Lingle energy plan aims to reduce isle oil dependency
With much of the state's attention focused on gas prices during the past four months, lawmakers and Gov. Linda Lingle have laid out ambitious proposals to reduce Hawaii's dependence on oil.
Yesterday, Lingle unveiled her package of bills and directives aimed at making homes and buildings more energy-efficient, increasing renewable energy sources, developing alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, establishing Hawaii as a leader in hydrogen energy technology and repealing the state's gasoline price cap law in favor of more transparency in gasoline pricing.
She estimated the total price tag at about $11 million, calling it a plan "to end Hawaii's decades-long overdependence on imported oil and to create a secure energy and economic future for the people of Hawaii."
The announcement came a day after legislative Democrats announced their goals for the 2006 session, which included similar bills focused on increasing solar energy systems at schools and other public buildings and increasing tax credits for installation of solar devices on homes and buildings.
"If you look at the packages, we have a lot of overlap," said Senate Energy Chairman J. Kalani English (D, East Maui-Lanai-Molokai). "There's great potential for a major energy package emerging from the Legislature this year that's really bipartisan."
The key difference remains the gas price cap.
Lingle's plan, as promised, includes a proposal to repeal the law that pegs Hawaii's gas prices to an average of three mainland markets.
"While the gas cap law was well intentioned, it has become the de facto energy policy of the state," she said. "It has focused attention and government resources away from the state's actual energy problem, which is an overdependence on the use of oil."
She said she would push to have oil companies provide more pricing data to the Public Utilities Commission, which would allow regulators to determine whether any price gouging is occurring.
Ted Liu, director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, said the administration also would seek to have as much pricing information made public as possible.
"If we can tell what the fair price is, you would be able to shop for the gasoline that comes closest to it," Liu said. "Consumer behavior will be altered. Demand at that price will increase, and if I'm a producer, I'd also think twice about charging in excess of that. It might draw regulatory attention, but also, the consumers have a vote in not buying gasoline that is in excess of that fair price.
"This arms consumers with the knowledge which I believe will drive prices to a fair level with an objective standard."
Lawmakers have said they support greater transparency in pricing, but they are unlikely to repeal the cap.
Senate Consumer Protection Chairman Ron Menor (D, Mililani) has said he would not support any transparency measures that do not include the price cap.
Overall, Lingle said she is optimistic lawmakers will give her proposals fair consideration.
"What we are proposing is clearly in the public's interest," she said. "People who don't give it a serious look and adopt major parts of it are not being responsible in the area of this overdependence of oil."
If her plan is fully implemented, Lingle said, the state's dependence on oil would be reduced by about 110 million barrels in 2020. She said that would keep $6.3 billion in Hawaii's economy that would have gone to purchase oil, and eliminate 49 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
English noted that some of the governor's directives will implement policies passed by the Legislature in the past few years.
"What I see is that it's reluctant partners becoming strong partners," he said. "I'm very encouraged by this.
"In my discussions with (the administration), I said that I would give a very, very fair look at their proposals, because a lot of their proposals have incorporated what the Legislature has put forward."
GOVERNOR'S PLAN FOR HAWAII ENERGY
Here is a look at some of the proposals in Gov. Linda Lingle's package of energy bills. The administration's plan is broken down into five components:
» Savings through efficiency: Direct state building construction to meet federal energy efficiency standards; retrofit existing state facilities to meet federal standards; promote purchase of fuel-efficient vehicles and use of alternative transportation; increase and extend tax credits for the installation of solar energy systems for residential and commercial buildings.
» Independence through renewable energy: Provide funds to inventory state lands available for renewable energy; streamline the permitting process for renewable energy projects; mandate standards for renewable energy by 2020.
» Fuels through farming: Require that state diesel purchases include preference for biodiesel blends; special license plates for fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel vehicles allowing them to use high-occupancy vehicle lanes and exempting them from vehicle registration fees.
» Security through technology: Plan, implement and/or conduct developmental activities that will help establish a hydrogen-energy program in Hawaii.
» Empowering Hawaii's consumers: Repeal gasoline price cap law; establish a monitoring program to allow for greater transparency in oil pricing; publish a gasoline "Import Parity Price Indicator" aimed at letting consumers see what goes into the pricing of gasoline; enact legislation to prohibit price gouging.
Source: Office of the Governor