Archive for January, 2012

The closing of two hospitals in our community is chilling

January 31st, 2012

ThinkTech Hawaii

Perhaps it shows there will be fewer hospitals and less healthcare in our future, and that we’ll have greater inconvenience to healthcare access. Perhaps it also shows that the neighbor islands won’t be the only ones who will suffer doctor/healthcare shortages. All in all, quite scary.

So now, the two hospitals are closed. Their staffs are out of work. Their equipment and other assets are being sold. Hopefully, the transplant center will resurface in Queens Hospital once the Feds have finally approved the transfer. We hope that's soon, since transplant patients will necessarily incur huge expenses if they have to go to the mainland to finish the job.

Let's not look back at why these hospitals failed in the first place, but let's look at the fact that nobody bailed them out. No other buyer, government, private or non-profit organization was willing to take them over. They were seen more as black holes than community assets.

Surely something could have been done. Couldn’t the federal and/or state government or a consortium of other hospitals have kept them open? Was there no creative solution possible? It's disappointing to see institutions so important go away without a sound. We are all the losers.

No we have two large hospital properties lying dormant. We have thousands of skilled staff without jobs, many of whom will not be able to work or stay here, and who will have to leave or lose their skill over time. Once they move on they will be irreplaceable, lost to our community.

The way it works out is that we’ll have more unemployment, more pressure on the economy, more sick people who will have greater difficulty finding access to healthcare, and we’ll also have emergency transfers stuck on the freeway. All of this will require additional state funding and one way or the other we’ll all have to pay for it. It’s hard to find a bright side.

Suppose another hospital goes down. It’s not outside the realm of possibility. These two were apparently not too big to fail, but perhaps the next one will be too big to fail. Maybe next time somebody will step forward. We hope so because we can’t keep on losing critical services.

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The Healthcare Discussion must go on

January 24th, 2012

ThinkTech Hawaii

On December 6th at the Plaza Club, ThinkTech and HVCA presented at its December panel program entitled "How Healthy is Health Care in Hawaii?"

The program featured Ginny Pressler, Executive Vice President of Hawaii Pacific Health and Josh Green, Chair of the Senate Health Committee, as two great moderators for two great panels.

It was very well attended and presented and a great program for ThinkTech and HVCA, one of the best for 2011 and a model for the programs we contemplate for next year.

For this program, we took questions in writing from the floor and received a huge number of them. The panels were only able to get to a fraction of them, and we still have lots of questions left over.

We made a video show about the program for our ThinkTech on OC16 show, and we posted the uncut footage on our website, so if you’d like to see the program stem to stern, you can see it there.
But the issue goes on, and in fact was mentioned in Neil Abercrombie’s State of the State address on Monday. There’s much more to discuss and much more to do to straighten healthcare out in Hawaii.

That considered, we’re bringing Ginny Presser and Josh Green back, Ginny from her daily pressures at HPH and Josh back from his committee hearings at the Legislature, to continue the discussion we started in December, and bring us current.

Yes, we’re continuing the discussion on our radio show. We’re including the two of them in a show tomorrow, January 25th, on ThinkTech Radio KGU 760AM – Again we’re calling the discussion "How Healthy is Health Care in Hawaii?"

We’ll cover what happened on December 6th, maybe some of the questions that could not be answered that day, and most important what’s happened since then and what’s pending in the Ledge right now.

After all, Healthcare is a huge issue in Hawaii, as well as nationally, one we have to discuss not only at one luncheon program, but on an ongoing basis, and this is our way of saying that we recognize the importance of the discussion on that issue.

So much is happening all around us in Healthcare. Check it out in the paper and check it out tomorrow, Wednesday, January 25th from 4-5 pm on ThinkTech Radio on KGU 760AM. See you, and Ginny and Josh, then.

In the long run, your health could depend on it.

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The tide may be rising on rail

January 16th, 2012

ThinkTech Hawaii

There's certainly been more anti-rail discussion lately. This could be because rail looks like it's going to cost more with less federal support, and won’t solve the traffic problem. Or it could be that our old friend, Ben Cayetano, is putting his money where his mouth is, in court and now in the mayoral election.

And four speakers are coming, experts on rail, public policy and finance and demographics. They’re Adrian Moore, PhD, VP of Public Policy at the Reason Foundation; John Charles, president and CEO of the Cascade Policy Institute; Randal O'Toole, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute; and Wendell Cox of Demographia, and Visiting Fellow from Heritage Foundation.

They'll all be speaking about rail at the Kapolei Satellite City Hall at 6:00 p.m. on February 28th and at the Mission Memorial Auditorium next to City Hall downtown at 12:30 p.m. on February 29th.

They’re a group with powerful credentials and arguments against rail, many of which the City has never properly addressed. We're glad they're coming, and we're glad this conversation is happening and in fact widening. We only wish we had heard them earlier.

Their common denominator is that rail is too expensive. You can take a look at the video of my recent interview with Wendell Cox on He makes the case that our city has billions in liabilities, that we’re in a long term recession, that our government is too big, that it can't collect enough to operate, and on top of that we’ll have to pay way more than $6 billion.

That said, it’s crystal clear that we need stop the rail project as soon as possible.

Do you feel it? People who were on the fence are turning against rail. The silent majority waiting in the wings seems to be more engaged now and many of them are moving to anti-rail. We don't know what the dynamic has been, but it sounds much more grassroots than before.

Ben Cayetano is running on an anti-rail mandate. The people who vote for him will be voting against rail. Hopefully he'll gain some traction on this issue, and that’ll be a huge message. But if he wins, what exactly what can he do about rail? He should tell us more.

