Hawaii's "Energy for tomorrow"

(Hey everyone. Sorry to have ditched you recently. Nothing personal.)

Dave Roberts over at Gristmill has a blog entry about a proposed energy plan by Hawaii's governor Linda Lingle called "Energy for Tomorrow" (press release here, fact sheet here).

The basic gist of it is that Hawaii doesn't have any fossil fuel resources of its own, and it isn't exactly in a prime location to receive cheap imports. However, the state does have a lot of sunlight, and apparently they're interested in increasing their use of ethanol, although neither the press release nor the fact sheet say which crop they intend to use to develop ethanol.

According to the press release, the project has an ambitious timeline:
When fully implemented in 2020, the conservation, renewable energy and alternative transportation fuels components of this plan will displace the importation of 110 million barrels of crude oil, retain $6.32 billion in our economy that would have gone to purchase oil, and eliminate 49 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Interestingly, according to the fact sheet, the plan also contains a proposal to better educate consumers about the pitfalls of dependency on fossil fuels:
Improve consumers' knowledge by establishing a system of petroleum and energy industry and market transparency, and enhance consumer benefits via competitive pricing with statewide data and information reporting and analyses of Hawaii's energy industry, markets, and systems for enforcement and energy-related agencies, and policymakers.

Another integral part of the plan is eliminating Hawaii's gas caps, which could potentially go a long way in decreasing fuel consumption for transportation.

Finally, there's a lot of reference in both documents to a transition to a hydrogen-based economy, but this seems even less realistic than the other oil substitutes the state seems to be considering. At best, the proposal just seems to be providing funding for research:

A world-class renewable hydrogen program, sustainable over the longer-term, will be established and funded to attract public and private sector investment in research and development, testing, and commercialization projects. The program will build on the on-going work of DBEDT, the University of Hawaii, and local and national public and private sector partners. An appropriation of $750,000 is proposed for program support.

Additionally, $10,000,000 is proposed to establish a hydrogen investment capital revolving fund to seed investments in hydrogen projects.

So what do you think? Pie in the sky, or, as David Roberts puts it, "a wicked pilot project for the nation at large" (if it passes the legislature)?

It does look like a great experiment. Between geothermal, wind and sun, I bet they can make significant inroads to fossil fuel production.

As for the ethanol feedstock, my money is on sugar. Here is an excerpt from a study of ethanol feedstock alternatives in Hawaii

Two grass species, sugarcane and banagrass, and two tree species, Eucalyptus and Leucaena, were identified as the most promising crops for ethanol production. Sugarcane, which formerly dominated agriculture in Hawaii, produces very high quantities of fiber and fermentable sugars (sugarcane grown commercially in Hawaii has an average dry-matter yield of ~18 tons per acre-year, consisting of about 60% fiber and 40% sugar). Long cultivation history and well-developed infrastructure give sugarcane inherent advantages over other crops.

from our previous discussion of ethanol ideas in NY State, it does seem that cellulosic and sugarcane have inherent EROEI advantages over corn.

My guess is also sugarcane.

They really ought to be able to do geothermal - especially on the big island.

They do have a geothermal plant - on the Big Island.  They originally had grand plans.  They were going to lay underwater cable to Oahu, where most of the population is, and export geothermal energy from the Big Island.  

But it didn't work out as planned.  The plant works, but is more expensive, more difficult to maintain, and more polluting than they imagined.  Many Native Hawaiians object to the plant on religious grounds.  Plans for more geothermal plants were shelved, as was the plan to export energy to Oahu.

Though maybe they'll dust them off again, if Lingle's serious about this.  

This reminds me of the way the party secretary from the days of my youth used to decide problems (of which they usually have nothing close to a clue). Usually the meeting begins with:
"Comrades, we have this and this problem! Let us do something! Any suggestions?" Usually nobody says a thing. Then the one who is appointed by the party before the meeting stands up amd says: "We must do this this and this!" Everybody applauses, the proposition is accepted unonimously. The plan is well documented and included in the reports to the part leaders, some funds are assured and the work is buried in some laboratory or commetee until the end of the next reporting period when hopefully nobody will remember for the problem.

