Biohazard

DAILY UPDATES: Coronavirus: 21st Century Pandemic

HAWAII TODAY: COVID-19 HEADLINES

Hawaii Cases By Day

Hawaii officials announced the first COVID-19 related death in the islands, along with 20 new cases, bringing the state’s total number of confirmed infections to 224.

Kona area testing reveals COVID-19 cases highest concentration for the virus on the Big Island.

Hawaii can also expect to see a surge in COVID-19 Cases in the coming days as test result data that is just beginning to surface.


COVID-19,  by the Numbers … today’s developments

BeyondKona continues to monitor and report on the COVID-19 pandemic on a daily basis, sourcing information from the most reliable and available data sources.  It is important to note, the most the reliable indicator on the progress of the virus and its impact to humans is not the number of cases reported (which is based on a highly incomplete test sampling of the population), rather the most reliable indicator as to the progression of the virus are the number of deaths reported and which are directly attributed to the virus…

Hawaii Island CasesKITV reported yesterday (3-31) that …COVID-19 is spreading in Hawaii communities at a wider scale than being reported. That’s according to two medical experts on the frontlines of containing the virus.

“There’s no fear mongering here. We need to isolate we need to separate,” Dr. Miscovich, founder of Premier Medical Group Hawaii, whose clinics have identified about 40 of the 175 positive cases so far in the state.
Dr. Miscovich added that most of the professional community are “thinking there’s probably 800 to 1,000 unidentified cases on Oahu right now, and that would also be across the neighbor islands. We need to test them we need to find them, we need to isolate them, we need to treat them and I still am very confident that we have the ability to flatten the curve.”

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Dr. Miscovich added that most of the professional community are “thinking there’s probably 800 to 1,000 unidentified cases on Oahu right now, and that would also be across the neighbor islands. We need to test them we need to find them, we need to isolate them, we need to treat them and I still am very confident that we have the ability to flatten the curve.”

Dr. Miscovich has been on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus. He and his team held another drive-thru testing site last weekend in Oahu. He said Hawaii can expect to see an increase in positive cases in the near future.

“The people of Hawaii need to know, we are going to see a massive surge. It does not mean that we have a massive new influx. This is just the data we’re getting today is coming from the last 10 days,” Dr. Miscovich explained about the lag in testing results.

However, he adds that testing is getting faster, and a new blood test can help speed up results.

“We have a pilot on a device right now, which is a 10 minute blood test, and that pilot is about 95% accurate,” Dr. Miscovich said about the new form of testing. He said the blood test is used for patients with a high probability of having the virus. “It still needs to be quantified with a nasal swab,” he said.

Hawaii DOH reports 224 presumptive or positive cases to date. About 9,000 tests have been conducted as of the end of March, representing about 1/2 of one percent of the state’s population. Also, since 100% of tests are now being shipped to mainland labs, getting back results is taking time. Even though Premier Medical began drive-thru testing several weeks back, 40% of the tests are still pending.

On Sunday, the state Department of Health reported 24 new cases of COVID-19.   All but one of the new cases are residents of the state with only one non-resident, who tested positive on Hawaii Island. There are now a total of 175 positive COVID-19 cases for the state. Oahu has reported 123 cases, Maui 20, Big Island 12 and Kauai 12.

The Department of Health included a new section in their daily numbers and revealed that 49 people of the 175 have recovered from the virus. The department defines the term “recovered” as someone who is released from isolation and who are not likely to pose a risk to others.

Here’s the latest breakdown of COVID-19 cases (source Civil Beat):

  • Hawaii County: 15 (3 new)
  • Honolulu County: 157 (18 new)
  • Kauai County: 12 (1 new)
  • Maui County: 25 (5 new)

A DOH official says that 96 of the 175 cases are travel-related, . A total of 32 cases are considered to be “community” related and 47 are unknown.

One death (Oahu) have been recorded so far.


GLOBAL COVID-19 IMPACT – as of April 1, 2020

The world is rapidly reaching the 1 Million mark for global COVID-19 infection cases.

To date, the number of verified COVID-19 Cases WORLDWIDE: 917,967.

The number of verified COVID-19 Deaths WORLDWIDE: 46,062.

The number of COVID-19 Recoveries WORLDWIDE: 193,342

For more data detail we recommend visiting: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/



USA TOPS GLOBAL TOTALS FOR CORONAVIRUS CASES

The United States has reported over 205,450 confirmed cases of the virus

The number of deaths has climbed to 4,528

The total number of virus patients recovered: 8,762 

  USA: COVID 19 Cases – April 1st, 2020

About three out of four Americans are or will soon be under instructions to stay at home.Virus Map Update2

In New York, the governor said that 1,218 people had died, and that 9,517 people in the state were hospitalized with the virus.

In emergency rooms and intensive care units throughout New York City, typically dispassionate medical professionals are feeling panicked as increasing numbers of their colleagues get sick.

“I feel like we’re all just being sent to slaughter,” said Thomas Riley, a nurse at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, who has contracted the virus, along with his husband.

Doctors and nurses said they can look overseas for a dark glimpse of the risk they are facing — especially when protective gear has been in short supply.

William P. Jaquis, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said the situation across the country was too fluid to begin tracking such data, but he said he expected the danger to intensify.

Doctors are getting sick everywhere,” he said. (NY Times, March 30th)


 


HOW LONG? — Data is beginning to emerge indicating that individuals infected with the virus, once recovered, remain active carriers of the virus for up to 24 days.

Currently, it is estimated to take about 2 weeks, once inflected with COVID-19 virus, to manifest symptoms. And then it takes another 2-3 weeks to recover, and an additional 2-3 weeks once recovered, to remain a carrier of the (active) virus, and with possibility of inflecting others.

Add it all up, and that’s about 8 weeks or about two months — the total timeline for individuals infected to carry the “active” virus within their body. 

Hawaii state, as is occurring nationally, is experiencing shortages of essential pandemic supplies: hand sanitizer,  N95 masks, thermometers, gloves, and related panic purchase effects on supplies of toilet paper and some food stocks. Raw material shortages essential to the production of items ranging from N-95 masks to toilet paper are beginning to be reported by some U.S. manufacturers.

Officials are screening passengers that arrive at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport to identify those coming from countries that require quarantine or public health supervision. Anyone who has traveled to areas with sustained community transmission are being asked to self-isolate and monitor their health for 14 days.

 



 

Dws Leaky Waterworld

EDITORIAL – Three Years After A Major Westside Water System Failure, County Audit Misses The Mark

In January 2017, a series of mysterious system wide failures led to a nearly 40% reduction in water delivery capacity by the Department of Water Supply (DWS) and to its West Hawaii customer base.  Of the 13 wells which comprise the DWS Westside system, five (5) wells mysteriously failed within days of one another.

The loss of five deep water wells resulted in severe water use restrictions for both residents and businesses throughout North Kona region, and for more than a year.

A belated DWS county audit was delivered to the County Council this week, more than three years after the event.  In the words of County auditor … “DWS should further develop and implement complete, detailed and written contingency plans by district as well as update their Continuity of Operations Plan.” 

That’s It?  As to the cause of the West Hawaii cascading well failures of 2017, the taxpayer-funded audit provided little insight.   In fact, if not for the persistence of North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff and former Councilman Dru Kanuha in response to residents’ concerns, there might not have ever been an audit.

What exactly triggered a series of closely aligned pump failures occurring within days of one another? Aquifers Wells DwsFundamental questions as to why this happened, and equally important, as to what can be done to prevent it from happening again have not been investigated or explained by officials.

The DWS system failures took the utility two years to recover, mostly though a series of work-around steps. To date, some of the damaged wells may remain possibly permanently out of service, beyond economic recovery.

The costly series of downed wells and reduced service capacity required extended periods of voluntary and threatened water rationing, with DWS water trucks supplementing down service areas — also all at ratepayers expense.

The absence of any reasonable explanation goes to the heart of DWS’ operations: a quasi-public /private organization without accountability to its ratepayers; beginning with operational oversight, and ending with its manager and chief engineer.

