Lies A&B tells
Here’s a video made as a student project at UH Maui that shows both sides of the controversy:
This was a good attempt at evenhandedness. But there are some statements which we have found need correcting.
“Cane leaf is pretty much useless in the [sugar] making process.”
True but neglects that cane leaves make excellent fuel for the mill’s electrical generation which is now using coal instead. In the 1900s Susan Douglas reports that a company was interested in supplying a leaf stripper and using the leaves to generate electricity.
“Crystalizes sugar in the stalk….[instead of] cane juice dripping out”
Burning does change the sugar but it also makes it degrade faster. Burnt cane if not processed at a mill within 48 hours of burning begins to rapidly lose its commercially viable sugars to inversion. So the statement that it helps retain sugar is false. It does the opposite – degrades it faster.
HC&S: “We do not intend to phase out sugar in the near term”
Au contraire, A&B has announced that they are considering abandoning sugar for financial reasons (having nothing to do with burning) many times. 2009, 2015 most recently.
HC&S: “We have a commitment to our 800 employees”
Really? Then why has HC&S frequently announced the end of sugar without ever putting forward a plan to keep their workers employed? How many employees really work in sugar and not in the A&B coal-fired power side of the mill? Now HC&S is saying “750” employees. But again – where are the figures to back this up? And if A&B cares so much about its workers why has it not put forward a plan to keep them employed during their several announcements of sugar operations closure?
HC&S: “Ongoing research into….all being done in partnership with the U.S. Dept of Energy”
Translation: A&B is primarily a property development company. We don’t want to invest any money into retooling for no-burn harvest or another crop so we are getting grant after grant from the Dept of Energy to delay and deflect so we don’t actually have to spend any capital on our agricultural operations which just serve as our water and land banking.” HC&S has been “researching alternate crops and methods” for 44 years and yet, while other companies clamor to lease their land with their profitable alternatives, A&B just can’t quite get it together.
Karen Chun makes a statement that cane smoke is not as bad as cigarette smoke.
New information since this interview shows that cane smoke might be worse than cigarette smoke as the silica in cane plants converts to tiny glass particles in the smoke which are immensely damaging to the heart and lungs.
HC&S: “If the leaves are left on the stalk they contaminate the cane juice and clog up the mill equipment”
HC&S is being deceptive here since the two methods of no-burn harvesting remove the leaves prior to the stalks entering the processing. No-burn harvest using existing HC&S equipment requires a leaf-stripper at the mill which allows the leaves to be used as fuel for electrical generation. The cane harvest combine strips the stalks and the leaves remain in the field protecting from soil erosion and water loss.
HC&S: “Burning has been part of the sugar process since the earliest days”
This one is jaw-droppingly false. For 800+ years Hawaiians grew and harvested sugarcane without any burning. During the 19th and first part of the 20th century A&B harvested sugar without burning and leaves were stripped by the workers (they didn’t have cane stripping machines then). Burning only became used sometime in the later in the 20th century when transportation improved and A&B was able to get the cane to the mill within the short window before the burned cane lost its sugar to inversion.
HC&S: “The burning of cane occurs almost everywhere cane is grown”
A lie by omission. Many of the U.S. plantations are going to no-burn harvest due to health effects on the community and concerns about the effect of smoke on global climate change. Brazil is ending burning. Australia is ending burning. So yes, there is burning around the world but it is being phased out. HC&S needs to start caring about the community’s health. Below is cane harvesting in Australia.
HC&S: “We do care about the health of the community”
Really? Then why has A&B who made a profit of $61.4 million in 2014 not invested in no burn harvesting equipment?
HC&S: “We work closely with the EPA and the State Department of Health to be sure we are in regulatory complaince”
HC&S submits reports to the Dept of Health claiming there is no smoke at ground level that are directly contradicted by members of the public. The most egregious of these was the May 27th 2015 burn which elicited over 100 complaints, photos of children covering their faces and coughing and smoke obscuring visibility. According to HC&S’s report of May 27th, there was no smoke at ground level that day.
May 27, 2015 8am smoke on Pi’ilani Hwy
And here is the HC&S report showing no smoke at all!