I'm sorry if the resemblance is too unfair, but that's what it sounds like. A quick out of the pocket calculation gives me that using the optimistic 464 gal. ethanol/acre from corn would require 4 times the total area of Hawaii (16,649 km2) to replace the 110 million barrels of crude oil mentioned above. Let's make it 2 times if they can invent some new technology or use sugar cane instead but the point is there.
In the end the funding (aka the preappointed party decision) goes to hydrogen that does not seem to be at least at a visible distance of being able to achive the goals stated (what happened with the ethanol?). What should I say... maybe more optimistically it is better than nothing... or maybe not.

Like everything else, I think ethanol or biodiesel could fill an important niche for critical liquid fuel powered transportation needs. Beyond that, I say that conservation and/or price demand destruction will take care of most of the 110 million barrels of oil.

I agree they should include some more market oriented strategies. And Hydrogen seems very dubious at this point.

When government tries to solve problems that are far from its competence the results could be disastrous.
I also think that ethanol + biodisel have their place but my estimate is that in this case they can achive 5 to 10% of the necessarry reduction at the very best. If the government wanted to do something really useful it would start to finance relocalization and building the necesserry infrastructure - isn't that what the governments are supposed to be doing by definition? This would be much more useful than the proposed quasisolutions. Yet quasi and partial solutions are the most preffered by them because they can win you elections while the really hard ones will most likely throw you out of the office.

P.S. Sometimes I start to fear that the next day I'll wake up in a totalitarian country again (or am I already?...). Democracy doesn't seem to work for the challenges to come.

Iogen claims 87 gallons/ton from biomass, so 18 tons/acre of cane would produce on the order of 1600 gal/ac/yr.

Probably still nowhere near enough to satisfy motor fuel needs.  I'll bet that electric vehicles charged from solar and/or wind would do it, though.

Pie in the sky.  Heck, pie somewhere in orbit, high above the space station.  

I really think Hawai`i is going to be a bad, bad place to ride out the peak.  They are so dependent on oil.  Everything's shipped or flown in.  They can't be self-sufficient in food, let alone biodiesel.  The ancient  Hawaiians suffered frequent dieoffs, even a much lower population density than exists now.  

Hawai`i has tried to break its oil addiction.  Their economy is dependent on tourism, and the last thing they want is an oil spill ruining the beaches.  But nothing's panned out.  They've tried electrical plants that burn garbage, geothermal plants, ocean thermal plants, wind farms, solar power, etc.  Lots of homes in Hawai`i have solar water heaters on their roofs (as we did, when I was growing up there).  But it's a drop in the bucket.  They still get most of their power from oil.  

But perhaps, like Iceland, they can tap the geothermal power to generate hydrogen and build a fuel economy out of that.
Only the Big Island has geothermal, and most of the population lives far away on Oahu.  
I have been interested in Hawaii ever since I read that Jay Hanson (of Dieoff.org fame) chose the Big Island as his retreat.  It seems that they have a lot of the ingredients for a more sustainable lifestyles, but it does seem that they--like the rest of us--have a long way to go.

I really wonder what is going to happen to the economy--and state income tax rates-- when air travel drops to a fraction of its prior level.

You would still be able to go there by boat, of course.  Far more fuel efficient than an airplane, but it also takes a lot longer.

Someone else pointed out that one thing they are missing for sustainable living is that they have too many people.  More than the islands can self-sustain, anyways.  Then again, if you bring the stuff in by boat, the energy cost is far more reasonable than bringing in stuff by air.

But if anything goes wrong - volcano eruption, tsunami, race riots, nuclear attack, whatever - you might not be able to escape.  Hawaii really is in the middle of nowhere.  When the longshoremen go on strike, everyone hoards toilet paper.    


The primary reason Jay is there is because its very far from any population center (and he loves to swim in the ocean).

It may be quixotic which places might do better/worse post peak - for example, many think New Zealand will be a disaster due to the fact that the oil tankers will just not go past Tasmanian Sea if they have no Forex to pay. But that may be a blessing - for those that are prepared ahead of time, New Zealand will be left alone, and forced to change a bit before the rest of industrialized world will - cold turkey rather than leftovers for a while.