A CLOSER LOOK INTO CORRECTIVE DWS MEASURES NEEDED

What  were the “lessons learned” that could prevent such failures in the future?

First, we must consider three fundamental and outstanding issues with DWS’s (Dept. of Water Supply) mission critical operation – reliably delivering water services to its customers: island residents, agriculture, and businesses:

  1. No Power, No Water — DWS has no power backup system in place for its pumping operations; DWS is totally dependent on HELCO (HECO) power to operate on a 24×7 basis. The most basic power back-up capacity (enabling continued operation in the likely event of power loss is absent from the DWS water delivery system).  Service resiliency is not part of the utility’s management ethos. In the event of an extended power outage 8-18 hours, the DWS infrastructure begins to fail in water delivery, as pipeline storage tanks are emptied.
  2. A Culture of and Absence of Public Transparency — The loss of five Hawaii Island Westside service wells within less than a month (January 2017), has never been fully explained – coincidence, not likely. Questions that remain unanswered, including: what was the state of HELCO power delivered to DWS, and what was the state of power surge protection at the time of system failure, and at each of the five well sites.  Is it true that all five well sites were wired to the same HELCO circuit? If yes, is there a link between the pump and equipment failures and the state of power delivery at the time of the incidents?
  3. No Incentive to Improve Resiliency, Efficiency, or Lower Costs — DWS is the largest single power consumer on Hawaii Island. They are HELCO’s number one customer, but delivering power through a fragile grid which is ready to fail with Hawaii Island’s next super storm (even after ratepayer-funded HELCO grid strengthening improvements of 2018).  More than half of DWS’ operating cost is from electricity purchased from HELCO which is required to power its pumping network.  Escalating HELCO power costs are quickly passed onto DWS ratepayer water bills (no questions asked). From the DWS’ perspective, the ratepayer money barrel appears bottomless.

There is a nine member Water Board (appointed by the Mayor) which is charged with public oversight of DWS operations. The board has historically failed to demonstrate much interest in representing ratepayer interests, rubber stamping rate increases, and failing to hold accountable DWS management. Rather than focusing on their fiduciary oversight responsibilities to improve resiliency, efficiency, and lower costs within DWS, the Board appears less concerned with such details.

  • There is also an absence of imagination by the Water Board and DWS management when it comes to opportunities that can address inherent operating deficiencies within the utility, i.e., addressing the absence of power back-up and adequate power surge protection from the grid– both a cost of operation and service reliability issue.
  • Failing to pursue self-generation powering opportunities (solar/wind) and pumped-storage; are missed opportunities which can significantly cut DWS operating costs, introduce sustainability, and will certainly add to overall operating resiliency.

All appears in short supply when it comes to public accountability from a water utility which is both essential to Hawaii Island life and the local economy.

Red Alert

The loss of biodiversity, the rise of deadly diseases

According to new research published in Nature, December 2019, a healthy biodiversity is essential to human health. As species (marine, terrestrial, and airborne) disappear, infectious diseases rise in humans and throughout the animal kingdom, so extinctions directly affect our health and chances for survival as a species. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/humans-are-more-at-risk-from-diseases-as-biodiversity-disappears/

There are 26,500 species threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global network of some 16,000 scientists. That includes 40 percent of amphibian species, 33 percent of reef-building corals, 25 percent of mammals, and 14 percent of birds. Hawaii has had its share of extinctions, primarily birds, with over 50 species now extinct, and averaging one bird species going extinct every decade for the past 50 years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_extinct_animals_of_the_Hawaiian_Islands

Another indicator of a global biosystem in trouble is Earth’s insect species, essential to both the food chain of humans and animals alike — the total number and variety of insects is estimated to be dropping by 2.5 percent every year. “There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead,” said biologist Paul Ehrlich.

Humans are more at risk from diseases as biodiversity disappears

“Biodiversity loss tends to increase pathogen transmission across a wide range of infectious disease systems,” Barnard College ecologist Felicia Keesing.

Pathogens can include viruses, bacteria and fungi. And humans are not the only ones at risk: all manner of other animal and plant species could be affected.

Biodiversity around the world is declining at a very fast pace.

The human population has swelled to over 7.5 billion and our species’ has produced a massive footprint on planet Earth with a devastating impact on mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and marine life.

We’ve driven thousands of species to extinction through habitat loss, over-hunting and over-fishing, the introduction of invasive species into new ecosystems, toxic pollution, petro-chemical agricultural, and the overriding human-produced element: climate change in the form of global heating…

Only 3 percent of the original populations of the heavily fished Pacific bluefin tuna remain in the sea.

Extinction List Grows

In the past 40 years alone, the number of wild animals has plunged 50 percent (2014 study). Just in the past 20 years, a 90 percent plunge in the number of monarch butterflies (an indicator species) in America, and an 87 percent loss of rusty-patched bumblebees. “We are sleepwalking toward the edge of a cliff,” said Mike Barrett, executive director at WWF.

The Holocene extinction, is otherwise referred to as the sixth mass extinction.

Is a global mass extinction now underway? Many scientists now believe humans are living through a “6th mass extinction,” or an epoch during which at least 75 percent of all species vanish from the planet.

The current and ongoing sixth extinction event of species (sometimes called Anthropocene) is the direct result of human activity. The current rate of extinction of species is estimated at 100 to 1,000 times higher than natural background rates.

In the Beginning…

Earth has supported life in some form for about 4.2 billion years. The previous five mass extinctions occurred over the past 450 million years; the last one occurred about 66 million years ago, when the aftermath of a massive asteroid strike wiped out the dinosaurs.

Prior global extinctions differed from the current one.  They were triggered by a natural disaster or change in Earth’s climate. This time, it’s humanity that is driving a mass die-off with global consequences poorly understood or appreciated.

What are the consequences? 

Potentially enormous. The loss of species can have catastrophic effects not only to the health of the planet, but to the food chain on which all of humanity depends. With widespread degradation of highly biodiverse habitats such as coral reefs and rainforests, as well as other areas, the vast majority of these extinctions are thought to be undocumented, as the species are undiscovered at the time of their extinction, or no one has yet discovered their extinction.

Ocean reefs, which sustain more than 25 percent of marine life, have declined by 50 percent already — and could be lost altogether by 2050.Dinasour Extinction

Insects pollinate crops humans eat. Take the humble honeybee for example. U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service finds that honey bees (in 2016 report) contributed over $339 million to the US economy in honey sales, but that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the honey bee’s value to humans and our food chain.

In fact, bee pollination accounts for about $15 billion annually in added crop value; many crops are fully dependent on bee pollination which is vital to the approximately 250,000 species of flowering plants that depend on the transfer of pollen from flower anther to stigma to reproduce.  Today, commercial agriculture production depends on more than 90 crops which rely exclusively on bee pollination.

Of the approximately 3,600 bee species that live in the U.S., the European honey bee (scientific name Apis mellifera) is the most common pollinator, making it the most important bee to domestic agriculture. Equally important to modern agricultural is the use of chemicals to manage so-called pests.

Introduced in 1990’s, Neonicotinoids, are now the most widely used insecticides in the world.  Their benefits are widely marketed by chemical manufacturers, leading to their widespread use in agriculture and residential areas.

Studies have linked bee deaths and hive collapse to this relatively new form of insecticide due to its persistence in the soil, and ability to leach into the environment, high water solubility, with negative health implications for non-target organisms such as pollinators (honeybees).

Neonicotinoids can be sprayed onto foliage or applied as soil drenches, but they are predominantly used as seed treatments. When used this way, neonicotinoids are taken up by all parts of the plant as it grows. This means these systemic insecticides are present in pollen and nectar that pollinators can come in contact with when foraging.  https://pollinator.cals.cornell.edu/threats-wild-and-managed-bees/pesticides/neonicotinoids/

About one-third of the food eaten by Americans comes from crops pollinated by honey bees, including apples, melons, cranberries, pumpkins, squash, broccoli, and almonds, to name just a few. Without the industrious honey bee, American dinner plates would look quite bare.

