Hawaii should invest in biofuel tax exemption
THE delay in winter this year has led me more to the suspicion that the global warming crisis is an immediate concern. The absence of snow falling in both New York City and in other parts of the world like southern Sweden this Christmas indicates to me that a complete winter retreat in my lifetime could be possible. Although there is no absolute proof that the burning of fossil fuels has caused global warming, scientists seem to believe that there is a serious statistical significance between the two.
Anything the government can do to help us avoid compounding this crisis is necessary. It is human nature to follow the easiest and often cheapest path of survival. If burning fossil fuels is cheaper than burning renewable fuels that burn cleaner, then the average person will follow that route. If the government were to provide economic leverage for the shift to cleaner renewable fuel resources, our society likely would follow the more appropriate path toward minimizing the addition of global-warming-causing chemicals to the atmosphere.
If it is not enough to want to minimize our effect on nature, then the purely economic argument for reducing our usage of nonrenewable fuels is eminent. The use of fossil fuels eventually will come to an end due to their depletion. Compounding the issue, our natural resource dependency is controlled by many of our country's enemies. When this resource becomes so limited that nations must begin to fight for the last few drops, do we want to find ourselves reliant on these "oil dealers" or do we want to proactively wean ourselves from these nonrenewable resources?
GOV. LINDA Lingle's administration is making great strides to help us shift our resource dependency to a resource we can control ourselves. The Lingle administration has proposed a bill to reinstate a tax exemption on biofuels. This tax exemption not only would help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, but also would create jobs in Hawaii's biofuel industry.
In 2003, Hawaii was importing 155,549 barrels of oil a day at an estimated cost of $4,666,470 a day. In 2003, the price of oil was only $30 a barrel. Today, the price is settling around $60 a barrel.
A tax break for biofuels that we can produce ourselves would have great economic benefits for our islands. If we could shift our energy reliance to biofuels of just a quarter of our current oil consumption rates, Hawaii would retain an estimated $2.5 million a day, allowing for an amazing increase in economic growth. The domino effect could dramatically raise Hawaii's standard of living.
COMPOUNDING the positive economic effects would be the redevelopment of our local industry in the biofuels market. Sugar cane is one of the best sources for ethanol production. Sugar cane as a commodity would see a dramatic increase in profitability and therefore would fuel a growth industry on our islands.
Looking further down the road, the success of sustaining ourselves on our own biofuels now could lead to more innovations for their use in the future. If the government were to see a significant shift from our dependence on oil from just withholding any tax on biofuels today, it likely would support initiatives to help grow biofuels as a sustainable resource for other energy needs. The use of animal and farming wastes as biofuels has been proven successful at the University of California-Davis. The University of Hawaii additionally has many research programs supporting technologies that harness waste energy.
EACH STEP we take today in reducing our dependence on foreign oil, including importation from the mainland, can help liberate Hawaii as an economic powerhouse of the Pacific region. We have the choice today to provide an exceptional future absent of economic hardship for our ohana. Each step we take now will allow us to take these future steps to prepare us for a world without the possibility of dependence on oil. Please let your senators and representatives know that you are interested in supporting the governor's biofuel tax-exemption bill so we as a society can protect our future interests.
Aaron Berman is working on a master of arts in global leadership and a master's in business administration at Hawaii Pacific University.