By Lt. Governor James R. “Duke” Aiona, Jr.
The people of Hawai‘i want and deserve an end to our dependence on imported oil. However, politics-as-usual could put our state and its clean energy future at risk.
We have been here before. Following the1973 oil embargo, our state was at a crossroads. The choices were clear: move toward greater self-reliance and use of our abundant natural resources, or let special interests and near-sighted politics give us more of the same.
Though “more of the same” would have dire consequences in terms of our environment and our energy and economic security, it now looks as if we may go down this same path again.
Last year, when gas and electricity prices skyrocketed, there was overwhelming public support to transform the way we think about energy. We had a clear mandate to pursue a clean energy future, and virtually every politician jumped on board.
Now, with deteriorating national and global economic conditions and lower gas prices, the pursuit of clean energy has garnered the political misfortune of being yesterday’s news.
Regardless of this latest trend, our Administration has continued to move our state closer to being energy-secure, which is no longer an option, but a necessity.
Hawai‘i is the most oil-dependent state in the nation, with 90 percent of our energy needs supplied by an increasingly expensive and environmentally unsustainable resource.
In January 2008, building on the momentum of our Energy for Tomorrow legislation, our Administration launched the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), an unprecedented and innovative partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy to generate 70 percent or more of our power from clean energy by 2030, including from such renewable sources as wind, solar, photovoltaic, wave, geothermal and ocean thermal energy conversion.
HCEI has already allowed for several accomplishments and attracted significant federal and private funds into our state to assist Hawai‘i in becoming a clean energy model for other states and nations.
The initiative has created a foundation for transforming how we get our energy by essentially revolutionizing the four areas that have long supported the status quo and represented barriers to success: policy and regulatory framework; technology development and system integration; financing and capital; and system planning.
While many have been talking a good game, we and our federal, legislative, utility and private partners have been walking it.
But now, when collaboration and continued support is most needed to get us over the hump, some politicians have taken it upon themselves to propagate misinformation and distort a very clear record of accomplishment.
For those politicians and cynics, I have a message: Hawai‘i will be a world leader in clean energy, with or without you.
The only question is when. Will our children and grandchildren look back at this time and wonder how we could have squandered this golden opportunity?
If we reduce our dependence on oil by just 10 percent, we could keep as much as $700 million flowing in our local economy. That is because we send up to $7 billion overseas to import oil. By reducing our dependence on oil to 30 percent or less, as projected in HCEI, with as much as $4 to $5 billion remaining in our local economy, stimulating growth and creating jobs.
We cannot afford to wait. We must do what is best for our families and our ‘aina, and that means making Hawai‘i energy-secure.
It is going to take the shared responsibility of all of us to reach our goal. There are several bills still alive in the Legislature that address many roadblocks to our success. Thanks to some legislators, such as Sen. Gabbard and Rep. Morita, we have a chance to overcome failed policies of the past.
Among other things, this legislation would ban the further generation of fossil fuel, strengthen our renewable portfolio standard, increase the amount of renewable energy that individuals can feed into the electricity grid, designate renewable energy zones, and give our renewable energy facilitator greater latitude to facilitate renewable energy projects in our state.
I urge residents and businesses to get involved and lend these bills their support. Write a letter to your state legislators, make a phone call, send an email or tweet. We need your help to put an end to politics-as-usual once and for all.
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