The current human-caused environmental stresses worldwide are …“far more than just being about losing the wonders of nature, desperately sad though that is,” the WWF’s Barrett said. “This is actually now jeopardizing the future of people. Nature is not ‘nice to have’ — it is our life-support system.”

 

Red Alert – deadly diseases on the rise

The rise in diseases and other pathogens seems to occur when so-called “buffer” species disappear. Co-author Richard Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies points to the growing number of cases of Lyme disease in humans as an example of how this happens. The authors focused on diseases—including Lyme, West Nile virus, hantavirus and nine others—around the world. In each case they found that the maladies have become more prevalent during the time in which local biodiversity shrank.

“Preserving large intact areas and minimizing contact with wildlife would go a big step of the way to reducing disease,” Keesing said in Nature.

So should you care?  Yes you should, if you value your health.  Living in balance with nature not only makes sense, but it essential to all life (humans included) on Earth.

 A healthy planet equals healthy humans …a lesson we humans must learn or join the 6th global extinction of species now underway.

Road Taxes, Electric Vehicles and Hawaii’s Future

New developments in battery technology, and the promise of a growing number of electric vehicles to choose from in various price ranges has some Hawaii legislators on edge. In “the sky is falling” of knee-jerk legislation last year, SB 409 was born.

For additional information on electric vehicles (EV’s), and their role in Hawaii’s future, we invite you to visit the July 2019 edition of Hawaii Today: https://www.beyondkona.com/ev-adoption-linchpin-to-hawaiis-transportation-and-clean-energy-future/

SB 409, and its companion introduced in this current 2020 session as SB3111, are designed to collect from the small group of Hawaii’s Electric Vehicles owners road maintenance fees traditionally collected in the form of taxes on fossil fuel (gas/diesel) sales.  If you ask most of Hawaii’s EV owners they’ll likely tell you …sure we’ll pay our way, but is this right approach and the right time? 

Instead, SB409 (2019) and SB 3111 (2020) have in effect, added uncertainty and economic barriers of entry to EV ownership for Hawaii’s driving public. 

EV’s represent barely 1% of all registered vehicles in the state of Hawaii, and both bills are designed to address a problem that does not yet exist, and will not exist for some time to come.  So instead, our legislators created another tax (something we do best here in Hawaii) and one that promises to further slow Hawaii’s already modest growth path to electric vehicle ownership, and as a result, slow the advancement of Hawaii’s transition to clean energy and climate change mitigation. 

BeyondKona asked one of our island experts on the subject, Bernard Moret, EV owner and board adviser to Big Island Electric Vehicle Association (BIEVA) for his thoughts on the subjects of road taxes, electric vehicles, and Hawaii’s future in electrified transportation.

On road taxes, electric vehicles, and Hawaii’s future

Bernard Moret, guest editor

A transition to 100% renewable energy, not just for electricity production, but for all land-based activities, is crucial to the future of the state.

Hawaii is blessed with plentiful solar, wind, and geothermal energy, but is currently relying on fossil fuels for most of its electrical production (KUIC on Kauai is far ahead of HECO on the other islands) and for all of its transportation.

State and county policy makers have studied approaches to meeting the state’s goal of 100% renewable energy production by 2045 and the counties’ goal of total decarbonization of their vehicle fleets by 2035.  Much has been made in the last year of state studies aimed at maintaining funding for the road system in the face of anticipated decreases of revenue from the gasoline tax due to increased adoption of battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs) by the public.  Because these discussions all take place in the context of the state’s and counties’ efforts to move to 100% renewable energy sources, the first finding is simply that the only reasonable path open to us is through clean production of electrical energy and electrification of all land transportation.  So, where are we along this path?

To date, only modest efforts have been made by HECO to tap into renewable sources of energy, but this will change in keeping with the state’s mandate. Yet, the environmental contribution EV’s provide to the state’s other goals in the advancement clean energy and climate mitigation is generally discounted at the legislative level.

The contribution EV’s play in advancing the state’s clean goal will likely manifest themselves in two significant ways.

  • 1-  Creation of an EV charging infrastructure will drive a resistant statewide utility (HECO) to shift their power production capacity to clean and renewable energy in order to meet the growing demand for EV-driven clean power demand, while incorporating the same cost-saving efficiencies of 21st century grid operations.
  • 2-  A natural extension of EV ownership to homeowner and commercial installed Solar rooftop power production, completing the cycle and fueling opportunity from sun-to-vehicle.

Ev 1 Emissions

Specific to the transportation front, the expected decrease in gasoline consumption has not yet happened in Hawaii, in fact, last year saw a 3% increase in gasoline consumption — an unfortunate development as it also means an increase in pollution.  However, adoption of BEVs has started to modestly ramp up; state, counties, and power companies are working on setting up a network of charging stations; and discussions have started on a proposed road tax for BEVs.  Road maintenance needs, of course, will not change even when all vehicles on the road are BEVs.

Road damage from vehicles is almost entirely a function of their weight.  Government and state studies show that a single 18-wheeler loaded to its federal maximum of 80,000 lbs does 10,000 times more damage to the road than a midsize car.  In other words, almost all of the road damage is due to large commercial transports: dump trucks, tanker trucks, 18-wheelers, etc.  Put another way, drivers of personal vehicles subsidize road maintenance through the gasoline tax — accounting nationwide for over 60% of the revenue, while causing less than 1% of the road damage.

In the diagram below various vehicle weights and their ratios are represented by the level of road damage, compared to the average car.Vehcile Weight V Road Damage

We will not discuss here whether such a subsidy is fair: after all, everyone on the islands needs access to groceries, consumer goods, medical supplies, etc., all of which need to be hauled from harbors to distribution and sale points.  What we are saying here is that personal vehicles (including light-duty trucks) do so little damage to the roads that distinguishing among them, or even worrying about their annual mileage, is unimportant.

Currently the gasoline tax affects only drivers of vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE), according to the efficiency of their vehicle (thus encouraging the adoption of more efficient vehicles) and to the mileage driven. Any BEV makes much more efficient use of energy than any ICE vehicle (including hybrids): EPA figures show that the most efficient ICE cars barely reach 39 mpg, the best non-plugin hybrids up to 55 mpg, but BEVs are all between 100 mpg and 135 mpg equivalent.  Thus, as more of the total miles driven on the island are driven using BEVs, energy consumption gets reduced and pollution gets reduced even more.

There have been proposals to tax the electricity used for charging BEVs in an attempt to mirror the gasoline tax as closely as possible, but such proposals make little sense, for two reasons. First, they would require extensive additional infrastructure, both public and private, to measure that energy. Second, as noted, the difference in total mileage driven (or total energy used) has almost no effect on road damage. A much simpler mechanism is to add the road tax to the annual vehicle registration tax.   This added amount could be fixed or computed on a sliding scale (charging expensive vehicles more so as to reduce the impact on residents with modest incomes). Given the efficiency and cleanliness of BEVs, imitating the gasoline tax by making the road tax dependent on mileage for BEVs is counterproductive.

The best solution is thus to continue taxing ICE and hybrid cars using the current gasoline tax and start using a road tax, as an extra sum paid with the registration fee, for BEVs, one that is independent of mileage, but progressive (charging more for expensive cars) so as to protect residents with modest income.

We should keep in mind that electric transportation will not only be a major contributor to Hawaii’s energy independence, but also bring huge benefits in terms of quality of life. BEVs produce no emissions of their own; thus, after 2045, when electrical production is 100% renewable, all electric transportation will be clean — whereas today it is responsible for over one third of the pollution in the state!

In addition, BEVs are much simpler mechanically than their ICE counterparts (no gears, no transmission, very few moving parts) and thus last much longer and require almost no maintenance, resulting in a much lower cost of ownership.

BEVs are silent except for tire noise.  BEVs are statistically much safer than other cars: less than 1 accident per 2 million miles for BEVs vs. over 4 accidents for other cars — and, thanks to the rigidity of the structure that holds a BEV’s battery, the BEV driver is better protected than the ICE driver in case of accident.

