Monday, March 31, 2008


JUST PUT IT IN HIS PORK CHOP- HE’LL SWALLOW IT: Silly season seems to be here lately as various personages seek to confuse and deconstruct with bogus straw men and nonsensical nonsequiturs.

Be it Robin Clark’ s letter to the editor yesterday trying to redefine “genetically modified organisms” (GMOs) to mean that anything and everything living has been genetically modified because they all have genes, or the claim that the seeds of Aloha airline’s demise were sown with the predatory practices of the fare wars rather than Aloha’s own predatory practices regarding its customers when it instituted a mainland-style weeks-in-advance purchase of precise day and time ticketing scheme, it’s obvious that many are getting into the equivocally-parsed swing of the presidential election year.

But few are as amusingly contrived as Lowell Kalapa’s arguments today against mandates for solar water heaters on new homes.

They even exceed the vacuousness of the peak-oil deniers who act as if an increase in the price of oil matters is driving the need for a mandate rather than just practical consumer economics no matter what the price of oil. Although any increase in the price of oil only enhances savings one even suggests we all invest in oil futures rather than save money on our electric bills.

First Kalapa argues that the mandate might include repealing the very tax credits that make solar water a no-brainer in the first place and adds to his henny-penny, red-herrings that then the electric companies will stop their loans and rebates.

Which orifice he plucked that one out of isn’t apparent but then he goes on to say we that since we don’t know how many people will live in the house how can we know how big a system to put in each of them, asking “what if grandma and grandpa move in?”.

Well what do people do now when they build a house- they select a certain size water heater. Using Kalapa’s logic we should just leave out all appliances until the people move in... maybe leave out walls because we don’t know how many bedrooms will be needed. Why don’t we just build the house around the people and tear it down and build a new one when someone else moves in.

But the most mystifying of all is his first argument that some roofs currently need to be strengthened if solar systems are installed... well, duh Lowell- that’s why we want them on new construction so that they don’t have to be retrofitted and the savings of doing it as part of the design can also be added into a positive cash flow for the homeowner.

Finally comes the conventional wisdom of pre-spun PR from Aloha Airlines marketing execs which says that it was go! Airlines and the $39 fares that did them in. It’s maybe the silliest, yet most swallowed, straw-man hogwash of all

Aloha sowed the seeds of their destruction when they changed the pricing and reservation system that we had for decades. It used to be that you could buy a coupon for a reasonable price make a reservation and show up for the flight or cancel it and travel later. You could decide on Thursday to take a weekend whether in Honolulu or Puna- for one price and not have to buy tickets weeks in advance to get a decent price or pay double to go to Maui or the Big Island from Kaua`i

Then Aloha stopped the coupons and, more importantly, made you pick a day and time you’d fly weeks in advance... and the longer you wanted the higher the price would be.

That started a flow of anti consumer measures, first doubling prices and then picking up on the way mainland airline rip us off by changing the fares as soon as you decide you want to buy a ticket... but doing it without the flair of the big boys. In recent times you could literally watch the prices change at Aloha’s web site as you attempted to buy the cheapest ticket.

People would fly all the time but don’t any more because if you decide Thursday to go Lahaina for the weekend you don’t just pay double the $39 but $120 each way for spur-of-the-moment travel- reversing the concept Aloha threw in the garbage when it was really the way they made a profit for years.

The only way to make money on these short-run airlines is to run fuller planes and get more volume- more passenger per plane. But now people only fly when they have to, not when they want to.

Does anyone you know fly as much as they used to before the changes a few years back when you could even go overnight and pay a reasonable predictable price to go to a concert you decided to attend at the last minute?

Stupid executives. Stupid decisions. That’s what doomed Aloha, not any predatory pricing by a new airline but their own new predatory pricing and reservation system that they foisted on the flying public.

But people must believe these arguments or people wouldn’t buy into them. That may explain why people who want to stop the war immediately, have national single-payer health care, reign in corporate lawlessness and reform election campaigning are willing to cast a vote for one of three people who all oppose all of these no-brainers..