Post peak perfect spot does not exist. Its a dynamic tradeoff between: low heating/cooling days, water, agriculture, low population density, high friends/community density, beauty, healthy ecosystems, out of fall-out paths, local fuel sources, etc etc. My gut tells me the 'friends/community' will be the most important part. (but then again, my gut told me to eat a pizza at midnight last night...;)

He'd probably be better off picking a different island.  The older islands are more fertile, and have more water.  

By the time Hawaii was "discovered" by Capt. Cook, the Big Island had already reached its Malthusian limit, or was close to it.  There's a reason King Kamehameha arose there, to conquer all the other islands.  This article argues that it was food shortages that drove the conquest.  

It's estimated the Big Island had a population of about 80,000 when Cook landed.  That's less than half the population today.

I fancy Iceland's chances myself, but I don't speak Icelandic so I don't think my prospects there would have amounted to much even if they let me in, which I doubt they would have. Shame. I don't mind the cold - excess heat is far worse as far as I'm concerned.
I am quite happy about living in Sweden. Low population, lots of biomass, lots of hydropower, lots of nuclear power, high technology, ok environmnet, ok infrastructure, a tradition for cooperation, fairly well functioning state even if it could be much better. Although we or rather the greens and the aged socialist party made a clusterfuck out of our military and our civil defence after the cold war ended.

I use to half as a joke and halfway serious say that if we took the liberal parts of our state and laws and applied them on the rest we could get americans to move over here in 10 years.

My personal Peak Oil or other disaster planning is to try get more friends, but I spend too much time on-line, someday build a summer cottage on my fathers farm, start to work in the energy business and as a hobby become a small functioning part of our government on a practical and a political level.

$750,000 is play money, not a real research program.  For professional engineers with overhead, you can basically figure around $200k-$300k/head/year in the US.  Graduate students are much cheaper O($50k)/head/year including overhead.  However, they are of very uneven productivity.  So this is one small team for a small number of years.

And $10m is play money for venture capital.  A single startup goes through $5m-$100m in capital to get to market, depending on the complexity of the project.  $10m is one not-very-ambitious start-up.

Smells like hype and PR to me, rather than a serious commitment.  When California passed a bond measure to fund stem cell research, it was $3 billion.  That's a number that establishes the credibility of the effort.  Now, Hawaii is not as big as California.  In fact it's economy is only 3% of the size of California's.  But it did have gross state product of $47billion in 2003, so I think a serious commitment would look like, say, $100m.  Spend most of it to build superb university departments in the area with world class scholars, and then let private capital fund any ideas that come out worth funding (how hard can it be to talk people into relocating to Hawaii?).

Hawaii already had superb university departments with world class scholars. (Okay, I may be biased since I took my PhD there.) Even so, the cost of living does chase away many potential relocators.

As for the governments skill in backing tech projects - back in the late 80's the state decided, in its wisdom, that because of its location halfway between the americas and asia that it was an ideal location to establish the computing hub of the pacific, failing to understand that the very technology they wanted to promote made location unimportant. And of course, we all know what kind of hi-tech capital Honolulu is.

Jay's choice of the Big Island is a good one, it is fully capable of supporting the current population by itself. Now, the million people living on Oahu will have problems.

Hydrogen, yeah, that's the ticket. I can't believe that someone at the level of Governor is proposing this. Why not Zero Point Energy while they're at it?

Has everyone in political office been brainwashed or something? Or maybe it's the Maui Wowee.

Has everyone in political office been brainwashed ...?

It is very different kind of person who chooses to go into politics as opposed to engineering / science.

"Political" people tend to be verbal thinkers and extroverted.

"Scientific" people tend to be visual thinkers and introverted.

Verbal thinkers love the power of words.

If it sounds good, it must be good.
Why,  ... that's sound logic pure and simple.

Hydrogen Economy "sounds" good.
New Economy used to sound good.
Information Economy used to sound good.
Global Economy used to sound good.