The transition to electric transportation and a clean future is under way in our state and we should let our representatives know that we want them to do their best to facilitate that transition, including by setting a simple and reasonable policy for funding road maintenance.

—-

Bernard Moret was born in Switzerland, moved to the US in 1976, received his PhD in Computer Science in 1980, became a US citizen in 1984, and worked as a faculty member at the U. of New Mexico from 1980 till 2006 and at the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne from 2006 to 2016, doing research in computational biology on the evolution of genomes.  With his wife, he moved to the Big Island of Hawaii in 2016 and now lives in a home powered by solar panels that also recharge his electric car.

Editorial

Editorial — 49 Reasons

Forty Nine Reasons all in a line, All of them good ones, All of them Lies ... (49 Bye-Byes, CSN).

The Hawaiian word for truth is ʻoiaʻiʻo.

If you’re keeping score, Donald Trump has lied an average of 13 times a day since becoming president.  Within the last two months the average number of lies and misleading statements per day has grown to 22.

The latest fact check analysis (mid-October) on Trump’s public assertions and statements, Trump had made 13,435 false or misleading claims since taking over the oval office, according to the Fact Checker’s database which analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement he has uttered.

Why does any of this matter?  The plain truth is that truth matters, facts and empirical evidence matter, and preserving the morality of Truth Telling by our leaders and among ourselves matters.

False or misleading claims from Trump range the gambit of issues from trade, the state of the economy, the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, to claims and actions targeting his so-called “political enemies”.  The list grows daily with each new tweet; most recently the President focusing on re-writing the facts of the Ukraine investigation and playing a one-sided Executive Branch game of ignoring legal processes and their responsibilities requiring cooperation with House of Representatives investigation of the President and his agents operating in the name of (and behalf of) Trump, not the United States.

One possible explanation for the increase in the number of Trump’s lies is that as the president has continued to lie with relative political impunity, the President holds the majority of elected Republican officials’ within “his party” hostage. In our two party system, mTrump Big Mouthany Republicans have also grown increasingly desensitized to Trump’s actions, and have adopted an instinctive reluctance about saying that which they know to be severely exaggerated or flat-out untrue.

Facts appear to have little room in firmly rooted beliefs that have lead to a division in the Country’s thought processes. What should be more about facts, truth telling and well-throughout actions by our Commander and Chief, instead are replaced with questionable actions or even criminal acts that have become a partisan issue, rather than self-evaluation by the American people of their President, their Country, and their fellow Americans…

Overall, fewer than 3 out of 10 Americans believe Trump’s most common inaccuracies, indicating that he has developed a reputation for an absence of trustworthiness due to the transparency of some of his falsehoods.

Research of modern day truth telling and lies reveals more about us than just our take, our interpretation, our acceptance or rejection of Trump tales. Research also suggests that social media and other media have become the new arbiter of what is true and what is false, and what is a mostly partisan view of the world.

Many in our nation have mostly forsaken the traditional measurements of facts and reality checks that validate public policy for the convenience of instant messaging, dumb down reasoning, and foreign intervention in our democracy to define what is true and what is false.   Media technology is only a tool, not a replacement for thinking, researching, and doing the work to determine the truth, its certainly harder than just forsaking our citizen responsibilities for a quick tweet — all of which influences how we respond (vote) to the policies and the actions our leaders that matters.

If the over 240 years of the Republic, once considered an experiment in democracy, is worth anything then it is certainly worth taking personal responsibility for the ideal we commonly refer to as “living in the land of the free”.

We should never forget that with freedom comes responsibility and the fulfillment of our nation’s ideal: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…

What’s next for this President

As of Thursday morning, Hawaii time (10-31-19) the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution  that formalizes the next steps in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. The final vote was 232-196, with former Republican and current independent Rep. Justin Amash voting yes and two Democrats voting no.

“Sadly, this is not any cause for any glee or comfort. This is something that is very solemn, that is something prayerful and that we had to gather so much information to take us to this next step,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the House floor prior to the vote, adding, “Every member should support allowing the American people to hear the facts themselves, that’s really what this vote is about.”

At her weekly news conference, Pelosi was asked whether she believes Thursday’s vote will do anything to diminish the belief of the White House that the Democratic-led process is illegitimate and unfair.   “No. The facts are what they are,” Pelosi said. “They can try to misrepresent them, but the fact is, this is a process that has expanded opportunity for them (Republicans) to show any evidence that they believe proves the innocence of the president.”

The impeachment process rules the Democratic majority is now following is same the process and rules previously established by Republicans during the President Clinton impeachment and represent a process that even Pelosi acknowledges “…are fairer than anything that has gone before.”

The go-forward impeachment vote today is all about the Trump–Ukraine scandal and represents our government at its best and at its worst.  It’s an ongoing political tug-of-war, with a fact-finding and witness-led investigation now underway by the House of Representatives counter-balanced by efforts to derail the investigation by the White House and its allies.

The investigation is focused on determining the facts surrounding efforts by U.S. President Donald Trump to coerce Ukraine and other foreign countries into providing damaging narratives about 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden, and to discredit the well-established findings of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.

Trump’s actions included blocking Congressionally-approved and mandated payment of $400 million military aid package essential to Ukraine’s defense against a Russian invasion and that aid would only be released by Trump in exchange for quid pro quo cooperation from Ukraine’s President Zelensky.  A number of contacts were established between the White House and the government of Ukraine outside State Department channels, and culminating in a July 25, 2019 phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s newly elected President Zelensky.

Credible witnesses have testified that Trump apparently enlisted surrogates within and outside his official administration, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General Bill Barr, to pressure Ukraine and other foreign governments into supporting an alt-reality conspiracy theory that supports Trump’s 2020 campaign re-election narrative.

 

Editorial

Politics Trump Truth: 45 problems, and he’s every one

Is the whistleblower a traitor, or the CIA doing its job to protect our republic from all enemies foreign and domestic? One of our checks and balances is 1.4 million public servants (the deep-state, so hated by extremists) quietly doing their jobs no matter how foolishly the elected members of government behave.

Trump Whistleblower

It was only fair to give the “very stable genius” a try. There are so many opportunities for ridicule that it’s too easy. Has 45 accomplished anything? Oh yeah, built a wall nobody wanted, with other people’s money. Is he a Reagan or a Hitler, or just Mussolini to Putin’s Hitler?

A statement is a lie if the teller knows it is not true. Does 45 think anything said is automatically true? Is that a delusion (dementia)? What about changing position in mid-sentence apparently oblivious to the contradiction, and denying saying things captured on video. Is “fake-news” a Joseph Goebel’s big-lie? A blatant falsehood, repeated often enough to gain credibility?

The depth of ignorance, normal adults cannot fathom, for example: “We are going to mine clean-coal.” “Windmills cause cancer.” Immigration proposals that would horrify a teen. Not knowing the difference between right and wrong is the legal definition of insanity. Why take credit for improved economics that were obviously a continuation of earlier international trends?

Why complain that the deep-state does not cooperate? Is this misunderstanding the genius of checks and balances that keep America, the world’s oldest continuous national government, stable and prevents concentration of power? Ours is a lawful government of the people, by the people, for the people; not government of the people for the president.

Is there evidence of any input or knowledge before flamboyantly signing an incomprehensible tax bill slapped together in secret, that will reduce his own tax? “We will be doing tax returns on a postcard,” when the tax code is 70,000 pages?

His core appeal is to those with minimum critical thinking skills. He said it — I believe it — that settles it. They ignore evidence and accept baseless theories.

The cost of the Mar-a-Lago lifestyle is overwhelming; much public cost goes into his own pocket. Accommodating dignitaries, and staff at expensive profitable resorts, instead of government facilities! Each junket of the Air-Force-One armada costs us millions. Shocking sexual antics, why hold entertainers to a higher standard than the president? Can the king do no wrong?