Maybe Robin Clark’s misdirective explains why Barnum was right- all those suckers being born every minute were genetically modified.

But things sometimes have a way of working out- if people buy the snake-oil those who argue against solar hot water mandates are selling, they just might be too silly to deserve them.


Anonymous said...

Does Lowell Kalapa ever make sense? Unless you are in favor of cutting business taxes until they hit zero, I suspect not. His arguments rival Foster's blather on this one. Lets play concern troll and wring our hands suggesting no action since that best suits those that keep me in a job.

Your Aloha analysis is a mess though. Selling air travel at less than the cost ($39/seat) even with the plane full is a recipe for disaster. The coupons were nice, but they'd have to be $70 ish now I'd guess to keep Aloha profitable. Selling stuff below cost, hoping to make it up on volume is an old joke, not a business plan.

Adding extra capacity and initiating a fare war was the last straw for an airline that didn't have the vision or wherewithal to upgrade their fleet to competitive planes. It's not like they haven't been bankrupt or near bankrupt in the past--many times.

The airline business has been a dog ever since de-regulation. It's one of the prime examples of how screwed up the "free market" can be. I see no point in re-regulation air travel, but that does mean we'll have boom and bust cycles with price gouging and deep discounts until things settle out. Who knows, you may be riding on a ferry when go! is busted by court settlements to Hawaiian and Aloha leaving Hawaiian free to charge $125 each way with no competition.

Joan Conrow said...

Good post, Andy, especially calling out the woefully misinformed GMO letter-writer and no-mandate Charley and his followers. (Were they similarly up in arms when DOH required folks install septic tanks instead of cess pools?) Whether oil prices go up because it's running out and getting harder to find, or they’re being jacked around for the usual reasons of power and greed, it makes sense to reduce your dependency on it if you live in a place that has none of it but does have abundant sunshine. Why can't we have mandates with incentives, like tax credits and rebates, to make it easier for folks to comply? Why must it be an either or scenario?

As for Aloha, I have to agree with anonymous. We all hated losing coupons, but Hwn Air did that too, and they didn't tank. I think it was a combination of factors that did them in, with the fare wares delivering the death blow.

Anonymous said...

Whether the community uses septic tanks instead of cesspools is a health issue and is very much a valid reason for regulation. Cesspools contaminate the nearby ground, wells, and ground water. The EPA deems septic tanks the superior method for public health and water quality goals.

And anyway, the argument that because some regulations are valid therefore all conceivable regulations are equally valid is illogical.

Joan Conrow said...

"The argument that because some regulations are valid therefore all conceivable regulations are equally valid is illogical."

That, of course, isn't my argument. I think that all regulations should be reviewed on their merit, which is why I support looking at JoAnn's proposal re: solar hot water.

I thought you were the one arguing against mandates. Or is that just your cheerleading squad: Gadfly, McCleod, etc.?

Anonymous said...

You seemed to think there was some contradiction between opposing a solar water heater mandate and not opposing a septic tank vs. cesspool requirement. If that was not your meaning then I confess I'm completely confused as to why you brought it up.

Since you give me the chance, I was kind of struck by your referring to commenters as "followers." Is that what you call people who comment on your blog? Your followers? Is there a Joan's cheerleading squad? It just struck me as kind of wierdly messianic. I mean, you don't call Katy or Andy your cheerleaders do you, just because they often agree with you? That would be creepy.

Anonymous said...

Nice try Charley, but you still don't make the grade. Your over reaction on this one is pretty telling.

Cesspits work fine if they are regularly maintained and pumped when needed. Just a tradeoff of operating costs vs. up front expense (kinda like water heating). They only become a health risk when problems are ignored.

Perhaps septic may not be the best parallel, but I note you still refuse to take the bait on CAFE standards, upgraded building codes, appliance efficiency standards etc.

Personally, I object to tax rebates for the wealthy to install devices that have 3 year payouts. Perhaps for the working poor or people squeaking to get into a house, but for me? NFW.

