Richard Ha writes:
Lately there has been much discussion about energy security—or lack of security—and what, if anything, we can do about it. The term "peak oil" means we are at or very near the point where maximum oil production equals our oil demand. After the peak, demand will outstrip supply.
We all agree that this is true. We differ only about how bad it will be. Some people are predicting the collapse of civilization. Others think we can make the necessary adjustments.
We in Hawai‘i are especially vulnerable. In addition to the prospect of having to pay unbearable fossil fuel costs in the future, we currently import more than 70 percent of our food—a highly fossil-fuel-dependent method of taking care of the basic need of feeding ourselves.
We have abundant natural resources available to us that could help us find a solution to the “peak oil” problem. But we need to take action NOW!
Solar, hydro, wind and geothermal power are available to us on each island, in varying degrees, and they are not tied to fossil fuel costs. They can all be converted to electricity. With electricity, we can produce food and get work done. And with electric cars, we can also get from one place to another.
What about bio-diesel and ethanol?
It does not look as though farmers would work for the returns that these fuels would bring. For example, ethanol and biodiesel can be brought into Hawai‘i for approximately $2 per gallon. Presumably that is what a farmer would be paid for a gallon of bio-fuel, which weighs roughly 8 pounds.
Therefore a farmer would get approximately 25 cents/pound of liquid bio-fuel. If it took, say, two pounds of a farmer’s product to make one pound of bio-fuel, that would mean a Hawai‘i farmer would get 12.5 cents per pound for growing bio-fuel crops. Under those conditions, farmers would not grow bio-fuel crops.
We may have to be content with buying them from overseas.
Truly, the answer is that we should be focusing on our natural resources as sources of electricity. And we should focus on supporting our farmers, as well—on every island, at every elevation: windward and leeward, big and small. We need to know that we can produce the food we need here.
We can do this.