Hawaii to Lead America into Post-Oil Era

Hawaii’s Republican Governor Linda Lingle’s “Energy for Tomorrow” bill has 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.

Incorporating many of the recommendations outlined in Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI) 2004 study, Winning the Oil Endgame, the Governor’s bill is a comprehensive list of policy actions that will accelerate society’s adoption of efficient technologies and biofuels. “This bill embraces Winning the Oil Endgame‘s strategy to reduce oil dependence through efficiency, renewables, and biofuels while strengthening the economy through agricultural revitalization,” said Kyle Datta, RMI Senior Director of Research & Consulting, who coauthored the report. According to Datta, the increase in oil prices since 2002 has cost Hawaii more than $1 billion, and increased energy expenses more then $1500 per household. Hawaii has no fossil fuel resources, but it does have a full portfolio of renewable energy resources. Four of the bill’s five major components offer innovations of national significance. First, Savings through Efficiency calls for the creation of a Public Benefits Charge that will be used to directly fund efficiency and distributed renewable energy through a third party. Second, Independence through Renewable Energy contains provisions that strengthen Hawaii’s renewable portfolio standard, setting it at 20 percent and tasking the Public Utilities’ Commission with defining a methodology for valuing the long-run benefits of renewable power in reducing fossil fuel risk. Third, the centerpiece of Fuels through Farming is a 20 percent Renewable Fuels Standard, backed with exemptions from the state fuels excise tax and state preferences for biofuels procurement. Finally, this energy bill could lead the 50th state to become a world leader in hydrogen energy technology, Datta said. It calls for the immediate establishment of a world-class renewable hydrogen program. The Democratic majority package mirrors the call for state leadership in energy efficiency by requiring LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver certification, and providing significant funding for energy efficiency in state buildings and photovoltaics in schools. Implementation of all the conservation, renewable energy, and alternative transportation fuels components of this package, Datta said, is expected by the year 2020 to displace 110.5 million barrels of imported crude oil-saving Hawaii’s consumers $6.32 billion; and avoiding 48.9 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The Energy for Tomorrow bill also points the way to the development of the Hawaiian biofuels industry and robust agricultural sector. A 2003 study by Stillwater Associates projected that Hawaii has an ethanol industry capable of producing 90 million gallons a year, which “could add as much as $300 million to Hawaii’s economy in direct and indirect value.” “This really represents sweeping change for Hawaii, and it’s an affirmation of the hard work we put into Winning the Oil Endgame,” said Datta. “Our energy future is choice, not fate. This bill means Hawaii will define its energy destiny. RMI is committed to working with the State of Hawaii to develop and implement a forward-looking energy strategy.” RMI’s Winning the Oil Endgameestimated that moving the United States off oil could stimulate a 750,000-job biofuels industry worth tens of billions of dollars. RMI is a 24-year-old, independent, nonpartisan, entrepreneurial, nonprofit organization. Its mission is to foster the efficient and restorative use of resources to make the world secure, just, profitable, and life sustaining.
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