WASHINGTON — Energy and defense were the buzzwords that Hawaii congressional delegates took away from President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
“Energy self-sufficiency,” Rep. Mazie Hirono said when asked for the part of the speech that stuck out as most important for Hawaii. “That really came through loud and clear, and the fact that he also acknowledged how the military was an entity that could lead the way in terms of helping to develop alternative energies.”
Obama announced on Tuesday that the Navy plans to make “one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history,” by buying enough clean energy to power a quarter of a million homes per year.
In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, senior Obama administration officials called it the single largest renewable energy purchase in history.
“That’s clearly where we’re going to make the greatest inroads, through defense,” Rep. Colleen Hanabusa told Civil Beat. “I don’t see how it wouldn’t mean job opportunities for Hawaii. Not only are we great for being a place that has the alternative energies but we’re a great incubator for those kinds of activities as well.”
Sen. Daniel Inouye said that the money for the Navy to pursue biofuel development and other alternative energies is already available.
“We have set aside in excess of $150 million,” Inouye told Civil Beat. “It’s in the appropriations (bill) that we passed. It’s not just on the wish list.”
All four of Hawaii’s delegates, all of whom are Democrats, commented on the optimistic tone of Obama’s speech. Inouye, who called the speech the most inspiring State of the Union address he has heard since he was first elected to Congress in 1959, also acknowledged that optimism is essential.
“I think it would be ridiculous to come out and say we’re downhill and we’re going to collapse,” Inouye said.
The president’s message of “shared responsibility” resonated with Hawaii delegates, in part because the American values that Obama described sounded a lot like Hawaii values to them.
“I felt President Obama, who you’ll recall is a Hawaii keiki o ka aina, covered all of the areas so well tonight,” Sen. Daniel Akaka told Civil Beat. Hanabusa also pointed out the president’s Hawaii roots.
“Remember, Barack Obama is one of us,” Hanabusa said. “When you look at the people from Hawaii, what I think what they’ll take away from (the speech) is a sense of pride that he came up with a blueprint and it wasn’t something that sounded like just absolute fluff. He recognized the difficulties we’re faced with and he had some specific ideas. When he talked about American values and what it means, he’s talking about Hawaii values because that’s what he grew up with.”
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