Rep. Mina Morita's Blog


Fossil Fuel Ban

Posted in Clean Energy,Sustainability by Mina Morita on February 10, 2010

Blogger Brad Parsons gives his analysis on three fossil fuel ban bills to be heard in the Senate Committee on Energy & Environment

http://alohaanalytics.blogspot.com/2010/02/evaluating-hawaii.html

Some have questioned why I have not scheduled a public hearing on any fossil fuel ban bills in the House Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection.  Simple answer, I heard a fossil fuel ban bill last year and am not convinced that there is any new evidence to move such a concept forward again.  Here is a statement I made last year on this issue:

A simple ban on fossil fuel generation makes for an easy sound bite but does not equate to a practical implementation of state law . . .

. . . Further, a fossil fuel ban gives the impression that we can meet all our energy needs through renewable energy sources,  however, in 2030 it is projected that a substantial amount of Hawaii’s electrical generation will still rely on fossil fuels.  I strongly believe that all of Hawaii’s future energy options should not be shut off prematurely without a full understanding of cost, reliability and carbon footprint impacts.

Hawaii’s clean energy future is a transition of moving away from our dependency on fossil fuels by incorporating energy efficiency and renewable energy.  It will not happen overnight and will require that we make the right investments in various technologies at the most opportune time to minimize risk and costs.  Wind and solar are intermittent sources of energy which will require some kind of storage technology which is not readily available.  Currently, local production of biofuel crops is not available.  Imported biofuels are more expensive and in some cases actually have a larger carbon footprint than some of the petroleum products from Hawaii’s refineries.

Right now, the emphasis of Hawaii’s clean energy future should be on maximizing energy efficiency, the low hanging fruit, to put off the decision and need to build new fossil fuel power plants for as long as possible, the integration of a renewable energy system into a modernized smart grid and establishing the right pricing mechanisms, including consideration of possible federal initiatives and carbon taxes . . . It is too simplistic to think that we can just draw a line in the sand banning fossil fuels without factoring cost and reliability issues and not anticipate inadvertent consequences.

A critical component in the discussion of Hawaii’s energy future that has not had thoughtful debate is the role of Hawaii’s refineries.  In an integrated clean energy system, both electricity and transportation fuels must be factored to facilitate a transition strategy.  We have had lots of discussion on electricity but hardly any on transportation fuels.  If we come to the conclusion that Hawaii’s refineries play an important role in our energy security (importing crude oil to be refined in Hawaii rather than importing refined products such as aviation fuel and gasoline) then every bit of that barrel of oil should be utilized in Hawaii in the most efficient way.

Discussions are ongoing about transitioning one of Hawaii’s refineries into a bio-refinery.  Research and developments are focusing on algae as a biofuel feedstock to be refined into jet fuel.  It’s all very exciting but very preliminary at this stage.  To be completely self-sufficient using renewable resources will take breakthrough technology.  In the meantime, I am just trying to be realistic and pragmatic in shaping Hawaii’s clean energy future.

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2 Responses to 'Fossil Fuel Ban'

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  1. Kauaibrad said,

    Representative Morita,

    If one of these bills makes it through the Senate, I would hope that you would let it proceed through your Committee in the House based on the merits or lack thereof, meaning let your Committee members vote on it up or down to move on in the House. We aren’t there yet, but I hope you will give it a chance if it gets there.

    The time has come to force some utilities to make this commitment. Technology and projects are such that all of the utilities in Hawaii are capable of making this commitment now. This wasn’t apparent at this time last year, the difference between now and then.

    Mahalo,
    Brad

  2. algaepreneur said,

    Algae is renewable, does not affect the food channel and consumes CO2. What’s wrong with that? To learn more about the fast track commercialization of the algae production industry, you may want to check out the National Algae Association.


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