Let me provide the essence of what I will be saying, but thought I'd first summarize my experience in this field, as half the readers everyday click on this site for the first time. If you have no interest in this background, skip to the portion below *********** at the bottom.
So I felt somewhat conscience stricken and decided to earn $500/month as a trainee for C. Brewer at the Hutchinson Sugar Company near Naalehu, the southernmost community of the USA, where there was no radio reception. So my first job was as a biomass engineer, and you can read a lot more about this period of my life here.
- Hawaii had sufficient renewable resources that we someday could become energy independent
- renewable electricity depended on the development of technology and the price of oil
- our biggest problem was transportation, and the two best options seemed to be:
- biomethanol from the gasification and catalysis of biomass for ground transport
- hydrogen to power future jetliners
- There is no right or wrong track. Spending priorities and crises determine the budget. We should better support education and allocate far less for war, but the Military-Industrial Complex is formidable. After three years in Congress, you get a pretty good idea who runs the country. Can you imagine where the world would be today had we taken that $3 trillion we spent on the recent Middle East Wars and applied that sum to renewable energy and the remediation of global climate warming? Averaged over the past decade or so, these topics might have received a couple of percent compared to just that war.
- Most don't realize that we in Hawaii pay 15% more for gasoline than the national average, but 300% more for electricity (36 cents/kWh versus 12 cents/kWh). Thus, it makes sense to focus on renewable electricity.
- Further, Hawaii is about the only entity in the nation almost totally dependent on oil for electricity. This is dangerous. Reducing the risk by importing liquified petroleum gas (LPG) might seem attractive, but the billion dollar investment for infrastructure means that we will be stuck with this option for a long time to come. LPG is already twice the equivalent cost of natural gas, and future is unpredictable. In any case, Hawaii will be dependent of fossil powered electricity for the foreseeable future.
- There is a deep "Keep Hawaii, Hawaii" attitude across the state, and support seems low these days for wind farms, geothermal fields and biomass to energy projects in anyone's neighborhood. Plus, no doubt, ratepayers and others will long delay any interstate electric cable program.
- It would be unwise, actually, to use precious tax dollars to totally subsidize Hawaii into energy independence, for that would totally ruin the economy.
- Let's say through some miracle, and this could take many many many decades, we become electrically self-sufficient. Electric cars can begin to replace gasoline-powered vehicles, so we're safe then, huh? NOPE! At least a third of our energy use is for aviation. There is today no effort to take on this challenge. If the price of oil doubles to $200/gallon, airline ticket prices will skyrocket, tourism could drop by 50% and the Hawaiian economy will be the very first to go into a serious depression. If oil remains high for a long period, I fear the worst.
- Why don't we take on this challenge? Hawaii is too small to make a difference:
- A serious attempt spurred by the Matsunaga Hydrogen Act was made for the hydrogen jetliner with the National Aerospace Plane in the 1980's, but that effort was abandoned.
- When Barack Obama became President and Daniel Inouye controlled Senate appropriations, there was a chance to initiate a sustainable aviation program, but that never materialized.
- Rinaldo Brutoco is attempting to build the H2 Clipper (above), a hydrogen dirigible, but government is not interested, and neither is the airline industry.
- So the current focus on renewable electricity is about all we can really do. Connecting the islands with an undersea electric cable makes sense, but will cost more than a billion dollars, to be absorbed by the ratepayer.
- In the meantime, the Blue Revolution to produce marine biofuels, hydrogen, next generation fisheries, accommodate a Disney at Sea, provide a base for a casino, etc., in harmony with our ocean environment, is the only attractive future economic opportunity for Hawaii.