Leadership that resembles a remedy that caused a headache so bad that when it wore off, the patient was happy to have only the original. Doing something that outraged everyone to fix the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Adding a skunk to a bar fight. Whatever happens, proclaim it a win and proudly rename it. Getting his name and face on everything; he does that very well, like an idiot savant that excels at only one thing.

Play the media like a one-button juke box, no such thing as bad publicity. Every outrageous brain fart is front page news, with his personal network Fox News busily rationalizing each grammarless tweet.

Some outbursts make as much sense as reading a third-grader’s Scrabble game. The media put him in office by giving him the cheap publicity he dotes on and show every sign they will continue. The pundits need to stop playing his game, please! Epithets attach his faults to others.

Just when you think it can’t get more outrageous, 45 calls dissent treason. Dissent is fundamental to a republic. Is this mimicking the dictator’s playbook? Every dictator detests the press: “Fake news,” and takes over broadcast media; Fox Noise. Offenses come so fast they are turning this into a list. “I’m the only one that matters” l’état, c’est moi?

How much longer do we endure? Will this wreck the GOP before it wrecks America? So why not impeach now? Because that is just an indictment. What if McConnel impedes the trial in the Senate? POTUS would benefit from a failed impeachment and get reelected maybe more than once. If you set out to overthrow a tyrant, and fail you will be worse off than before.

________________________________________________________________________________

Reprinted with permission from West Hawaii Today, originally published October 5th, 2019

Ken Obesnki is a forensic engineer now safety and freedom advocate in South Kona. He writes a biweekly column for West Hawaii Today. Email: obenskik@gmail.com

Diesel Polluter Exhaust

EV Adoption – linchpin to Hawaii’s transportation and clean energy future

Hawai’i currently has over one million gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles on its roads, which, according to state research, emit nearly five million metric tons of climate-changing carbon pollution annually throughout the islands.

Add to that — Hawaii residents, businesses, and visitors 5 spent over $1,500,000,000 ($1.5 Billion) on imported fossil fuel purchases in 2018; dollars which otherwise could be spent to support our island economy.

Electric Vehicles (Battery Electric Vehicles aka BEV) will play a primary and enabling role in Hawaii’s journey to achieving its statewide goal of a 100% clean energy economy by 2045.

TesEV’s deliver multiple benefits to the taxpayers and residents of Hawai’i. But there is a statewide disconnect between good intentions and state policies designed to support and otherwise enable the fulfillment of these benefits.

First and foremost, Hawaii should be doing everything possible to create incentives, not barriers to this necessary transportation transition. The 2019 legislature’s reluctant passage of Sen. Inouye’s SB409 addition of a surcharge tax on new and annual electric vehicle registrations is an example where ill-informed lawmakers shifted EV adoption in Hawai’i into reverse.

(for 2019 legislative details read the Hawai’i Today edition of May 3rd : “Forces Inside and Outside Hawai’i Shape the State’s Climate Future”).

Second, unlike most other states, in 2019 Hawaii continues to fail to offers any economic incentives towards the advancement EV adoption in the state. State EV incentives are weak at best, and limited to select parking privileges, and for Oahu residents, access to the county’s limited HOV lanes.

State of Hawaii EV Incentives, as of 2019

  • EV Lane Exemption: Qualified EVs and PHEVs may use designated HOV lanes regardless of the number of occupants in the vehicle with the correct license plate
  • Parking Fee Exemption: EVs are exempt from parking fees and metered parking, but not beyond 2.5 hours or the maximum amount of time the meter allows, whichever is longest. The parking exemption only applies to daily fees, not weekly or monthly parking fees. The program sunsets on June 30, 2020.
  • Parking Requirement: Public parking lots with greater than 100 spaces must offer an EV designated parking spot and offer EV charging. The State of Hawaii has a free mobile app that shows public and private charging stations.

Why Price and Choice Matter

Hawaii’s absence of state tax credits towards new and used electric vehicles purchases buyers is a policy weakness which solely relies on Federal tax credits to close the purchase price gaps between ICE and EV vehicle purchases for Hawai’i buyers seeking to go electric.  New car buyers in all states, including Hawai’i, are eligible to receive a Federal tax credit up to $7,500.  This incentive, however, is short lived for the most successful car companies, e.g., Tesla and GM whose EV’s model sales exceeded the Federal limit of 200,000 electric vehicle sales and no longer qualify for the Federal tax credit assistance program set aside for EV purchases.  Hawaii residents interested in a new and affordable Tesla Model 3 or Chevy Bolt are just out of luck.

Nationally, EV sales presently represent only 2.4 percent of all passenger car and truck sales in the U.S. As of January 2018, the number of electric vehicles registered in Hawai’i reached 6,748 – that number stands in contrast to over one million polluting ICE vehicles also registered in the state.  In effect, the electric vehicle population in Hawai’i is far outnumbered by their gasoline-diesel powered counterparts.

In contrast to this proportional reality, lawmakers tout Hawai’i as having the second-highest rate of EV adoption in the country.  That statement may be correct, but when Hawaii’s EV population starts near zero, the adoption rate even in small numbers looks grand.   But that’s beginning to slowly change as EV choices, price ranges, and model options continue to expand with each new model year. Us Hawaii Ev Selction July 2019

Cost matters to consumers across the price range for big ticket purchases likes cars and houses. But some of Hawaii’s legislators, including Senator Inouye, believe falsely that only wealthy people can afford electric vehicles, that’s assumption belies the facts.

This graph shows 2019 EV  models presently available for sale in Hawai’i, their estimated purchase price before Federal tax incentives, their estimated driving range between charges, and their respective battery (engine) size. 

In fact, EV’s like their ICE (Internal Combustion engine) counterparts come in a wide range of prices, with several EV manufacturer models are now comparably priced to similar Honda, Toyota, or Hyundai ICE vehicles. However, ICE vehicles mostly maintain a purchase price advantage over similar EV models, ranging several thousand dollars or more. On average, last year (2018) EVs had an initial purchase price which was generally 15-20% higher than comparable gasoline powered vehicles.

We are now seeing EV battery cost reductions being passed on to consumers. Combined with vehicle design efficiency improvements and technology advances, electric vehicle prices are beginning to drop and consumers are getting greater value for purchase dollars. This was recently demonstrated by the EV market leader Tesla, which lowered 2019 vehicle prices and added driving range to its 2019 premium models, the S and X.

Fuel and Other Ownership Costs Considerations

There are many different ways to view vehicle ownership costs, but the two primary considerations are vehicle purchase costs and the lifetime cost of ownership – maintenance.

Electric Vehicles (EV) offer some distinct cost advantages over internal-combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, primarily in reduced maintenance costs and not having to buy gas …ever —which can make electric vehicles significantly cheaper than the comparable internal-combustion engine vehicles during their ownership lifespan. This is especially true when trading gallons of gas purchased for plugging in by Hawaii’s residents who choose to power not only their homes, but their vehicles from the sun.  The expansion of this zero emissions opportunity is easily expandable to Hawaii’s residents living in condos and apartments without garage parking and charging through a variety options in the state’s policy transition to clean energy.

Today’s so-called efficient cars and trucks still burn lots of fuel fossil getting from point A to point B.  To repeat: Hawaii residents, businesses, and visitors 5 spent over $1,500,000,000 ($1.5 Billion) on imported fossil fuel purchases in 2018.

Beyond fuel costs at the gas pump which require many costly and time wasting trips to local gas stations to re-fuel over and over and over again, there are larger considerations facing the state, and the planet as a whole. Fossil-fueled transportation pollutes our island skies, advances global warming impacts (something we should be acutely aware of living on an island facing rising sea levels and extreme storm events).Diesel Polluter Exhaust

But less obvious cost for ICE owners are the engine and drivetrain maintenance costs. Paid over the vehicle life, drivers of traditional, non-electric vehicles face a huge operating money sink, especially as ICE vehicles age. Changing engine oil, coolant, transmission fluid, and belts all add up maintenance ownership costs over time.