If KIUC's board weren't so focussed on pork barrel loan projects and trips to look at Rube Goldberg battery systems, perhaps they'd get serious about a loan/repayment system where solar gets installed and the cost gets added to the bill in place of the electricity saved.

But I still think it is important for builders to be forced to include solar in new construction or some other equally energy saving system. Otherwise, the decision is made for most consumers before they ever get a chance to provide input.

Anonymous said...

Hm. What is my reaction "telling" of? That I am some sort of industry insider who would be financially harmed by the mandate? That I am philosophically doctrinaire? That I represesnt others with a financial or business interest in the question? Pray, tell? I'm dying to know what dark, secret motive really inspires my opposition because, obviously, reasonable minds couldn't disagree. There must be some ulterior motive to anyone who would disagree with you.


I "refuse to take the bait on CAFE standards" because the point is inapposite. CAFE standards are a federal regulation. If JoAnn tried to impose some similar scheme to apply to the county then, yes, I would speak out in opposition.

Building codes are clearly within a county mandate to legislate for the health and safety of the public. I'm not aware of any county codes that require that appliances be of any efficiency beyond any relevant federal requirements.

Your personal fact claims notwithstanding, if the county made a reasonable factual determination that cesspools endanger the public health and that septic tanks substantially mitigate the harm, then clearly the county would be within its ambit to regulate.

With JoAnn's solar mandate, there is not even the suggestion that the regulation is for the public health or safety. Her stated purpose is to protect our community against ever-rising prices. I just happen to disagree that that is a valid purpose of county legislation.

I think you still miss the point regarding the public's input on what builders build. If there becomes actual widespread demand for solar builders will include it because the public will be willing to pay a premium for it.

Andy Parx said...

Just a note-some of my criticism of Aloha was based on the fact that it was Aloha that instituted the new scheme that got rid of the coupons and no advance purchase system. Hawaiian shorly thereafter followed suit

Anonymous said...

What a laugh.

"I think you still miss the point regarding the public's input on what builders build. If there becomes actual widespread demand for solar builders will include it because the public will be willing to pay a premium for it."

suuuurrrrrrrrrrrre. The market will fix it....if markets fixed problems in a thoughtful, timely and efficient way, we wouldn't have problems.

Yet we do. Markets tend to be reactive rather than pro-active. They tend to have difficulty overcoming the inertia of existing solutions with vested interests. And they prioritize based on profit potential only.

If builders of spec homes don't bother to install solar, just how will the public demand it? By refusing to buy any new house? How likely is that? We get back to trying to promote retrofits at extra expense. Another point you dodge.

CAFE standards may be Federal, but they are on point. Government is mandating fuel efficiency. Same with appliances. Are you reduced to arguing that a County level mandate is objectionable, but a Federal or State on is not? Laughable.

Can you not see that mandating solar water heat in Counties where it is a no-brainer vs a shot gun approach where mandating them in Maine as well to get the broad brush is ludicrous?

I accept you have no dog in the fight. But as for reasonable minds disagreeing, I question if you have any reason on your side of the debate. I've not seen anything beyond "mandate bad" now reduced to "County mandate bad".

Anonymous said...

You are seriously off track if you think I've been talking about regulation in the abstract all this time. I've been discussing JoAnn's specific reasons for this mandate all along. I certainly haven't been "reduced" to anything.

In my very first post on the subject I criticized JoAnn for her reason for the regulation.

The difference in federal regulation and county regulations is extremely important when we're talking about the county imposing one. How did that get by you?

As for the fact that builders will include solar because they can charge a premium for it, you seem troubled not by the truth of it but because it is slow and reactive.

I don't understand why that bothers you? Do you have an efficiency fethish? Some houses are build without solar. So what? That doesn't upset me. I don't feel a compulsion that the world should conform to my idea of an efficient Eden.

Your synopsis of my arguments shows that you're not taking this discussion seriously. If I had to reduce my argument to a digestible point it would be, JoAnn's guess that energy prices will remain high long into the future is a terrible reason to mandate solar water heaters. If you want a discussion of that position, go to my blog and read the relevant posts.

Anonymous said...

