Energy independence is a matter of security
THE EFFORT to build a self-reliant Hawaii, freed from forces beyond our control, is growing. We are vulnerable. Here on the world's most isolated island chain, we need to import practically everything we use. To take control of our future, we need to understand the need for energy independence, and understand the way energy issues affect the well-being of our entire society. Perhaps if we look at energy independence as a security issue, we can better understand its urgency and take the necessary steps toward reform.
A number of bills before the Legislature this session are aimed at reducing our dependence on imported fuels and non-renewable energy sources. The measures include provisions for the construction of energy-efficient buildings, the development of renewable energy sources and the production of alternative fuels -- all of them important steps toward self-reliance.
BUT there's more to be gained from energy reform than economic benefits. It's a question of security. Energy reform is essential to the security of our economic system: our health care, our food supply and our transportation. Too often we look at energy reform and security as separate areas of concern. It's time to revise our view, and understand that true security for Hawaii can only come through an overhaul of the ways we import, consume and produce energy.
Currently, 77 percent of Hawaii's electricity comes from imported oil. No other state gets so much of its energy from oil, and no other state has costs as high as ours. Should our energy dependence cripple us -- or should it inspire us to lead the nation in energy self- reliance?
As chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and International Affairs, I have spent years on the effort to reform Hawaii's energy policies. This year, with the support of the administration, energy reform has renewed momentum. In addition to the bills I have introduced on the Senate side, the administration, the majority caucus and the minority all have submitted measures for consideration.
ONE key goal: to encourage alternative energy production. We have untapped resources to draw upon in biomass, hydroelectric, wave energy, solar and wind power. Another is designing and building energy-efficient buildings, with the state stepping up to set the example. The Renewable Portfolio Standard commits the state to a strict timeline to move away from our dependence on fossil fuels. Renewable energy tax credits encourage business and individuals to make the change to renewables.
We're at a time in history when security is on everyone's mind. As we begin to understand the ways the issues we face are interrelated, we come to know that energy reform is essential to a secure future.
Sen. J. Kalani English (D, East Maui-Lanai-Molokai) is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, Environment and International Affairs.