Guest Viewpoint for Monday — October 24, 2005

• Hawai’i needs long-term energy strategy

Hawai’i needs long-term energy strategy

By Senator Robert Bunda

Each year, state senate officers from across the county meet to discuss solutions to current challenges in our states. This year the meeting was held in Beijing and I was one of 27 senate presidents who accepted an invitation to participate in the forum. Discussions centered on the explosion of business in China and focused primarily on the emerging trade and economic development fueling China and the impact it is having on our nation and the world.

During my brief but busy time there, I was impressed with not only the energy and vitality of its people, but also with the diversity of China’s economic activity and the level of growth and strength of its economy.

As we here in Hawai’i deal with the rising cost of energy, what caught my attention in particular, was China’s increasing need for energy to fuel its continued emergence as a global economic power. I am certainly not alone in my assessment of China as a major consumer of fuel and its impact on the diminishing supply of oil. Experts are saying that China is already competing more aggressively with the United States for every barrel of oil available on the world market. China’s consumption is rising by double digits; add India and Europe to the mix and you’ve got pressure on the world’s oil supply like we’ve never seen.

The hard cold fact is that the days of cheap gas are over and have been over for a long time. It is over because, as we have been made painfully aware, the supply of oil is not limitless. With increasing competition from China, India and Europe for finite reserves, it’s not hard to see where this is going. Now more than ever, there is renewed incentive to search for alternative sources of energy.

It is time to step up our efforts to implement a strategic energy plan for Hawai’i. Legislators can make important progress during the 2006 Session by building on the groundwork begun in 2002 by the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum at the University of Hawaii. While working towards a long-term strategy for the state, the Forum stresses the importance of a collaborative policy development by revitalizing Hawai’i’s energy regulatory system, supporting energy efficiency/conservation programs, and further development of renewable energy resources for our state.

The cost of alternative forms of energy may soon be competitive with the price of oil. Our response to diminishing oil supplies can no longer be short-term and shortsighted. We must take into account the long view and look to a broader horizon. It will be the only way that we will be able to move from behind the curve and get in front of it. Forget the bickering, finger pointing and politics. As one advertising campaign put it, let’s just do it.

  • Senator Robert Bunda is president of the Hawai’i State Senate

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