Give Hawaii a shot at sustainable energy future
In January the "Renewable Energy Access" newsletter trumpeted Hawaii's energy initiatives as having "the potential to transform Hawaii -- the most oil-dependent state in the nation and the one with the highest energy costs -- into a state that will lead the nation with a low-cost, sustainable, locally produced and secure energy system."
Now, as the legislative session nears its May 4 closure, Hawaii lawmakers stand at the precipice of enacting bold and sweeping legislation that fundamentally alters for the better our state's energy future. This comes as the price of crude oil has topped $70 a barrel for the first time.
The path from the beginning of the legislative session in January to today was long and hard. Although energy touches virtually every aspect of our lives -- from the ringing of the alarm clock in the morning to switching off the lights at bedtime -- the intricacies of our energy markets are difficult to understand. What is not difficult to understand is the impact of ever-increasing electricity and gasoline prices on Hawaii's consumers and of fossil fuel emissions on Hawaii's environment.
Our consumers want our state's leadership to ensure a secure, reliable and fair energy system -- one based on Hawaii's own indigenous resources.
Helping navigate this path has been strong leadership by Gov. Linda Lingle, by the energy and environment and consumer affairs chairmen of the Legislature, Rep. Hermina Morita, Sen. Kalani English, Rep. Bob Herkes and Sen. Ron Menor, and by the many other legislators, such as Rep. Cynthia Thielen, who have for many years tirelessly advocated a less oil-dependent energy future for Hawaii.
To move years of work to fruition, continued farsighted and bipartisan leadership is needed. Everyone stands to gain, especially Hawaii's consumers, from the passage of the comprehensive energy bills now in legislative conference committee. If this comprehensive approach falters, a significant opportunity is squandered. That would be unconscionable.
As all of the supporters of this comprehensive energy approach have observed, the Achilles' heel of the package is lack of implementation resources. What gets enacted needs to be put into action.
The total additional resources being proposed amounts to two new state experts to assist state facilities taking the lead in becoming energy efficient, $750,000 in new program funding to increase our state's production of renewable electricity and biofuels and a $10 million investment fund to put Hawaii on the map for renewable hydrogen research. This is a small price to pay when the state's energy and economic futures are at stake.
Let the 2006 legislative session be known as one that went beyond good intentions and produced real actions to ensure a sustainable energy future for Hawaii's residents.
Ted E. Liu is the director of the state Department of Business Economic Development & Tourism.