By comparison, electric cars don’t have internal combustion engines, so these costs disappear. Universal vehicle expenses like tire and brake changes, insurance, and structural repair are part of owning any vehicle, but EV owners avoid many of the repeated costs associated with combustion engine upkeep.

A 2018 study from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found that electric vehicles cost less than half as much to operate as gas-powered cars. The average cost to operate an EV in the United States is $485 per year, while the average for a gasoline-powered vehicle is $1,117.

But what are the true EV cost benefits for society and Hawai’i as a whole?

First and foremost, Hawaii’s fossil-fueled transportation options carry with them not only passengers, but externality costs for Hawaii’s taxpayers, primarily in the form of  economic and environmental costs by worsening the growing impacts of climate change on Hawaii and its island economy.

By not advancing the public and private sector adoption of electric vehicles, state and county officials are operating in a mode that runs completely counter to Hawaii’s 2045 100% renewable energy and sustainability goals, which seek end the state’s addiction to imported fossil fuels.

EV adoption and market share growth of the now dominant ICE vehicle marketplace will take several converging factors:Ev Event Kona 2016

  • Private and public sector interest groups must come together on common implementations goals and strategy for the state.

  • A statewide EV charging infrastructure must be established, not just on Oahu

  • EV purchase costs must be competitive at the sticker cost level with comparable ICE options, meaningful state tax incentives will go a long way towards fulfilling this goal, and can be phased out over time once critical mass adoption has been achieved

  • Changes to Hawaii’s current energy policy and regulations that discourage and create barriers to rooftop solar + EV adoption must be addressed holistically, not piecemeal.

Seeing is Believing – Ford introduces its new all electric F-150 pick-up truck …

While Ford is yet to announce a concrete release date for its all-electric F-150, today, the company debut to the world it’s F-150 EV pick-up truck.  The popular pick-up with an EV drivetrain is designed to ensure that the company’s upcoming pivot to electric vehicles will be a success.  The Detroit-based carmaker showcased how much cargo its upcoming battery powered electric truck could actually tow. As it turns out, the figure lies somewhere between zero and 1.25 million pounds.

Ford also recently announced its partnership with Volkswagen, which will allow Ford to use the German carmaker’s battery architecture. Ford has also invested $500 million in electric truck startup Rivian, which will give the veteran automaker access to the startup’s skateboard platform. Ford plans includes the production of over a dozen electric and electrified models by 2022.

Look to the future – which has already arrived

The United Kingdom’s National Grid is presently working on a national clean energy strategy whereby electric vehicles will, in effect, be rolling battery storage modules for the grid. The idea is not new, but implementation at the national grid level is unprecedented.

HECO also speaks of a future for Hawaii’s island-individual energy grid systems in which EV’s play a primary role by enabling grid-level power management of wind and solar power production, in effect, providing greater flexible in managing power fluctuations between supply and demand. But unlike the UK plan, HECO’s green energy plans does not mention the economic benefits and advantages of switching off of expensive fossil fuels and bringing down energy costs for consumers and EV owners.

As a national plan, the UK vision is bold and will require the support of policymakers.  The UK energy sector also predicts electric vehicles will become the most popular form of transport between 2030 and the early 2040s. It also predicts that many more homes and communities will generate their own electricity through solar panels or micro wind power projects.

None of this seems especially remarkable, in fact, of course the UK considers and plans for EV’s having a pivotal role in their clean energy-storage-management transition plans.

Nearer to home, island life goes on. Our county governments, communities, developers, along with present and future EV owners struggle with the basic question of where do I charge my EV?  The stakeholders look to Oahu or Washington D.C. for guidance and resources, but find little to none, just missed opportunities as the legislative clock ticks down to 2045 – well there’s always next year…

 

Morrish Idol Mk Reef

Sustainability is Mauō 

Sustainability — more than just a word

The Hawaiian word for sustainability is mauō is made up of two basic words; mau, stability, unbroken continuity, and ō, enduring.   This new Hawaiian word was coined by the Hawaiian Lexicon Committee in 2016, because previously there was no need for the word mauō as it was a normal part of Hawaiian life.

Sustainability in Hawaii is a term that is bandied about with great relish, and there is no shortage of talk story on the subject.  It seems like every governmental agency and non-profit, from the Hawaiian Tourism Authority, to Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), to big name developers like A&B have used this euphemism as a way of supplanting serious public conversations about living in balance with nature, and the essential role it plays beyond resource extraction and consumption.

In the words of political ecologist Paul Hawken, “The dirty secret of environmentalism is that ‘sustainability’ is an insufficient objective.”

In a world overtaken by the certainty of global warming, ‘sustainability,’ even when taken a step beyond lip service, can no longer be taken seriously.

From Alaska to Europe, the world has spent the past few weeks roasting under temperatures never before seen in recorded history.  Alaska has hit all-time-high record temperatures according to the National Weather Service.Euro Gw Chart1

Meanwhile, hot winds blowing north from the Sahara have been sending temperatures in Europe to soar to record highs.

It was Europe’s record three-degree temperature spike this past week  that brought global temperatures to their recorded-history highs.

Hawai’i, like the rest of the world has been overtaken by the certainty of global warming and its consequences.

So when we speak about ‘sustainability,’ even when taken a step beyond lip service, can the meaning and purpose of sustainability continue to be taken seriously?

To Fish or Not to Fish, the Question is Bigger Than That

Six months ago it was widely reported that many reefs in West Hawai’i, previously devastated by a major 2015 bleaching event have stabilized, and as reported at the time was the “first step toward recovery.”  Beyond the happy headlines, the same researchers noted that much remains to be done in the region with more frequent and severe bleaching events anticipated in the future – an understatement at best.

Recent observations of the reef system between North Kona and South Kohala indicated that some baby coral recovery sighting from earlier this year are now showing signs of stress and bleaching.

Stabilization is often associated with sustainability, as in things are bad, but relax, they won’t get worse. As if this was a cause for celebration.  Perhaps, when 90% of Cauliflower coral, once the state’s most abundant shallow water species, is nearly wiped out during a 2015 bleaching event, and then there still hope that tomorrow will bring recovery. New Coral Bleaching 2019

“Some bleaching in the environment is considered normal, but it has been happening more and more often,” said NOAA officials who announced last week to update this summer a survey of Hawaii’s ocean floors, which have not been updated since the 1940s.

In the local community there is always hope that Hawaii’s reef system will recover, and soon. But the bland assertions of DLNR (Dept. of Land and Natural Resources) when it relates specifically to this precious and fragile marine environment and resource is another matter when it comes to Hawaii Island’s ‘aquarium trade’ – in effect a for-free business model of reef wildlife collection for profit.

The adopted DLNR lexicon of ‘sustainability’; “sustainable catch”, “sustainable collection”, are the agency’s catchall terms used to define what has become the ultimate defense of disputed harvest numbers and unseen resource extraction practices of Hawaii’s reef fish. All together it has proven to be a meaningless set of terms designed for public consumption, not regulation.  It’s no wonder that DLNR’s management policies have proven to be impossible to enforce — perhaps that was their intent all along.  All the while the aquarium ‘trade’ operators continue to assure the public and the politicians that they are doing just fine by ‘self-regulating’.

The state could undertake practices to enable sustainability of Hawaii’s reef marine environment, but this will require political leadership so far that has been lacking in the meaningful development of sustainability policies ahead of status quo considerations. Instead, from the Governor, legislators, and county mayors, there is void that needs to be filled and without delay.  It is a need for general reform and focus on the preservation and complex restoration of one of the state’s irreplaceable assets, a healthy marine environment throughout Hawaii’s island chain.

For DNLR, such a statewide commitment would easily agency exceed the Agency’s half-measures and incomplete actions that generally translate in limited and isolated fishing moratoriums. Instead, what is required for 21st century environmental challenges of a global magnitude are global solutions, e.g., Paris Climate Accord, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Committee of Fisheries, International Whaling Commission, and the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) — the first of a series of four negotiating sessions through 2020 in the development of a new legally-binding treaty to protect marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, commonly known as the high seas.