Today's in-vogue sound is "Hydrogen".

Not only do "political" people tend to be verbal thinkers and extroverted, they also tend to take more English Literature courses in school, more economics theory courses, poli-sci courses; and fewer courses in physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics.

Is it any wonder that "they" (the politicians) believe the markets always provide?

Are they "brainwashed"?

Well, no. They are "educated".

At first glance, Hawaii does seem to offer plenty of renewable energy opportunities not afforded to the US mainland.  As mentioned above, biomass derived products and geothermal are clearly options. So are solar heating and PV electrical generation.  Also lurking around there is Hawaii's limited experiment in Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC).  Although not in production at the moment, it could be another option with sufficient R&D. (See http://www.hawaii.gov/dbedt/ert/otec_hi.html for more info).  The H2 future may not be so implausible if sufficient amounts of electricity could be harnessed to electrolocize water into H2.  Perhaps a mix of all of the above plus some serious conservation could make it all pencil out.

Or maybe not.

As also mentioned, the Islands are pretty populated. If I were a citizen there I'd be awfully interested in making sure a stable supply of food could ALWAYS be grown within the Island chain.  I have no clue if anyone has done the math (nor will I attempt to do so either) but is it possible at this point to feed all 1 million plus Hawaiians with the arable/useable land now available to them??  Serious question there.  Given the fact that everything else ALSO has to be shipped in, how nice will life be in the islands if ALL shipping ceased (or became so erratic as to render a supply chain useless).  Some consideration needs to be given to that subject as well.  Planning for local production of medication, basic tools, furniture, etc would also be a necessity.

Ultimately, if you are of the persuasion that the challenge of Peak oil/resource depletion will not do in civilation and send us back to neolithic existance, Hawaii's alternative energy possibilities could be quite optimal.

If you think we are unavoidably headed for a collapse, no amount of sugar cane ethanol production will cushion this remote outpost of civilization.  Hawaii will be just as doomed as anyplace else.  Unlike most other places however, any possible escape would mean a voyage of several thousand miles over the open ocean.  The fact that the Island chain did have die offs in the past and the story of Easter Island to uncomfortable to ignore makes me more than a bit leary about Hawaii's future.

It is not possible to feed the population of Oahu without shipping food in from the mainland.  (There's a reason Hawai`i  residents eat the most Spam per capita in the nation.)

The prospects might be better on the outer islands, but they are still not good.  

There are old Hawaiian accounts of mass starvation due to warfare.  The land could not support both the locals and the invaders, so many of those who survived the battle starved to death afterwards.  

Niihau probably has the best prospects.  It's privately-owned, and the owners only allow Hawaiians to live there, as they did in the old days.  They speak Hawaiian, and live without electricity.  

"how nice will life be in the islands if ALL shipping ceased"?

Having lived there for 12 years, I would venture to say that it could be pretty damn nice - maybe even better than when all the #$%^&* is being shipped in.

Well, okay, the transition period on Oahu probably would be nasty, but elsewhere it could be very very nice.

I think you're fooling yourself.  Even on the Outer Islands, it would quickly get very nasty.  The population is too high to grow their food, especially without chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  

Kona especially is ecologically vulnerable, because it's so dry and the topsoil is so thin.  It used to be forested, with streams to provide water.  There are no streams any more.  And little forest.  When it does rain, they have terrible flooding problems.

It's another Easter Island in the making.

I think you may be underestimating the ability of the ocean to feed people, they won't be dependent only on growing food. You may be right about Kona, but there are plenty of viable agriculture ventures in Kona. And don't discount the ability of the sizable cattle herd up in Pahoa to help tide over the entire big island (the return of cattle rustling?)

And if I could afford it, the place I'd go would be the Hamakua coast. In all my travels I've never seen a place so beautiful and so able to provide pretty much anything you'd need for a satisfying life off the grid(s).

The ocean around Hawaii is already being overfished.  

And what do you mean, the return of cattle rustling?  Cattle rustling has been a problem on the Big Island for years.  Usually rich people from Oahu who fly helicopters into the pastures, kill a steer, cut out the filet mignon, and leave the rest to rot.  

