Biofuels paint greener future for Hawaii
Isle landowners and other investors have formed a partnership to explore biofuels.
THE entry of three of the state's largest landowners and big-money investors
into Hawaii's nascent biofuel industry validates what naysayers had dismissed as nonsense -- that the islands have first-rate resources for energy production and increased self-reliance.
With oil prices approaching $80 a barrel, mounting instability in the Middle East, an increasing demand for oil and rising environmental concerns, Hawaii's energy future will be on firm ground if its rich agricultural lands grow fuel for its transportation and maybe even its electricity needs.
That's the idea behind Hawaii BioEnergy LLC, a partnership of Kamehameha Schools, Maui Land & Pineapple Co. and Grove Farm Co., that combined owns about 10 percent of land in Hawaii; Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, whose recent focus has been on ethanol and alternative energy enterprises; and two other companies with experience in Brazil's highly successful sugar-cane-to-ethanol initiative.
The partnership will look at what crops are best for conversion into alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, identify available lands for growing them and the technologies for conversion.
The alliance puts strategy and action behind a concept for renewable energy that has been studied, discussed and mulled for decades as government officials sluggishly pushed modest standards for achievement, with the notion that a shift from an oil-based economy was something to be dealt with sometime in the future.
However, global issues and volatile oil prices have brought isolated Hawaii an immediacy to manage its energy needs and production as much on its own as possible. As happens, businesses have gotten the message and are beginning to drive the machinery.
The state has a wealth of agricultural lands, whose value diminished as big crops moved to cheaper locations, but which now appear alluring to BioEnergy partners and hopefully other forward-thinking energy entrepreneurs. Growing feedstock for biofuels would demonstrate that green spaces, greenbacks and a green consciousness can all come together.
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