NAVY GETS NO RESPECT
Man, it’s tough to be the U.S. Navy these days. They haven’t won (much less fought in) anything remotely resembling a classic ship-on-ship engagement in nearly 70 years, which I just had the temerity to point out. They’re also catching hell from environmentalists over the number of marine mammals they say their training exercises over the next five years will injure or kill in Hawaii waters (see our June 28, 2012 cover story “Good Stewards of the Environment”). But even at a time when the service is trying to behave in an environmentally responsible manner, they get knocked upside the head.
Right now, the Navy is planning to use 900,000 gallons of biofuel (it’s actually a 50/50 blend of petroleum and biofuel, but that’s beside the point) in its upcoming Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) fleet exercises. Because of the biofuel, the Navy is now referring to his ships as the “Great Green Fleet,” a play on President Theodore Roosevelt’s imperialist Great White Fleet from more than a century ago.
“The Navy has been at the forefront of energy innovation throughout its history,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in a June 13 Navy press release. “From sail to coal-fired steam to oil and nuclear powered submarines and carriers, we have sought and achieved technological advancement in how we power the fleet because it has made us better warfighters. The Great Green Fleet demonstration is a significant milestone in the Navy’s progress to greater energy security.”
It sounds great, but that doesn’t mean the Sierra Club is pleased. Biofuel aside, they’re pissed that the Navy will sink three old ships as part of RIMPAC (known as the Sinking Exercise or SINKEX) that the organization–represented by Earthjustice–recently filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (not the Navy), alleging that the federal agency is not enforcing the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act.
“The ships are contaminated with toxic heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) based on documentation of known contaminants found in more than 100 ships previously sunk by the Navy over the past twelve years,” states a June 28 Sierra Club press release. “According to environmental groups, sinking–instead of recycling–these ships will send toxic chemicals into the marine environment and needlessly deprive[s] the U.S. ship recycling industry of both resources and jobs.”
For the Navy’s part, they deny that the ships they sink during RIMPAC pose any threat to the marine environment.
“The Navy said all the SINKEX vessels are prepared in accordance with a permit issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” reported the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on June 29. “Each ship ‘is put through a rigorous cleaning process,’ including the removal of PCBs, transformers and large capacitors, small capacitors to the greatest extent practical, trash, floatable materials and materials containing mercury or fluorocarbons, the service said.”
Colby Self of the Basel Action Network, which is part of the Sierra Club lawsuit, isn’t buying it.
“The hypocrisy of the Navy’s new ecological ‘Great Green Fleet’ demonstrating its ‘greenness’ by sinking ships containing globally banned pollutants off the coast of Hawaii is particularly ironic,” Self is quoted as saying in the Sierra Club press release. “But the realization that this choice by the Navy to dump poisons into the marine environment is not only unnecessary, but also is costing Americans hundreds of green recycling jobs, makes this SINKEX program both an environmental and an economic insult.”
LANAI IS WORTH HOW MUCH?
Don’t know about you, but I can’t get enough of the Larry Ellison-just-bought-Lanai story. Not because of how much it reportedly cost Oracle co-founder Ellison (the sale price has not been disclosed) but because of how relatively inexpensive the island actually is.
Think about this: Lanai is probably one of the largest privately-held islands out there. It spans about 88,900 acres, of which the vast majority–87,700 acres, according to the County of Maui–was part of the Ellison sale. The remaining 1,200 acres are either in government or private hands.
Until June 28, I really didn’t know how much any of that was worth. But thanks to Maui County Assistant Communications Director Ryan Piros, who sent out a rather testy press release that day (“Maui County will not be providing any other response to media questions about the sale of Lana‘i going through today,” he wrote), we now have a rather precise breakdown of what the island is actually worth.
Or not worth. Think about this: the county data shows that Ellison’s 87,700 acres have an assessed value of $325,004,500 ($191,607,500 in land, $133,397,000 in improvements). But the remaining 1,200 acres have an assessed value of nearly that much: $297,533,500 ($172,841,600 in land, $124,691,900 in improvements).
Damn, that’s a lot of very valuable improvements packed into a very small space. What’s more, the two resorts Ellison now owns–Lana‘i at Manele Bay and The Lodge at Koele–aren’t nearly as valuable as I’d anticipated.
Of the two, Manele Bay is the swankier, valued at nearly $76 million (most of which is in improvements). Koele is far cheaper, valued at just $19 million (nearly $16 million of which is improvements).
Put simply, Ellison bought a couple sweet but small resorts and a whole lot of rocky landscape. Of course, Ellison’s bio (sailboat racer, four ex-wives and an aggressive business savvy) means he’s hardly a guy to just sit still and contemplate open space. Clearly, he’s got plans–buying Lanai is the beginning of something for Ellison, not the end.
In case you were wondering, the County of Maui owns about 200 acres of Lanai, all valued at slightly less than $8 million. They range from a one-acre park on Fraser Ave. (valued at $100) to nearby Lana‘i Elementary ($2.6 million). The county also has “a number” of leases, according to Piros’ press release, which Mayor Alan Arakawa says “will be among many items of discussion with Mr. Larry Ellison.”