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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why it can't be easy to be green

By Charles Memminger

Being the serious hardcore environmentalist that I am, I was elated to hear Mayor Mufi's announcement that the H-Power garbage-to-energy facility will be expanded. There's nothing that makes a serious, hardcore environmentalist like me feel better than being able to save the planet simply by throwing rubbish in a can and leaving it by the driveway.

There was a danger that the H-Power plant would close, putting serious, hardcore environmentalists like me in the position of continuing to simply throw rubbish in a can and leaving it by the driveway but feeling very bad about it.

There are some of the environmentalist movement (I call them the Agonizing Greenies) who believe if doing things to protect the planet isn't a giant hassle, then it's not worth it. Agonizing Greenies think you must SUFFER to save the Earth. They also believe no one can make a profit saving the planet. Money must be spent! Preferable somebody else's money.

So something like the H-Power plant is an anathema to Agonizing Greenies because it actually pays for itself and, in effect, turns anyone who throws away garbage into a planet saver. Mufi says one new H-Power boiler "will eliminate a whopping 300,000 tons of waste each year." He actually said "whopping," which, I believe, is a scientific term related to the weight of recycled material. (A "whopping ton" of garbage actually weighs 17 percent more than a "regular ton" of garbage.) That one boiler will create enough electricity to allow 435,396 kids to play Nintendo Wii Super Mario Galaxy nonstop for 18 hours a day while eliminating the need for $80 million in imported oil. (It would be cool if Nintendo invented a Wii game in which the player is captain of a giant oil tanker that roams forlornly across the sea because everyone is using garbage-to-energy technology.)

When work is completed, the entire H-Power facility will combust a whopping 1 million tons (170,000 regular tons) of waste a year. That's a lot of waste. In fact, I'm not sure we have that much waste to feed into H-Power. We're just going to have to start making more waste if this H-Power plant is going to work to its full capacity. One way we can create more waste is to stop trying to ban plastic grocery bags. Plastic grocery bags are an anathema to Agonizing Greenies. (I'm not quite sure what "anathema" actually means but it's fun to type.)

A plastic bag contains latent energy just waiting to be turned into electricity, and to keep H-Power going we are going to need all the bags we can get. I suggest you ask your supermarket checkout person to use a whopping number of plastic bags for your groceries. This will help save the planet AND really aggravate the Agonizing Greenie standing behind you in line.

Read Charles Memminger's blog at http://charleyworld.honadvblogs.com.