July 4th. Independence Day. It’s a day that means so many different things to so many Americans: the signing of the Declaration of Independence; a red, white, and blue holiday to picnic with family and friends; a time to express gratitude and well wishes for a safe return home to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But as we reflect on that historic signing 234 years ago, and the breaking away from England to create a nation that controls its own destiny, we must look to the future and renew our fight to break free of another kind of dependence; our country’s crushing dependence on fossil fuels, especially foreign oil.

No one feels the pinch of high energy costs more than the people of Hawaii. Ninety percent of our state’s energy needs rely on imported fossil fuels. Hawaii is the most oil dependent state in the country.  We can’t afford to live like this any longer.

Today’s national headlines also remind us there’s an even darker side to our dependence on fossil fuels. Eleven workers died on April 20th in an oil rig explosion that has also led to the disastrous spewing of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, which continues this very moment. As I’ve previously stated, this massive spill only reinforces my commitment to developing alternative and renewable sources of energy.

Make no mistake — it won’t be easy to break free from the fossil fuels that power our cars and create electricity for our homes and businesses. But meaningful efforts throughout the state are already underway. Island companies are taking advantage of our tropical location, abundant sunlight, and year-round growing season to develop viable bioenergy sources.

For my part, I voted in favor of the Recovery Act that has since brought close to $63 million dollars in U.S. Department of Energy grants to fund such projects as installing solar water heaters and compact fluorescent lamps in more than 400 Hawaiian homestead homes, while also installing photovoltaic systems on state and county buildings. $10.3 million dollars in State Energy Program funding is currently being used to improve energy efficiency and expand the deployment of renewable energy technologies throughout the islands.

With hard work, we can turn the corner. Hawaii can and should be a leader in alternative and renewable energies.  As we reflect on this day, the dawn of our nation two centuries ago, we must set our sights on an America where clean, environmentally sound energy usage gives Hawaii and our nation independence from foreign sources of fossil fuels.

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