I love the Hamakua coast myself.  Heck, I love the whole Big Island.  But there are over 160,000 people there, and growing fast.  When Kamehameha was king, and invaded the other islands because of food shortages on his own, there were only 80,000 people on the Big Island.

One of the big benefits of Peak Oil will be the return of healthy ocean fish stocks (eventually) as the FRoEI decreases (Fishing return on energy invested) with higher price oil, more and more of the worlds fisheries will have a chance at recovery. So Hawaii could well feed itself quite well -maybe Jay Hanson could strap a 12 foot marlin onto the bottom of his boat and bring it back to town to a hero's welcome.

Fishing Industry's Fuel Efficiency Gets Worse as Ocean Stocks Get Thinner
If the fishing industry were a country, it would rank with the Netherlands as
the world's 18th-largest oil consumer, a team of fisheries scientists is

In 2000, the scientists said, fisheries around the world burned about 13 billion
gallons of fuel to catch 80 million tons of fish. And although the
fish-per-gallon ratio varies widely from species to species, they said, it is
getting worse over all because boats must venture farther and farther out to
sea in search of dwindling stocks.

"This is the only major industry in the world that is getting more and more
energy-inefficient," said Daniel Pauly, director of the Fisheries Center of the
University of British Columbia and one of the report's authors. While other
researchers have compiled fuel data for particular species of fish in
particular regions, this report is the first to sum up the global picture,
experts said.

As such, the new report "adds to the list of concerns about fishing as a
destructive practice," said Ellen K. Pikitch, director of the Pew Institute for
Ocean Science, who was not involved in the report.

But it also shows how vulnerable fishing is to increases in fuel costs, said
Peter H. Tyedmers, an ecologist at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, who led
the work. European experts predict that as much as 30 percent of Europe's
fishing fleet may remain at the dock this winter because of fuel costs, he
said, adding that the industry's sensitivity to fuel costs is alarming given
the importance of fish in the world's diet.

In the report, the scientists said fisheries accounted for about 1.2 percent of
global oil consumption, and they use about 12.5 times as much energy to catch
fish as the fish provide to those who eat them. Their report is in the current
issue of Ambio, a journal of the Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Fattening beef in feedlots and even growing fish in aquaculture pens can be less
energy efficient than fishing, Dr. Pauly said in an interview. But fishing is
"a far-from-trivial player" in global oil consumption, the researchers wrote.

Dr. Tyedmers said in an interview that cost was not the only issue. "Yankee
whalers did a pretty fine job of depleting many populations of whales just with
sail and human power," he said. "But it's the wide application of fuel that has
allowed fleets to expand and really has underpinned much of the overfishing of
stocks and deterioration of aquatic ecosystems."

If global fishing efforts are reduced, Dr. Pauly said, stocks may rebound and
fewer boats will probably bring in just as many fish. "You could catch the same
amount for one-third the energy use," Dr. Pauly said.

Dr. Tyedmers said that researchers at Dalhousie showed that 60 or 70 years ago
Nova Scotia fleets used only a quarter of the fuel they use today. The
researchers based their conclusions on data from "a wide range of published and
unpublished sources" on fishing vessels in use, the gear they typically carry,
how much fuel they use and the size and composition of their catches. They
concentrated on data from 20 major countries that account for 80 percent of the
world's fish catch, Dr. Pauly said.

But the scientists said their overall fuel-use estimates were almost certainly
low, because their data omit freshwater fisheries, illegal or unregulated
fisheries and the cost of transporting fish on land.

The researchers also noted that people fishing for species like herring and
menhaden, usually turned into fish oil, use less fuel per ton of catch than
people fishing for high-value species like tuna, swordfish or even shrimp.
Boats seeking those species often carry so much fuel "they leave the dock lower
in the water than when they return with a hold full of fish," Dr. Tyedmers

Dr. Tyedmers said he thought fuel studies might one day be used to compare the
effort required to catch different kinds of fish, whether it involves lines in
the water or lobster traps or other methods. "It has always been a real
challenge to compare," he said.

