Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison buys much of Lanai for his huge windmill-strewn eco-experiment

by 1389 on February 11, 2014

in 1389 (blog admin), eco-radicals, pride, tech industry

Palm trees at Kahalepalaoa, Lanai, Hawai'i, site of Larry Ellison's proposed new resort.
Kahalepalaoa, site of a proposed new resort. [source]

The long and the short of it is that Larry Ellison intends to spoil an inhabited island, without the consent of its inhabitants, just to make himself feel important as an eco-entrepreneur. We’ve seen this movie before.

Honolulu Civil Beat: A Lanai ‘Lab Rat’ Responds to Larry Ellison

By Sally Kaye 02/11/2014

Dear Larry (Ellison):

It’s me again. Just wanted you to know that we Lanaians have been reading about your plans for us in the Business Insider.

Most of us have never heard of this “business insider” (which could explain why we are not billionaires like you), but we hope you are aware that this reporting from Las Vegas last week might have misquoted you on a few things.

First, you didn’t really “buy” the Hawaiian island of Lanai. You bought the membership interests in Castle & Cooke Resorts, LLC (C&C), which means you not only avoided paying any conveyance tax to the State of Hawaii, but you most definitely did not purchase state and county roads, hospitals, local churches, nor the close to 1,000 private properties the rest of us own here on Lanai.

Second, they said you (again) referred to us as a “laboratory,” and then as a “special case.” The latter is something we’ve always known: that’s why we live here year round and don’t bother with second and third (and sometimes fourth) homes in other exotic locations. We are a pretty contented bunch, and have been watching your desalination efforts, spiffing up the town, and all those helicopters flying around at improbably low altitudes with much interest. It’s all very exciting! But a “laboratory?” Don’t you need our informed consent for this?

The Business Insider also said you now own two airlines, one that takes “people around during the day” and one that takes “produce around in the evening”? This is news to us, but I guess we are not considered insiders, since none of us will be allowed in the new lounge for your guests at the Honolulu airport — I’m also told we don’t get to board until your guests are all settled in. If true, Hawaiian Airlines (said to shortly begin service to Lanai) will no doubt be thrilled to hear about this undemocratic treatment of the flying public by Island Air.

The Business Insider also said, that you said, that Lanai “weather is always fabulous, always 82 degrees and sunny.” Hate to rain on your parade, Lar, but it’s gotten down to 54 degrees a few mornings lately, and we haven’t seen the sun for about eight days now. Inches and inches of rain, I am sad to report. Wait, I take that back. Our kupuna taught us that in Hawaii all rain is a blessing, since we can’t very well live without recharge to our precious (and only) aquifer – desal notwithstanding, since no one knows how that will work out.

Then there’s the small matter of your use of the word “local.” You told Business Insider that if you “do a good job taking care of the locals, the locals will do a good job of taking care of our visitors.” Leaving aside for a moment how you might define “local,” we like to think we have always taken good care of our visitors, regardless of whether they visit a resident’s ‘ohana, camp out at Manele, book a room at the fab (and very affordable) Hotel Lanai, or stay at the Four Seasons. Pride in work product is, well, kind of what has made Lanai, Lanai for all these decades, and why so many of our visitors return again and again.

Most distressing, though, is the Business Insider’s statement that you have invested in “everything from wind farms to local businesses.” I can’t speak to the local business comment, although the ubiquitous landscaping we see all over town probably qualifies as an investment. But really, Larry. Wind Farms? Where? Surely not here on Lanai! You can read the many reasons why this is a really bad idea here at friendsoflanai.org. We don’t think this is accurate, and hope you will correct it.

Just about everyone on the island has spent the past six years organizing and educating and lobbying against what has become America’s nightmare: industrial-scale, 400+ foot-turbines that are flying up everywhere, ruining historic cultural sites and spectacular view plains, while decimating people’s health and property values, along with bird and bat populations. This is happening, sadly, everywhere from Scotland to Maine to California — to Kahuku and the North Shore of Oahu. I’m sure you know that there has been a veritable gold rush over the past few years to Hawaii by out-of-state (and sometimes out-of-country) developers trying to capitalize on the obscene tax credits that building these monstrosities offers? If you’ve been too busy to keep up with this trend, I would be happy to send along some educational material. Just let me know, no trouble at all.

