Thursday, November 29, 2012


Regulation of Greenhouse Gases

By Henry Curtis

Yesterday the Hawai`i Department of Health held a hearing on its proposal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) from the 24 largest stationary sources in Hawaii. The proposal is that these companies each cut their 2010 emissions by 25% so that the State could achieve its 1990 emissions levels.

About 55 people showed up at the hearing, 40 were male, 15 female. HECO had a large but silent contingent. Maybe a dozen people made comments, including Nicole Ferguson (UH) Dr. Makena Coffman (Economics Professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning), Sarah Preble, Duane Preble, Robert Harris (Sierra Club), Jeff Mikulina (Blue Planet) and Henry Curtis (Life of the Land). They all praised DOH for taking steps towards regulating greenhouse gases.

DOH proposed to exempt mobile sources, the H-POWER garbage-to-energy facility and biogenic (biofuel) sources until some future date. Most of the testifiers opposed giving free passes to specific industries.

Chevron and Tesoro wasted to know why they were being singled out. Tesoro has already achieved lower GHGE levels today than they had in 1990. Thus the DOH policy would penalize them by requiring them to further reduce emissions by 25%, thus giving them a disproportionate obligation, in effect making them shoulder the burden for those who have chosen not to reduce their emissions.

DOH also wanted flexibility. Companies could propose using emissions from a year other than 2010 or choosing a different methodology for reducing emissions. Most testifiers had grave concerns about this, favoring instead that the process be open, transparent, objective, accountable and measurable.

DOH said that H-POWER was good, since it reduced greenhouse gases that would be emitted from landfilling waste. Henry Curtis suggested that H-POWER and the landfill be counted as one unit, and that DOH seek to cut emissions from their combined output.

Henry Curtis noted that Biogenic Emissions are a major problem. Imagine cutting down the entire Amazon Rainforest, paving 95% of it, and growing soybeans or palm oil on the rest of it, to make biofuels and to ship them to the U.S. Clearly that would be bad for the planet. The European Cap and Trade System, the Kyoto Protocol, and the Waxman-Markey climate bill (which passed the U.S. House but died in the Senate). These three systems all consider   this Amazon rainforest destruction as a positive step, since land use changes in developing countries don’t count and increased use of biofuels in developed countries is a positive impact.

Some speakers supported a cap and trade system, whereby large emitters could buy the right to emit from those who had achieved large cuts in emissions. Other testifiers opposed cap and trade.

Several speakers spoke of the need to consider life cycle emissions. The growing of biofuels and the extraction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) can make them worse than fossil fuels. Merely measuring what comes out of a smokestack is the wrong approach.

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Thank you, Henry, for following these issues on our behalf, researching what is being said, dissecting and laying bare the "logic" implicit in many of the corporate and government claims, disputing that "logic" and, finally, reporting back to the rest of us so we can learn from the process.

You have been an "early warning system" for a lot of environmental issues which have not yet appeared on my radar. You were an early and strong voice cautioning against bio-fuels when so many others were parroting greenwashed myths.

My high regards in this Thanksgiving season!

...favoring instead that the process be open, transparent, objective, accountable and measurable...

Yeah, like that has ever happened.

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