The new analysis, while striking, is still crude, Dr. Pikitch said. "It's a
great starting point, but a starting point," she said. She added, "You have to
start somewhere."

I'm not sure it will work that way.  Even recreational fisherman have been brutal on fishstocks.  
FRoEI... Energy acronyms just keep getting better and better
I went home to Kona for the holidays, and of course took note of what was going on energy-wise.  

This building is right by the highway, near the Kona Airport:

(Click to read the article that goes with the pic.)  The trusses support solar panels.  

It's one of the tenants of the Natural Energy Lab of Hawaii.  This started out as OTEC (an ocean thermal plant), but now supports all kinds of related ventures.  Lobster farming (using the cold water brought up by the OTEC plant), solar, etc.  I'm not sure any of them have actually made a profit, though (aside from government subsidies).

This is probably the best-known windfarm in Hawaii:  

It was built in 1986 in Kau, along the road to South Point, the southernmost point in the United States.

It's in very poor shape.  Most of the turbines were not turning.  Many of them didn't even have any blades left.  There's talk of replacing them with newer models, but I don't know if it's ever going to happen.

(I really have my doubts about how long we'll be able to build and maintain infrastructure like wind turbines and solar panels in the post-carbon age.)

On the bright side...I'm told the Hele-On Bus is now free on the Big Island.  That's the public bus that goes around the island.  They eliminated the fares temporarily because of high gas prices.  

This is the problem. Solar, wind etc. are great amplifiers of oil but to date they require oil for their construction and maintenance. Perhaps if we built a huge solar/wind infrastructure now while we have cheap oil we would have an ongoing source of power to use to build more solar/wind generators. We need time to develop the technology to build an infrastructure based on electricity (or fuels from electricity).
leannan...there's a new wind farm being installed at upolu point, near the airport there, and one in the works for south point , to replace that rusting disaster. the geothermal plant also seems to be operating after a rough start....that's the good news...i don't think that big islanders or hawaiians in general can look to the gov't to do much more than cheerlead at this point.....then someone like helco or outside alternetive energy companies do the heavy lifting....and then gov't takes the credit....but beside solar hot water...solar pv is basically nonexistant and the economy is still largely dependent on oil for planes, boats, cars, pumping water from deep wells,electricity, etc, as you well know.
Interesting article from NYT on turning NatGas into Diesel.


January 18, 2006
A New Old Way to Make Diesel
RAS LAFFAN INDUSTRIAL CITY, Qatar - In this tiny emirate near the border with Iran, the world's largest oil companies are betting billions of dollars on an obscure method for making diesel fuel that stems from apartheid South Africa's aggressive efforts to wean its economy off imported oil.

Yellow school buses shuttle thousands of Indian and Pakistani workers from nearby labor camps each day to work in a giant meandering knot of pipes and turbines, showcased with a logo of an oryx, Qatar's antelope mascot.

No one is angling for oil here. In fact, rising oil prices have lifted the fortunes of a once-shunned technology that converts another fossil fuel, natural gas, into clean-burning diesel.

Even as geologists fiercely debate whether depleting oil fields can satiate intense demand for oil in the rising economies of Asia, the actions of the international energy industry may speak louder than words. Big oil is betting on once-derided unconventional energy sources, like this stranded natural gas in the Persian Gulf and remote tar deposits in Canada and Venezuela, to help meet surging demand for transportation fuel.

"It's time to take the genie out of the bottle," Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, Qatar's energy minister, said in an interview. "We want to be the capital of the world for this new age of fuels."

These different types of fuels may have clunky nicknames, like G.T.L. and L.N.G. But they draw big money. Mr. Attiyah rattled off a roster of ventures with Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch/Shell, Chevron and Sasol of South Africa to produce a new form of diesel from natural gas and said they were expected to invest more than $14 billion in capital over the next five to seven years.

This new diesel fuel is far cleaner than the diesel commonly used in passenger cars in Europe and heavy trucks in the United States. Diesel is usually made from the sulfur-laden parts of crude oil and traces its origins to the sturdy 19th-century engine invented by Rudolf Diesel.

