Ten years into Hawaii’s Clean Energy Initiative that aims for 100 percent green energy statewide by 2045, we still rank No. 1 in the U.S. for dependence on harmful fossil fuels.

Our major source of electricity remains oil-dominated power plants. Using liquefied natural gas, or LNG, continues this oil dependency.

LNG is natural gas that is processed and cooled to the point that it becomes a liquid. It originates deep underground and is often found with crude oil and carbon.

The process may involve inadequately regulated or nonregulated burning to remove harmful acid gases and heavy hydrocarbons. This contributes to the world’s dangerous greenhouse effect. LNG is predominantly methane, creating another hazard of flammability.

An ocean tanker transporting liquified natural gas. The author opposes Hawaii using LNG. Flickr: Janak Raja

In keeping with the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, monolithic Hawaiian Electric Co. is now required by law to establish renewable energy sources as 100 percent of its net electricity sales by Dec. 31, 2045.

Meanwhile, Hawaii Gas — the state’s only franchised gas utility company and the first utility to ship LNG to our state – escaped mention in that law. Hawaii Gas’ recent actions speak louder than any of its feigned words of voluntarily compliance: It is spending $200 million to expand its infrastructure to allow for even more importation of LNG for an additional 15 years.

LNG Is Not A ‘Bridge’ Fuel

Beyond ourselves, Hawaii’s nonstop consumption of fossil fuels – coal, petroleum/oil and gas that result from the compression of ancient plant and animal life formed over millions of years – destroys lands, foreign and domestic, that produce them. The earth-distressing process of fracking for LNG is one example.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves drilling to create fractures in rocks and rock formations and injecting specialized fluid at high pressure into cracks in the earth to make them open even further. It forces the release of oil and natural gas from deep beneath the ground.

Using environmentally unfriendly LNG feeds our state’s addiction to non-renewable energy.

Using environmentally unfriendly LNG feeds our state’s addiction to nonrenewable energy. LNG is not a “bridge” to clean energy; it’s like switching from one addictive opioid such as fentanyl to another opioid like OxyContin. Opioids are Hawaii’s No. 1 cause of death. If switching addictions is a bridge, it’s a bridge to further destruction.

Furthermore, investing $200 million to prep for 15 more years of LNG consumption hypocritically puts the islands out of sync with our decade-old initiative to retreat from – not advance toward – using fossil fuels.

Indeed, it is possible to achieve clean energy with the investment and cooperation of utility companies. Three countries — Sweden, Bulgaria and Estonia – already surpassed their renewable energy goals for 2020, eight years ahead of time.

This legislative session, I introduced four related House bills:

  • HB 1836 prohibits utilities from engaging in large-scale import of LNG that would be imported into Hawaii by an LNG carrier, meaning a tank ship that primarily transports the fossil fuel and holds more than 100,000 cubic meters of it.
  • HB 1837 requires the Public Utilities Commission to conduct a study of fracking and establish limits on the amounts of fossil fuels derived from fracking that gas utility companies may use. It also requires gas utility companies that use imported fossil fuels to comply with an application and public hearing process. (A resolution is being drafted for introduction.)
  • HB 1838 requires the PUC’s annual report to the governor to include information about the fossil fuels that each gas and electric utility uses in Hawaii.
  • HB 1839 requires gas utility companies to establish renewable energy portfolio standards for gas, similar to that of HECO.

We need to stop throwing hundreds of millions of dollars into more dirty fossil fuels. Instead, Hawaii needs to invest millions into more aggressively researching, exploring, acquiring and advancing renewable energy resources, and take advantage of our Pacific Ocean locale.

Our green energy possibilities include:

  • biofuels
  • biomass
  • geothermal
  • hydroelectricity
  • ocean/wave energy
  • solar
  • wind energy

To stay on target with the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, we need to stop approving funding for this growing dependence on fossil fuels that keeps us hostage to hazardous practices and materials. The bridge that Hawaii Gas offers is an unsteady, undesirable 15-year link connecting us to dying fossil-fuel industries while the conscientious global community around us moves to clean energy.

Let’s not continue as the state investing hundreds of millions of dollars for nearly two decades more of LNG, thereby securing our shameful ranking at the very bottom of the nation for clean, green energy.

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