But local problems require also local action. In the case of the future of Hawaii’s reef system, fishing will eventually be limited or fish losses will solve any on going problems with extinctions.

If restoration measures are to succeed, DLNR will be need to move beyond saving isolated reef spaces, and instead, engage in a holistic conservation and recovery strategy that connects the dots between coral and reef fish. DLNR must also develop an independent and science-based strategy that addresses the multiple stressors of warming temperatures, rising sea levels, sea water acidification, marine food chain disruptions, and focus on addressing the needs of Hawaii’s diverse ecosystems and species.

Merely skirting tipping points to extinction, while invoking the magical word of ‘sustainability’, will no longer cut it.  So let’s imagine a new magic word: abundance or as the Hawaiians termed it “’aina monoma”…

 

No Planet B Sign

Forces Inside and Outside Hawai’i Shape the State’s Climate Future

Hawaii’s 2019 legislative Accomplishments and Failures

We often measure value in terms of money or time or both. But there is an overriding third element too often overlooked: opportunity.

Opportunity came knocking at the door of Hawaii’s 2019 legislative session when in the senate SB 690 was born. To be exact, it was on January 18th.  Simply titled: “Relating to Climate Change”, SB 690 set forth the ambitious task of addressing the problem of climate change and the global warming impacts in which Hawaii, so far, is ill prepared.

Perhaps if our legislators took time off from their busy schedules to notice the headlines, they would have been more focused on the subject and committed to working on solutions – the time to act is now…

“Heatwaves sweeping oceans ‘like wildfires’, scientists reveal extreme temperatures that destroy kelp, sea grass and corals – with alarming impacts for humanity”

“Study shows how destabilized natural systems will worsen man-made climate problems — the oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, further advancing sea level rise”

“Speeding Toward Irrevocable Climate Chaos – global carbon emissions must be cut by 50 percent per decade beginning now — repeat, now”… 

Nearly a month later, and a fair amount of legislative give and take and taxpayers money spent, SB 690, now slightly amended as SD 1, was referred to Hawaii’s Senate Ways and Means Committee (also referred as WAM or the meat grinder).  Something happened in the black hole of WAM law making processes, SB 690 was abandoned, and in its place a stepchild was offered up in the form of SB 393.  Without any legislative fanfare or justification, the overarching issue of our time was reduced to “Relating to Coastal Zone Management” — SB 393.

The differences between the original SB 690 and its replacement SB 393 were truly striking:

SB 690 contained a detailed 39 page legislative action plan and statewide funding for addressing climate change impacts in a rapidly closing window of opportunity; specifically Hawaii-centric issues ranging from sea level rise to needed environmental and economic transformation.

SB 690 also contained 42 separate citations on Climate Change, and 24 citations on Sea Level Rise.   Its 19 page incomplete replacement, SB 393, contained only 2 citations of Climate Change, and 4 citations on Sea Level Rise. It’s easy to understand which bill was more complete than the other in addressing the state’s climate challenges.

To be fair, there were some good legislative points in SB 393, however preparing for and reducing global warming impacts beyond improved coastal management and other limited half steps is the challenge before all of us.

In the end, even this modest attempt by the legislature failed to persuade most lawmakers – rest in peace, SB 393.

The effects of Climate Change and rising seas impacts on Hawaii’s famed beaches and resorts will also have to wait another year – perhaps for more delays and added costs for all of Hawaii’s stakeholders, certainly before any future and complete legislative solutions reach the Governor’s desk.

Baby steps by Hawaii’s law making bodies is a poor substitute for a running defense. This is no small task. The state must adopt policies and actions that will mitigate the economic, environmental, and social disruptions to Hawaii’s residents and the state’s economy, for both present and future generations. This is especially true when we are being chased by the Godzilla of all man-made impacts to our planet: global warming.

Rip 2019 Hawaii Legislature

Last month, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation and several other groups banded together to demand an “emergency-level response” to climate change from Hawaii’s legislators, instead they got 74 climate measures which died before the 2019 session. Good and bad bills alike, which sought to address many pressing issues ranging from sea level rise and greenhouse gas emissions to single-use plastics, advancing solar power, and the adoption of electric vehicles.  There was no shortage of ideas, just what was needed, circumstances which demanded bold legislative Climate Change leadership, and got none.

Hawaii’s 2019 legislative session may be noteworthy not by its accomplishments, but the number of climate-related bills now dead and buried: SB 393, SB571HB855SB690HB1090SB1338SB700HB1370SB259 and SB1289

Hawaii shifts into reverse on EV’s

Hawaii state policy has never been friendly to the idea of electric vehicles replacing fossil fueled transportation. When other states offered new EV buyers tax incentives that help with the higher purchase price and facilitated their state’s transition to clean transportation, Hawaii offered no such incentives to its residents.  Hawaii certainly recognizes by state policy the necessity to migrate to zero emissions transportation, and equally important the role this transition plays in reducing Hawaii’s dependence on imported fossil fuels that are a primary source for more than 60% of the state’s greenhouse emissions and a major contributor to local air pollution.  Yet for Hawaii’s EV owners, the state has not so much as said mahalo for its citizens’ contributions to the state clean energy and climate goals.

Along comes SB 409 and the bill’s passage this month. It is a bill that singles out EV owners for newly created tax, a surcharge added onto the annual vehicle registration fees for all EV owners.

Hawaii’s nascent adoption of EV’s is just that — with EV’s presently representing less than 1% of all registered vehicles in the state. Now EV owners must negotiate a legislated speed bump, courtesy of Big Island’s very own Senator Lorraine Inouye — who was so happy with the passage of her bill SB 409, it’s rumored that she was seen dancing down the statehouse halls singing that old Beach Boys tune “…she’s real fine my 409”,  an ode to the past glory days of fossil-fueled cars — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frtVqCZub-0

Inouye’s justification for SB 409 and its EV surcharge tax is simple enough, like her reasoning “…electric vehicles damage the roads.”  As if Hawaii’s annual vehicle registration fees are not already high enough, when it comes to road damage perhaps the good senator should have considered taxing the sun, which does its own fair share of road damage.  But this legislature couldn’t determine how to tax the sun so they settled on the next best thing, EV’s powered by Hawaii rooftops and the sun.

The reality is fuel types do not determine the degree of “damage” to Hawaii’s roads, rather it is vehicle weight that drives road wear and tear.

Road Vs Vehicle Weight Chart

 

The passage of SB 409 represents no less than a significant statewide policy shift that runs over the Hawaii’s climate change mitigation efforts, and by extension, clean energy and sustainability goals.

Senator Ruderman (also Big Island) pointed out in an attempt to reason and offer a much-needed climate reality-check for Lorraine and other colleagues before the final vote … that the world has 10 to 12 years to address climate change before we pass the point of no return. Ruderman went on to remind his colleagues that the entire basis for SB 409 is flawed. That Hawaii’s roads are damaged by the heaviest vehicles, heavy trucks, and that SB 409 not only sends cross-signals as to the state’s commitment to address the challenges of climate change, but it makes no sense. We couldn’t agree more.

Just last fall, the Trump administration was forced to release a federally-mandated major climate report that is produced every four years by more than 300 independent and government scientists. Writing in the Fourth National Climate Assessment, report author Brenda Ekwurzel said the findings made it clear …”climate change is not some problem in the distant future.”

The report went on to state…“It’s happening right now in every part of the country. When people say the wildfires, hurricanes and heat waves they’re experiencing are unlike anything they’ve ever seen before, there’s a reason for that, and it’s called climate change.”

It’s no secret that the world is already seeing the effects of climate change. A NASA website section dedicated to the subject notes shrinking glaciers and shifting plant and animal ranges as evidence that it’s happening in real time with past predictions now coming to fruition through loss of sea ice, intensified heatwaves, and sea level rise around the world. 

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

The window of opportunity to make a difference may have closed on Hawaii’s 2019 legislative, but not entirely for Hawaii’s citizens whose voices matter.

BeyondKona recommends our readers contact Governor Ige’s office (808) 586-0034 (this week). Show your support or veto request for the following climate-action bills …the few that survived Hawaii’s 2019 legislative gauntlet.