Exxon Mobil and Qatar Petroleum are working together on one venture to produce cleaner diesel from natural gas that is expected to require $7 billion over the next several years. It would be the single largest investment in Exxon Mobil's history.

Qatar, a small peninsula nation off Saudi Arabia, is not alone in what may be the largest multination experiment with alternative fuels. Chevron is building another $3 billion complex in Nigeria to produce 34,000 barrels a day. Elsewhere, Syntroleum, based in Tulsa, Okla., is trying to advance similar ventures in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, while in Algeria, companies including Shell, Statoil of Norway and Sasol of South Africa are vying for a project focused on that country's Tinhert gas field. Energy companies are also looking at gas-rich nations like Australia, Iran, Egypt and Trinidad and Tobago for other projects.

By 2015, overall production of this fuel may reach more than one million barrels a day, according to an estimate by Cambridge Energy Research Associates. That is roughly equivalent to Venezuela's current daily oil exports to the United States.

Qatar has attracted the largest projects thanks to its plentiful natural gas reserves and an aggressive investment strategy that builds on a longstanding cultivation of American and European energy companies. Only Russia and Iran are believed to have more natural gas than Qatar, a nation of 800,000 people - mostly foreign laborers - that is already positioned to soon become the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.

The liquefied natural gas industry in Qatar, however, is much different from the wager on technology to convert gas to a liquid fuel. Liquefied natural gas is extremely complex to transport, requiring an elaborate system of cooling plants near gas deposits, double-hulled tankers and reheating facilities in the markets where the fuel is consumed. Liquefied natural gas is largely used to generate electricity.

The gas-to-liquid method, on the other hand, provides an alternative to oil as a transportation fuel. Gas-to-liquids essentially transforms natural gas into liquid diesel that can be transported and sold using existing tankers, refineries and gas stations.

Diesel is much more commonplace in Europe than in the United States, where consumers still think of it as a heavily polluting fuel used in big trucks and machinery. Two German scientists, Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch, developed the process in the 1920's after discovering a way of converting coal into a liquid fuel.

Energy analysts say gas-to-liquid plants become competitive when oil prices climb above $30 to $35 a barrel, as they have during the last two years. [On Tuesday, crude oil prices closed at $66.31 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, more than double the price on Dec. 31, 2003.]

Gas-to-liquid producers contend the fuel might attract a premium in nations looking for alternatives that reduce toxic diesel emissions. A report by the California Energy Commission recently recommended blending the cleaner diesel with existing fuel stocks to meet stringent fuel standards.

"One key aspect of the fuel is its low smog formation," said Andrew Brown, Shell's country manager in Qatar, who has imported a gas-to-liquid-powered Audi sedan to Doha to show how the fuel burns quietly and without the smell of early forms of diesel.

Transforming gas-to-liquids into an environmentally-friendly fuel source is new, even if production methods have already gone through several incarnations. During World War II, Germany developed methods to convert coal into fuel for their army. And, apartheid leaders in South Africa adapted methods to convert coal into a transportation fuel to survive economic isolation.

The United States flirted with the method after the oil shocks of the 1970's, but eventually withdrew most funding of synthetic fuel research when oil prices fell. Then, breakthroughs enabled companies to use cleaner-burning natural gas instead of coal to produce a fuel that emits far fewer pollutants than diesel that is made from crude oil.

Though methods vary, the process essentially combines natural gas with water and oxygen, then exposes that mixture to cobalt to produce a transparent liquid fuel. This fuel currently amounts to a minuscule portion of total global fuel production, with Shell operating the largest such plant in Bintulu, Malaysia, a pilot operation with output of about 14,700 barrels a day. Overall global oil production, by comparison, is more than 80 million barrels a day.

A small experimental plant also exists in Ponca City, Okla., though gas-to-liquid production in the United States is likelier to one day come from coal since the nation's natural gas is expensive and in short supply.

Still, worldwide gas-to-liquid production is set to grow rapidly over the next decade. It joins fuel sources like bitumen, which is mined in vast open-pit operations in Canada, and ethanol, which is widely consumed in sugar-cane-rich Brazil, in easing reliance on crude oil for transportation.

