Preliminary report on legal and public policy setting for geothermal resource development in Hawaii

Kamins, Robert M.
Kornreich, Donald
Sheets, George
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Hawaii Geothermal Project, University of Hawaii at Manoa
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This is a preliminary report which 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 National Science Foundation, 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 this research takes time. It will be several months before a test geothermal well is drilled and more than a year after that 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 government 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. Thus the executive branch of the Hawaii state government has had a bill introduced before the current session of the state legislature to determine the nature and ownership of the resource. Such determination would reduce legal uncertainties surrounding this new resource and thus advance its economic development. Current events heighten feelings of urgency for geothermal development in Hawaii. The national fuel crisis begins to bear heavily on a community which uses oil intensely, and threatens to increase further a level of unemployment already higher than the national average and considerably above what Hawaii had experienced in the last decade. It is against this background of an urgent search for an indigenous fuel supply and a new economic base that this preliminary report has been written.
Bibliographical references included in footnotes.
socioeconomics, legal, public policy, Hawaii, geothermal development
Kamins RM, Kornreich D, Sheets G. 1974. Preliminary report on legal and public policy setting for geothermal resource development in Hawaii. Honolulu (HI): Hawaii Geothermal Project, University of Hawaii.
46 pages
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