Need for oil mires isles in ‘crisis,’ expert warns
Business owners must demand clean energy to bring the state out of trouble, Kaya says
HILO » A former state energy manager is calling for Hawaii to change its energy habits as costs spiral upward and the islands maintain a potentially dangerous dependency on foreign fossil fuels.
"The crisis is here, and it's going to be a long one," said Maurice Kaya, now a strategic energy and management consultant. "We are well beyond the time to act, and business owners need to be proactive in demanding clean energy at predictable costs from suppliers. We are precariously dependent on oil, but there are some things we can do."
Kaya, former chief technology officer at the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, spoke June 6 in Hilo at the Hawaii Island Energy Forum, which drew more than 100 state and local officials and business people. Kaya was among a dozen speakers who addressed the state's energy crisis and highlighted challenges and opportunities to move away from oil dependency.
Kaya noted the state now gets 99 percent of its fossil fuels from foreign sources, a change from the past when Alaska oil was dominant.
"The status quo carries way too much risk for you and me," he said. "We feel powerless in the grip of oil. Businesses that teeter-totter just aren't going to make it."
Until now, Kaya said, change has been thwarted by ignorance, complacency and a dependence on others to make the first move.
Kaya said Hawaii's business owners will be called upon to lead an energy revolution.
"The most powerful solutions are always local. It's going to be businesses that will have to live up to this challenge," he said. "As the old adage goes, lead or get out of the way."
Kaya said rising consumerism in Asia, including China and India, contributes to rising oil prices. Some analysts predict a barrel of oil could soon cost $200 and unleaded gas could cost $6 per gallon - expenses that are passed on to the consumer at every level.
"The darkest cloud is the immediate impact on discretionary travel," he said. "You see that happening already - not as many people are flying."
Kaya said the state needs to achieve maximum efficiency through an emphasis on solar water-heating systems, photovoltaic systems and energy-efficient homes based on federal Environmental Protection Agency standards.