Anyway, now there's light at the end of the tunnel. Rail is a monumental waste of money that will break the back of our middle class and thus our economy, so these speakers will be worth listening to. If you have a chance, you might want to attend their talks and see what you think.

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Energy Policy Forum Briefing to Deal with Difficult Issues

January 11th, 2012

ThinkTech Hawaii

It’s that time again, and the session beckons. In the same vein, it’s that time again for the HEPF Legislative Briefing. HEPF’s 8th annual briefing will take place at 10:00 a.m. this Friday, January 13th at the State Capitol Auditorium.

What’s HEPF, anyway? It’s an organization of 45 energy stakeholders and community leaders committed to advancing smart energy solutions to sustain a healthy, prosperous and secure Hawaii. Most of them will be there, actually.

They represent federal, state and local government, academia, utilities, oil and gas companies, renewable energy associations, environmental associations - all committed to Hawaii and a clean and sustainable energy future for our State.

We’ll open with a welcome by Representative Denny Coffman, Chair of the House Energy Committee.

Then we’ll call Sharon Moriwaki Co-Chair of HEPF to introduce its 2011 outreach project - “Hawaii: The State of Clean Energy,” a six part series on Hawaii News How. She’ll play the trailer, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s good.

Then we’ll hear from the other Co-chair, Mike Hamnett, on the status of clean energy development in Hawaii.

After Mike finishes, HEPF’s Carl Freedman, the facilitator and leader of HEPF's major research project, the “Clean Energy Performance Report,” will report on that project and the process by which it will be implemented.

Then we’ll proceed to the primary program: “Issues and Controversies in Clean Energy.” There are those who feel that other issues and perspectives should be discussed, but surely there is enough controversy on energy these days to keep us going. The briefing will cover five issues that are most important.
First - what’s the true cost of renewable energy?

With more renewable projects and with the feed-in-tariff structure, what is the true cost of clean energy? What is the return on investment for renewables and the cost and benefit to our people? What is the cost of not investing? Our panelists are Josh Strickler fo the PUC and Robbie Alm of HECO.

Second – should we amend the solar tax credit law?

Some say the current solar tax incentives benefit only the wealthy or those who can afford them, so state funds are not benefitting the greater public, particularly those with limited incomes who cannot afford the cost of installation. Should the law be amended to favor utility scale projects that would benefit everyone? Our Panelists are Representative Pono Chong and Jon Yoshimura of Solar City.

Third - should we invest in the undersea cable?

Hawaii is an island state, but some islands are rich in renewables and others with greater requirements are not. Are we in the same canoe or is each island “an island unto itself?” Should we have a state-wide grid? Our panelists are Energy Administrator Mark Glick and Doug McCleod of the County of Maui.

Fourth - should we invest in local grown biofuels?

Can Hawaii return to its agricultural roots and grow its own biofuel? Should we? What are the pros and cons of investing in locally grown biofuel? Was Aina Koa Pono a good decision, and what lessons can we learn? Our panelists are Consumer Advocate Jeff Ono and Mel Chiogioji from Aina Koa.

Fifth - do we need to amend the barrel tax law?

The Barrel Tax passed two years ago to provide funding for energy and food security. Has it met its legislative intent of advancing clean energy? Should it be changed? Our panelists are Representative Marcus Oshiro, Chair of the House Finance Committee and Jeff Mikulina of Blue Planet Foundation.
Senator Mike Gabbard, Chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee will present closing remarks.

As you can see from the choices of issues and speakers, we hope to have candid discussions on what’s in contention for this session. Accordingly, all legislators should be interested in attending this briefing. Likewise, anyone in Hawaii who is interested in renewable energy should likewise plan to attend.

For more information, see

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Can we light our cities with PV?

January 2nd, 2012

ThinkTech Hawaii

Can we light our cities with PV, or is that just Myth Number Three. (Myth Number One is that every island can go on its own, and Myth Number Two is that renewables cost less.) Today let’s talk Three.

Everybody loves PV, but PV needs daylight and can’t light our cities at night. Even if every one of us got PV we’d still need firm power to light out cities. You can sell all the PV you want to the utility, but overnight storage systems have not yet come of age and it’s of no use to them after dark.

Sure there are more PV jobs out there these days and they’re doing more work. It’s a great business to be in, although margins are thinner with all the new entries. Assuming the tax credits stay in place and the PUC finishes the job on on-bill financing, we’ll be pushing new PV records again in 2012.

Although homeowners and PV installers will consider it good times, what about the long-term effects? The utility can accept and pay for only so much daytime PV. There’s got to be a breaking point when additional PV is of no use to either the homeowner or the utility.

You can cut the cord, forget about 5-0 and get more sleep, or you can pay the minimum connection charge to the utility with a view to giving them power during the daytime and taking power from them at night in hopes of coming out even. But given the rise in PV, this will not be sustainable.

Whatever happens, the utility has to maintain its generator and distribution infrastructure to keep the lights on at night. The PV basic connection ratepayers don’t pay for that, but the rest of us do. When everyone but you has PV, you’ll be the last man standing. Just imagine what your rates will be.

In the end, something has to change. The connection rate has to go up, the rate the utility pays you for PV power has to go down, and/or the price it charges PV customers for night time power has to go up, or maybe all three. It won’t be pretty, but it won’t be as ugly as laying it all on the last man standing.

Of course, it won’t go that far. Somewhere along the line, there will be some serious adjustment before we get to that point, right? So when you look forward, and plan your own rooftop, be sure to check your assumptions on how these things will work when the whole world finds out it’s in love.

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