Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023 |
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Backers of alternative say it’s a fuel of the future
BY PAUL C.
TGI Staff Writer
“Rising oil prices are going to trigger a
recession,”says state Rep. Mina Morita.
The Hanalei Democrat, who
represents north Kaua’i and east Maui, believes Hawai’i, because of bountiful
renewable solar, geothermal and wind energy sources, could become a major
exporter of hydrogen.
That, according to Morita and others concerned about
the state’s energy future, would free the islands from oil imported from
countries not known for their political stability.
Hydrogen, which can be
obtained from energy generated through solar, wind and geothermal sources, is
widely considered the fuel of the future. And fuel-cell technologies using
hydrogen as the fuel source are developing rapidly.
Hawai’i, and the entire
United States, is at a fork in the road, said Morita, chairwoman of the House
Energy and Environmental Protection Committee. Either the country opens up new
areas of Alaska to oil exploration, or takes more serious looks at alternatives
to polluting fossil fuels, which are rapidly being used up, she said.
me, the timing is perfect for the subject, with the hit the economy is taking
because of oil prices,” said Morita, who envisions hydrogen as fuel for
military and fishing fleets and Hawai’i as a mid-Pacific refueling
About a year ago, when she started learning about the potential of
hydrogen, she figured the technology necessary for the conversion was around a
But she said an eye-opening trip to Sacramento, Calif. earlier
this month made her realize the technology is developing so rapidly that, next
month, several carmakers will unveil in California vehicles powered by
hydrogen-based fuel cells.
“We’re poised to be a hydrogen exporter, because
we have the renewable energy resources,” said Morita.
A bill in this year’s
Legislature pushing for a renewable energy portfolio for Hawai’i, mandating
that gradually higher percentages of renewable energy be used in the state,
Morita, armed with information from the California Hydrogen
Business Council meeting earlier this month, will continue to push for the
legislation, she said.
Restructuring the state Public Utilities Commission,
which at present discourages competition where energy companies are concerned,
is one thing that must happen, she said.
Basically, hydrogen for use in
fuel cells is obtained from either burning fossil fuels (“That’s not desirable,
because you still have emissions,” Morita said), or through renewable energy,
which creates no emissions and is a virtually free source of power.
hydrogen fuel-cell technology, “you’re using energy to make energy,” she
Morita earlier called for the state to become an energy exporter by
creating hydrogen through the electrolysis of excess and off-peak electricity,
liquifying it and shipping it to Oceania, the mainland and Japan, where markets
for hydrogen-powered vehicles and fuel cells are rapidly being
The only by-product of a fuel cell powered by hydrogen is pure,
The California Air Regulatory Board has been pushing the
auto industry to come up with cleaner-burning fuels, Morita said.
us believe the islands on the Hawaiian chain are the leading candidates for the
world’s initial hydrogen energy economies, using newly developed energy
technologies that unite the Earth’s heat, the trade winds and the sun’s light
into ecologically friendly power systems that will ultimately change the world
for the better,” said Richard D. Masters, Internet chairman of the California
Hydrogen Business Council.
The Princeville-based Sustainable Kaua’i
organization funded Morita’s travel to the California conference. Michael
Edwards of Sustainable Kaua’i also made the trip.
Alternative energy is
international big business, so much so that Texaco spends $40 million a year
seeking alternatives to oil, Morita noted.
Shell Oil also has hydrogen and
renewable energy divisions in addition to its core petroleum division.
Closer to home, Michael Vieth, a former Kaua’i County director of finance,
is currently on Maui, where his company, H2 Power Systems, is developing a
botanical gardens visitor center to be powered by hydrogen fuel
Morita said hydrogen is widely known as “the microchip of the energy
industry,” and one of the leading developers of fuel cells today is the Ballard
corporation, known as “the Intel of the energy companies.”
She said she is
trying to put together an educational video on hydrogen and fuel
Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at
email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 224).
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