You might want to start, though, with C&C’s recent filing with Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in Docket 2013-0169. It’s wonderful, Larry, really a spectacular expenditure of legal fees no doubt, one that takes 772 pages to explore six potential industrial wind sites on Maui and Oahu — and then explains why those targeted communities will oppose all efforts, since they will want to protect THEIR very own view planes and cultural sites (message: people on other islands won’t stand for the blight, let’s stick them on Lanai!). It’s really a masterful example of C&C’s classic style: rile up the communities, divide them, and then pit them one against the other, whenever and wherever possible.

We know this is not your MO, Larry, since you said as much in PUC Docket 2012-0157 when you wanted to take over the utilities here on Lanai: “Indeed, the Buyer [that would be you] is looking forward to partnering with the people of Lanai to chart the island’s future.” We take you at your word, and anticipate learning that you did not mean you were investing in “wind farms” here. Perhaps in Africa? Russia? We read recently that Navigant, the very outfit that formerly employed Edward Snowden here in Hawaii, predicts that these areas are ripe for “investment in wind farms.”

We’d love to see a stampede OUT of Hawaii by all those developers! But not here, Larry, OK? We’d hate to see your property values go down.

About the author: Sally Kaye, a full time resident of Lanai, is an editor and former prosecutor.

History repeats itself: Greed, pride, unwise investments

According to Honolulu Magazine, it seems that David Murdock, the previous CEO of Castle & Cooke Resorts, also planned to make his investment pay off by cluttering Lanai with windmills. The locals were up in arms. What makes Ellison think the locals will let him do the same, now that it has become abundantly clear that windmills are a losing proposition all the way around?

[…]
Murdock had transformed Lanai’s economy in the early 1990s from pineapples to tourism, but he said his investment in the island never got out of the red. His plan to finally turn a profit on Lanai by building a massive wind farm that would sell electricity to Oahu polarized the community and generated so much animosity toward him personally that he stopped showing his face at the annual Pineapple Celebration, where he once enjoyed mingling with his “children,” as he called the island’s residents.

When Murdock put the island up for sale in 2011, he declared that the financial drain and the ill-will had become intolerable. “This is the poorest financial investment I’ve made in my entire life,” he groused to Lanai Today.
[…]

Also see:

  • WSJ: Larry Ellison’s Fantasy Island
    One of the world’s richest people, Larry Ellison is known for his colorful exploits. Now he’s tackling one of his most ambitious and expensive projects yet: rejuvenating one of Hawaii’s smallest inhabited islands.
  • Forbes: Is Larry Ellison’s $500 Million Hawaiian Island The World’s Most Expensive?
    Oracle founder Larry Ellison is no stranger to the good life. The third richest person in America (sixth in the world) has bought his fair share of flashy toys over the years.
  • Honolulu Magazine: An Inside Look at Larry Ellison’s Lanai
    Tech billionaire Larry Ellison has set out to transform the Pineapple Isle into a “laboratory for sustainability.” How does Lanai feel about that?
  • Your grandparents may remember Fordlândia.
    Fordlândia (Portuguese pronunciation: [fɔʁdʒiˈlɐ̃dʒɐ], Ford-land) is a now-abandoned, prefabricated industrial town established in the Amazon Rainforest in 1928 by American industrialist Henry Ford to secure a source of cultivated rubber for the automobile manufacturing operations of the Ford Motor Company in the United States. Ford had negotiated a deal with the Brazilian government granting his newly formed Companhia Industrial do Brasil a concession of 10,000 km² of land on the banks of the Rio Tapajós near the city of Santarém, Brazil, in exchange for a 9% interest in the profits generated.[1]
    The project was ultimately a total failure. Despite repeated invitations from residents and periodic promises to do so, Henry Ford never actually visited his ill-fated jungle city…

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