Wednesday, April 04, 2012


Just give Chevron your second mortgage

by Larry Geller

Why is it we have task forces for every different thing but not one to investigate and reduce the high cost of gas in Hawaii?

The AAA reports that we’ll pay $4.598 average for each and every gallon of gas today. On Maui, that gallon is about to hit $5.00.

The highest prices in the nation just got even higher.

Considering the favors that our state legislature has done for energy companies in the past, I don’t expect any rush to cross them up right now. But it would be a refreshing change.  Maybe we need to Occupy the State Capitol lawn with vehicles (hint) or something to get their attention.

Hawaii had a gas cap law once. It was undermined from the start because under Governor Lingle, the PUC chose to interpret the law to set the cap at the highest, not the lowest value permitted. Our newspapers took pains to highlight the failure of the gas cap in headlines without once reporting what was going on.

Meanwhile, in the dark recesses of legislators’ offices, industry was working with leadership to kill the gas cap. The Legislature, as astute Disappeared News readers know, does not operate on democratic principles. So here is what they plotted. Spoiler: of course, it worked.

Highway robbery and a high-speed chase

Normally, bills are introduced at the beginning of the session, go through several hearings, cross over, and are heard by the other house. Thursday's gas cap bill just came on the scene. The chase is on, and you are the driver.

First, you have to find a copy of it of course. You can only pick up a copy of the 61-page bill (yikes!) in room 314. Tough luck if you live on another island, in Waianae or the North Shore. You're not intended to participate, sorry.

If you can get one, speed-read it, type testimony at 1000 words a minute, then rush down to the Capitol to confront the oil barons who of course know exactly what is going on. You can bet they have copies. Can you win this high speed chase?

So the oil barons are prepared, the public is not. You can imagine what might result from this imbalance. May as well kiss your wallet goodbye, or just give Chevron your second mortgage and let them take care of it for you. Highway robbery indeed.

Honest, I don't know if this bill is a good one or not, I don't have a copy yet, and I can't get one unless I go over there tomorrow. I'll never be able to read it in time to prepare testimony.

The House cannot hold a "real" public hearing because the public doesn't have access to the bill that will be debated.

Back to that prize fight. Cameras focus on the floor of the ring where the victim already lies bleeding: its name is Representative Democracy, and no one in the House seems to care.

No superheros in sight

There oughta be a law. What is happening to democracy in Hawaii anyway?

The House seems to think it can hold hearings without supplying the public with the bills it is voting on. The practice is spreading like an evil force. This needs to be stopped. Neither Superman nor Batman is on the scene--we have to stop this ourselves. No one will rescue us.

[Capitol Crime: Murder in the Rotunda, 3/22/2006]

Yes, the House felt then that it could hold hearings without public input, and that hasn’t changed.

But back to the situation at hand, convincing this legislature to do something about gas prices may be a stretch. Will the Governor take the initiative? I don’t think so, and if he did, he’d likely appoint oil company executives to serve on the task force. So forget that. Should we give up then?

Of course, oil company profits soar with high prices. Electric company profits soar with high electric bills. Campaign contributions probably rise with profits. That’s just a theory, I haven’t checked.

The losers are not just individuals but anyone trying to do business in this state.

The next time Republicans cry about a tough business climate, remind them that they are complicit. Any business thinking of starting up here has to deal with the whole picture—schools, isolation, and the highest energy costs in the country, out of sight and still rising.

So where’s that task force?


Despite the corporate shenanigans the bill did pass the legislature. What killed it was bad timing, the unrelenting barrage of bad press orchestrated by the oil companies and Linda Lingle. The unwitting TV and print media did the rest.

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