I initially opposed the Green Energy Hawaii biomass plant, which officially opened yesterday.
It seemed archaic to burn wood chips, and I doubted whether it would work. Frankly, it seemed like a scam, with its hefty federal loan guarantee.
But my primary concern was its request to lease 2,000 acres of state ag lands at Kalepa, which I thought should be saved for small farmers who could help Kauai become self-sufficient. I believed, like many in the “anti-GMO/aloha aina” movement, that affordable land was the primary obstacle in the advancement of local ag.
If land was available, I believed, the farmers, and the food, would follow.
I was wrong.
In the decade since Green Energy sought its Kalepa lease, no new farmers have requested land there, even though plenty is still available. And it's good land, with water, roads and reasonable terms. What's missing are farmers.
Green Energy initially wanted a 2,000-acre contiguous parcel of irrigated land. But local ag advocates — guys who actually farm and don't just talk about it — pushed back. Two-thousand acres was too much for a non-food project, they argued, and the irrigated acreage should be retained for small farmers. In the end, the state Agricultural Development Corp. approved a 1,000 lease of non-irrigated land.
Green Energy fixed the roads because they don't want their trucks to take a beating, and that benefitted the ranchers and banana farmer who have Kalepa leases. But one of their biggest contributions has been clearing albizia, eucalpytus and other weedy trees from prime agricultural land, both at Kalepa and on other former sugar lands.
These invasive trees quickly take over when active cultivation ends. Those who want to kick out the seed companies, and cheered the demise of HC&S on Maui, should keep that in mind. Once the jungle takes over, it's tough to knock it back.
I was up at Kalepa about a month ago, and was stunned at the massive piles of wood chips. That amount of clearing would have been prohibitively expensive for small farmers. Ultimately, the stumps will be removed so the land can be returned to production. And that — along with reducing the island's dependence on oil — is a good thing.
|Just one of the massive chipped wood piles at Kalepa.|
Not so good was The Garden Island's coverage of the Joint Fact-Finding Group's meeting. I don't know why the reporter failed to include more relevant comments from members, and instead gave space to such irrelevant players as Gary Hooser, Don Heacock — how, pray tell, is he still on the state payroll? — and the redshirt-clad, sign-holding Mahana Dunn, who sputtered, nonsensically: “We want a total ban on all of this until it has been proven safe.”
Well, girl, you ain't ever gonna get that, so you'd best start managing your expectations.
Dunn went on about how the JFFG report and “bureaucratic nonsense” was “getting us all riled up again.”
Actually, it's the repugnant rhetoric of people like Hooser and Earthjustice's Paul Achitoff that are getting the ignorant and gullible all riled up. Hooser recently took to his blog to claim credit for the reduction in seed cultivation locally — uh, sorry, Gary, but even you and your fistees are not as powerful as world commodity prices.
Both he and Achitoff are promising more lawsuits, which is great for groups like Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety, since that's how they make their dough and keep their propaganda-fundraising machine chugging — at the cost of our communities.
I was on HPR's “The Conversation” recently, responding to Achitoff's BS rhetoric and threats for more lawsuits. As I told the host:
“It's so sad for me to see the fear-mongering and divisiveness that's been created and people are suffering, local taxpayers are suffering, and really, it's just to promote the agenda of these special interest groups. I'm sad to see this continuing in my community. Until people really wise up, it's going to go on.”