"Your synopsis of my arguments shows that you're not taking this discussion seriously. If I had to reduce my argument to a digestible point it would be, JoAnn's guess that energy prices will remain high long into the future is a terrible reason to mandate solar water heaters."

Then Andy is on target. You are just flapping over minutia. Why take such a discussion seriously? I simply gave you too much credit.

The important issue is whether mandating solar water heaters is a good idea or not. Who really cares if Joanne is a goose in part of her reasoning (assuming you are even presenting her position correctly as your source is the iffy GI). Even a stopped clock is right a couple of times a day.

"As for the fact that builders will include solar because they can charge a premium for it, you seem troubled not by the truth of it but because it is slow and reactive."

A misstatement of my position especially as I see little truth in it.

My concern is builders just won't bother at all. They may be more concerned with hitting eye catching price points or staying within their comfort zone than providing well equipped housing.

If they spend $5K on a solar water heater system and can't capture a big markup, they may just not bother leaving consumers with no real choice in the matter other than installing more expensive retrofitted units.

I do not share your blind faith in markets. I see way too many inefficiencies and downright screwups, especially in the building trades.

Joan Conrow said...

"The important issue is whether mandating solar water heaters is a good idea or not."

Amen, anonymous. That has been my point all along, and why I see Charley's stance as so small minded.

And Chalrey, to answer your question, Is there a Joan's cheerleading squad?

Not that I know of. I may have readers who agree with me, but so far they have refrained from keeping score and rooting for me in the comments section.

Anonymous said...

Oh Joan, don't be so modest. You have fans who root for you and your side.

Anon, I rode in a cab down H1 today between Waikiki and the airport and I saw a sea of solar panels. Where do you suppose they came from if builders won't include them in new construction without the threat of the state's police power?

Unless you guys just can't wait you're in such a rush, we will all decide for ourselves how to handle it. Joan said in the comments on her blog that she's against almost all government coercion. But I don't believe her. I think she's thrilled with it so long as she agrees with the ends. But there's no principle to that. I'm certainly not interested in having the government enforce my idea of How Things Ought To Be on everyone.

Anonymous said...

Don't get me wrong. I believe you guys mean well. I think you goose step down a road paved with the best of intentions.

Anonymous said...

I should clarify - the houses along H1 with solar panels appear to be newly constructed.

Also, to clarify my difference with you both that a solar mandate should be judged solely on whether solar on new construction is a 'good idea' - government acts must be judged on their legitimacy, not merely on whether one can point to some good outcome. Forcing us to save money, or forcing us to ween from oil, are, I would argue, simply not legitimate county governmental interests.

Anonymous said...

this is the sort of crap that gets you labeled a looneytarian:

"I think you goose step down a road paved with the best of intentions"

Godwins law is now satisfied.

Your logic remains deeply flawed. Because some have on Oahu, there is no proof that some or even many will do the same on Kauai. We don't have large tract buildings.

So you approve of using income redistribution to accomplish societal goals (from the poor to the rich perhaps in this case) but simply acting in the best interest of the group is bad? Odd set of principles.

If the reasons for a mandate include reducing harmful air pollution would it be appropriate for the County to be involved in legislating the issue? (just how many angels will dance on this pin of yours anyway?)

If the State imposes mandates, is that appropriate or must action in this regard be Federal to meet the Foster test?

Anonymous said...

So wait, what's your theory now? Home builders won't respond to market demand unless what, it's large tract? Why is that?

If there was an bona fide pollution problem that the regulation would mitigate then, sure, that would be legitimate. But I'm not aware that there is one and anyway you are clearly casting for a pretext.

But as a practical matter, that is really all the county would need - a pretext. Even if the reg was challenged and a court agreed with me that forcing people to save money and weening them off oil are not legitimate governmental interests, the county would only need to point to some conceivable legitimate purpose for the reg to survive.

Anonymous said...

that's weaning BTW.

At least now you aren't just throwing rocks at poor old Joanne. This is where the debate should have started.

Anonymous said...

Yeah,if a program doesn't have spell check I'm totally sunk.