Although the use of oil in factories and power plants has declined in the last two decades, the United States still relies on oil for more than 95 percent of its transportation needs. Qatar's projects capture the ambitions and risks of turning gas-to-liquid into an internationally viable fuel. The first shipments of gas-to-liquid out of the country are expected to be marketed this year with the opening of Oryx GTL, a venture by Chevron, Sasol and Qatar Petroleum producing 34,000 barrels a day.

Shell is also forming a venture with Qatar Petroleum to produce 140,000 barrels a day of gas-to-liquid by 2009. Exxon Mobil's larger venture is aiming for production of 154,000 barrels.

Wayne A. Harms, Exxon Mobil's country manager for Qatar, said in an interview in Doha that the company was drilling appraisal wells for the project in the North Field, the world's largest pure natural gas field. Qatar shares the field with Iran, and there are plans to start production by 2011.

"Qatar is in a unique position," Mr. Harms said, "in that it has a large field that's accessible, a politically stable government and a good vision of what it's doing."

The dizzying scale of these projects, though, presents challenges for Qatar and its Western partners. Construction costs, for instance, have been climbing in the last year as companies scramble to acquire building material not just in Ras Laffan but also in the capital, Doha, where dozens of skyscrapers are going up. The cost of a bag of cement is up more than 20 percent since the start of 2005, according to the Doha office of Davis Langdon, a construction consulting firm.

Higher project costs, as well as concern over managing the extraction of gas from the North Field, weighed on Qatar's abrupt move last year to delay the start of other gas-to-liquid ventures with ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil of Houston.

Still, huge projects are finally taking off here above all for one reason. More than any other gas-rich country, Qatar has aggressively seized on new ways of monetizing its natural gas. And Qatar's model is likely to be studied in a world that has more natural gas than oil, with global gas reserves expected to last another 67 years compared with 41 years of annual supply of crude oil, according to BP, the British energy giant.

The ample supplies of gas, of course, are far away from the largest markets for the fuel, in industrialized countries. That explains why the investments in Qatar, Nigeria and other countries might signal an extension of the international trade in energy.

Even as renewable energy captures the public imagination, hydrocarbons, whether found in oil or natural gas or bitumen, are growing more vital in meeting energy needs. "It's simply a shift away from crude oil to natural gas," said Bernard J. Picchi, international oil and energy technology analyst with Foresight Research Solutions in New York. "I'm not particularly concerned about the ability of hydrocarbons to survive, even thrive, well into this century."

Invasion of The Giant Jellyfish - blamed on Global Warming.
From CNN.
Does anybody know if these suckers could be turned into oil, like whales.


Hawaii has a better chance using sugar cane-based ethanol than the states that want to use corn-based ethanol.  Hawaii has some of the same advantages that Brazil has producing ethanol from sugar cane:

1. It is more efficient to make ethanol from the sugars in cane than from the starch in corn.

2. Hawaii has a climate conducive to growing sugar cane.

3. It isn't as far from the equator as the Corn Belt states.

4. The one thing they don't have that Brazil has is a cheap manual labor force. Hawaii would have to burn some percentage of the ethanol it makes to run the machinery that will work the cane fields.


This proposal from Lingle is just another example of politically-correct pork.  It's just a way to throw some taxpayer money at her cronies.

American government was not designed to solve social problems. http://www.faithfact.com/thefoundingofamerica.htm

Hawaii's insularity -- and the fact that residents here are precluded by the State's Constitution from forming new political subdivisions -- leaves us with arguably the most-incompetent government in the country.  Hawaii is a beautiful place to live but government here hasn't got a clue how the world actually works.

Now that economic development itself is the fundamental problem, everything government does is most-likely to make matters even worse.


can't quite see hawaii going back to a sugar agriculture system...even to make ethanol...land is too expensive, labor too expensive, fertilizer too expensive, etc. if push comes to shove growing food is vastly more important than running hummers. trades blow 70% of the time....wind is way bettah