BeyondKona VETO Recommendation

SB 409 – Adds surcharge tax to annual registration fees targeting Electric Vehicles.

BeyondKona Recommendation to Governor Ige SIGN INTO LAW the following legislative measures —

HB401 — Requires all public agencies to identify and evaluate vehicle fleet energy efficiency programs. Amends the definition of “energy performance contract” to include EV charging infrastructure.

HB556 — Authorizes DBEDT to adopt minimum appliance efficiency standards for certain products.

HB560 — Requires UH community colleges to establish energy systems and technology training courses.

HB1585  — Establishes a rebate program for installation of eligible new or upgraded multi-user EV charging systems.

SB375 — Requires the Department of Ag and the Governor to develop a strategic plan to double local food production and increase food exports by 2030.

SB390 — Requires the Department of Ag to create a dollar-for-dollar matching program for beneficiaries of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to purchase Hawaii-grown produce.

SB661 — Grants procurement priority for fuel cell electric vehicles for state and county vehicle purchases. Includes fuel cell electric vehicles in the definition of “electric vehicles” for purposes of parking fee exemption, high occupancy vehicle lane use, registration, and required parking spaces in places of public accommodation.

SB1442 — Requires the Public Utilities Commission to consider the value of improving electric power systems data access and transparency in order to make informed decisions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editorial

Editorial – Trump – Taxes – Tariffs

Be Aware of the 3 T’s: Trump – Taxes – Tariffs

As Hawai’i struggles with balancing its state and county budgets, there is a larger tax game being played out in Washington D.C. — the Trump administration’s economic agenda and policies of bait and switch.

After the 2016 election and Trump became president, his party took total control of the Federal government. The following two years (2017-18) were racked with scandals, many still unfolding to this day. With all the media noise and daily Trump tweets, the GOP systematically pushed through a single minded party agenda: Federal Tax Reductions that favored mega corporations and the uber rich. The Federal tax reduction changes did offer a small carrot to all other taxpayers who currently enjoy a short-lived tax cut benefit scheduled to be erased in the next few years.

The Trumpeted cuts in Federal tax rates claim a new era of economic prosperity for America, but proved unpopular with the general public who soon realized the full consequences of the GOP tax reduction plan and who will pay for it.

The Administration’s bait and switch tax tactics arrived in the form of new and hidden taxes that Trump imposed last year as trade tariffs against key US trading partners, much of which negates a significant portion of the Federal tax cuts Trump crows about regularly. The tariffs Trump imposed last year affect a broad range of imports and have generated about $3 billion per month in new tariff taxes, according to new research published by the Center for Economic Policy Research in London.

Trump has said many times that China is now paying “billions of dollars” to the United States. But that’s not true. The Trump tariff costs “have been almost entirely passed through as domestic price increases on imported goods,” according to economists at Columbia University, Princeton University. That means American producers and consumers are paying more in hidden taxes in the form of price increases.

Trump favors tariffs as a way of making imports more expensive, which in turn as the theory goes, might lead to more domestic manufacturing and employment. Manufacturing employment did rise in 2018, but only slightly faster than it had been steadily rising under the Obama-led economic recovery of the previous 8 years and absent of no new trade tariffs. Even if every one of the 115,000 new manufacturing jobs gained during the last 6 months had been created because of the Trump tariffs, the cost, in new taxes paid by Americans, would equal around $156,000 per job. Most of those new manufacturing jobs pay far less than that in take home pay.

Trumpeted loudly, the current administration’s policy of tariffs ignores history and the role tariffs played contributing to the great depression of the 1930’s. Trump’s tariffs instead have produced a higher US trade deficit in 2018 than the previous year …and before tariffs.

Global trade balances, both surpluses and deficits, are tricky things for countries to manage in today’s world of economic inter-dependency.

The simplistic economic trade policy espoused by President Trump and manifested in heavy-handed tariffs has predictably produced unintended consequences obvious to everyone but the President.

Trade Policy – Another Tool for Advancing a Dirty Energy Agenda

Since taking power in 2017, the Trump Administration has actively engaged in a war on the environment, and by some measure, the future of humankind. BeyondKona continues to track and report on various undertakings by this Administration and its efforts to subvert the public interest in regulatory (mis)management by Administration agency directors at EPA, Energy, and Interior departments – with one primary goal in mind: to advance coal, gas, and oil interests at the public’s expense and increasing the peril from climate changes now occurring.

Less obvious has been the Administration’s agenda to roll-back America’s advancement and transition to a clean energy economy.

Trumpeted tariff benefits are often cited as the re-creation of lost (low value) screw-driver manufacturing jobs, long since exported abroad to higher efficiency and lower labor cost suppliers.

These same tariff benefits cited by Trump in bringing back manufacturing jobs to America make excellent media sound bites, but what does it really mean?  Trump, by his own rhetoric, is attempting to rollback the clock to the 1950’s when coal was king in America, and environmental considerations and costs were ignored by all but the human and economic victims of air and water pollution impacts of the time.

While this Administration conducts an all-out war on America’s globally competitive transition to a technically advanced clean energy economy, it has systematically rolled back environmental protections and clean energy tax investment incentives, opened for drilling previously protected and environmental sensitive public lands and marine habitats to fossil fuel extraction interests — all at fire sale prices well below fair market value. He has also attempted to strong arm electric utilities to join him in his fight to resuscitate a dying, high cost, dirtiest of domestic energy options; coal.

All this runs counter to common economic, scientific, social, and environmental sense.

Trade imbalances with America’s trading partners, including China, must be addressed, but the Trump way is the wrong way. Today’s news channels are echoing the Administration’s claims of victory and success in their trade negotiations with China — look beyond the headlines, and you’ll likely discover that any agreement with China will not appear as rosy as its portrayed – the devil is in the agreement details.

21st Century American Jobs

An economic benefit and effect from the previous Obama Administration’s energy policy years was that by 2017 solar and wind industries were each creating jobs at a rate 12 times faster than that of the rest of the U.S. economy, far exceeding the gas, oil, and coal fossil fuel energy sectors combined, according to a study published by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

The EDF report finds that solar and wind jobs have grown at rates of about 20% annually in recent years, and represent a half million added jobs in the U.S. economy. Also, directly accountable to Trump’s policies and energy agenda, the solar industry suffered a loss of nearly 8,000 jobs in 2018, its second straight year of job losses after seven years of stellar growth.

Solar Jobs Graph

Forbes reported that since Trump took office, America lost 20,000 high paying solar energy jobs. The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit group, reported job losses of 3 percent in solar industry sector jobs, primarily attributed to a slowdown in solar panel installations — again Trump-instituted solar tariffs played a key role in this US industry disruption.

Most of the jobs in the U.S. solar industry are people installing solar-power systems on roofs, as well as jobs related to other parts of the supply chain, not manufacturing panels, as is the case here in Hawai’i. About 155,000 solar jobs, or two-thirds of the total, are in the installation and project development sector, according to The Solar Foundation.

In January 2018, Trump imposed a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels as part of his trade agenda to target cheap products made by China and other Asian countries. The tariffs, to be levied over four years, are for 30 percent in the first year, 25 percent in the second, 20 percent in the third, and 15 percent in the fourth year. The industry’s main trade group blamed President Trump’s tariffs on solar job declines, and has called on the administration to terminate the tariffs — so far to no avail.

separate study published by UCLA and the National Bureau for Economic Research finds the Trump tariffs cost American consumers and producers $68.8 billion per year in higher costs and lost output, with the tariffs paid entirely by Americans.  Tariffs, coupled to current tax policies which cost America’s middle class dearly, demonstrate there is good reason to be concerned about the 3 T’s.

UPDATE – as reported in the New York Times edition of March 8th:

“One of President Trump’s goals was to narrow the country’s trade deficit. But amid a global economic slowdown, weaker demand for American goods, a trade war with Beijing and Mr. Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut, the trade deficit has hit a record $891 billion.”