Legal and public policy setting for geothermal resource development in Hawaii

Kamins, Robert M.
Kornreich, Donald
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Hawaii Geothermal Project, University of Hawaii at Manoa
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This report considers some of the social policy issues raised by the prospects for geothermal resource development in the State of Hawaii. In one sense it is paradoxical to report on these issues in advance of the event, for there is still much uncertainty about the quantity and quality of geothermal resources in this state, and therefore their significance for the Hawaii economy can yet be sketched only in a provisional way. It would be much easier for the state government if it could defer any action relating to geothermal resources until the facts are in, but, for reasons stated in the following pages, delay would inhibit geothermal development in a period of urgent search for new power sources. The facts are being researched under the Hawaii Geothermal Project at the University of Hawaii, financed by grants from the Energy Research & Development Administration of the national government, from the State and the County of Hawaii. Geologists and geophysicists are studying the resource to determine if and where it can best be tapped; engineers are seeking to design the best technology for utilizing the resource to generate electricity in a relatively non-polluting way. But research and the marshalling of financial support for its conduct take time. Only now, more than two years after the support of the State and County governments was first received, is a test geothermal well being drilled and it will be at least a year more before a pilot plant can be constructed and put in operation to demonstrate the feasibility of geothermal power in Hawaii. And yet, basic policy issues present themselves to the state and county governments even before the size and shape of geothermal development can become clear. Economic anticipation, including land-leasing speculation in rights to exploit geothermal resources, flies ahead of the demonstration of economic feasibility. Private and public planning must take that anticipation into account; in fact, the state has already received proposals from private enterprisers to drill geothermal wells. The continuing fuel crisis of the past two years has heightened feelings of urgency for geothermal development in Hawaii. The national government has indicated that it will place chief reliance on increased use of coal and atomic reactors to substitute for the foreign oil whose supply is so expensive and politically uncertain. How much in the national interest this substitution is may be a matter of debate, but for Hawaii it offers no feasible solution. Recognizing that our insular state may not fit under the energy umbrella being raised in Washington, the, state government has funded research into new energy sources which are indigenous to Hawaii, starting with geothermal energy, and has created a Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawaii to conduct and manage some of that research. Also adding to the urgency of finding a substitute for the oil imports, which now provide virtually all of the energy which runs the highly mechanized economy of Hawaii, is the persistence of high unemployment in the state since the recession of 1970. If Hawaii is to regain its economic growth, or even a greater measure of economic stability in the face of an uncertain oil supply, an indigenous energy source is needed. It is against this background of urgency that this report was prepared.
pt.I. The report.--pt.II. Compendium of state statutes defining geothermal resources and governing their development.
legal, regulatory, permits, Hawaii Geothermal Project, Hawaii Geothermal Project, Geothermal engineering--Hawaiʻi, Geothermal resources--Hawaiʻi
Kamins RM, Kornreich D. 1976. Legal and public policy setting for geothermal resource development in Hawaii. Honolulu (HI): Hawaii Geothermal Project, University of Hawaii.
204 pages
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