary.

Bob King runs Pacific Biodiesel with his wife Kelly in Maui. Together they will rule the world, and nicely. Bob is quiet, but what a discussion that was. He knows how to answer questions – a great interview. They’re building another biodiesel processing plant in Hilo. They have a dozen or more around the islands and on the Mainland. They have things worked out on every level, especially on the point that they are doing this largely to improve Hawaii. Stay tuned for great things from both of them.

Darren Kimura has developed a field of Sopogy solar collectors at NELHA. There are more than 1,000 units in the lava. It’s a large industrial generation project, one which I’m sure will be duplicated many times in many places. Darren is the entrepreneur’s entrepreneur - enterprising, uncompromising and articulate both one-to-one and with a crowd. He is active in state energy policy and regulation, and is also involved in national energy policy and regulation. Watch this space for an international name.

Bill Cowern of Hawaiian Mahogany had the idea of growing trees in Kauai 15 years ago. He has 3,500 acres of cane land he brought from MacBride and plants trees on 2,000 of them. He believes in sustainability in the fullest sense, and wants to start his sustainable “ring” of production now, not later. His trees, growing in every direction, yield lumber, energy and feed, and his land is completely self-sustaining. The grass under the trees fertilizes them so Bill doesn’t have to provide anything else to make the ring work – one thing feeds the other, and at the end of the day he can make money selling the products of the ring. Talk about enterprising! With a new kind of plantation that can sustain itself in such creative ways, Bill if ready for anything.

Tom Quinn has been running hydrogen cars and buses at HCATT, which is part of HTDC, for decades. Times have never been better. With help from the military, and especially Dan Inouye, Tom has a facility on Cooke Street and a proving ground at Hickam AFB. Most recently, he built a large PV solar array to power a plant that makes hydrogen for hydrogen vehicles there. He’s also installing some low altitude wind turbines to supplement the PV. This shows you the dedication of the military to testing and building clean energy in Hawaii. It also shows you Tom’s dedication.

Tom’s military connection segways to the Grow Farm algae farm in Kapaia, right next to the power plant there. Grow Farm owns 40,000 acres and is a principal of Hawaii BioEnergy, which is in a partnership with General Atomic to manufacture JP8 jet fuel from algae. It’s an impressive facility, and so are the Grow Farm and General Atomic people there. We interviewed Mike Tressler from Grow Farm and others from General Atomic. In Phase Two they’ll add 1,200 acres of algae. We also interviewed Algae Kuehnle of Kuehnle AgroSystems in Honolulu, from whom they get their algae. This is critical to the military and to all of us. It’s great to have them scaling it up in Kauai.

This is just a sampling of the energy people we filmed, the ones that randomly come to mind. There were several others, all of whom were great. We have lots of footage and we’re putting more organized snippets of it in the video we’ll show at Clean Energy Day this Friday, June 4th. If you can come, you’ll see footage of all of them, and you’ll also meet some of them and participate in the discussion that connects them, and us.

Clean Energy Day is at the Laniakea YMCA on Richards Street downtown, 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The $25 admission includes pupus and drinks. Come and add your two cents in the discussion on what we need to do to achieve our clean energy goals.

1:00 – 2:00 p.m. - 2010 Legislature and Beyond

Selected legislators and administrators will discuss the outcomes of the 2010 Legislature and next steps to achieve Hawaii’s clean energy initiatives
Sen. Mike Gabbard, Hawaii State Legislature
Rep. Hermina Morita, Hawaii State Legislature

2:00 – 3:00 p.m. -- State of the Industry

Video presentation on local energy companies and commentary on the challenges that need to be addressed to grow and sustain the energy industry
Video: Energy Industry Pacesetters featuring companies advancing the industry

3:00 – 4:00 p.m. -- Community Leaders on Realizing Our Energy Initiatives

Local political and military leaders will comment on what they would do to address challenges and to realize Hawaii’s clean energy initiatives
Lt. Governor James "Duke" Aiona
Fmr. Congressman Neil Abercrombie

4:00 – 6:00 -- Pau Hana Power Party

Sponsors include the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum, Hawaii State Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism. If you want to know what’s going on in Clean Energy in Hawaii, check it out.

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