Renewable-energy advocates question Hawaii’s push to LNG

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September 9, 2013

(KUHF, Hawaii public radio; Sept. 4) - Fifteen percent of energy in Hawaii comes from renewable sources such as wind, solar and biomass. The rest comes mostly from pricey oil imports. The state wants to switch from oil to natural gas as a more affordable, cleaner fuel until more renewable energy becomes available. But some worry the move could derail the state's green-energy momentum.

The islands' electrical utility, Hawaiian Electric, hopes to scrap oil imports and switch completely to natural gas by 2020. "The goal — and it's an aspirational goal — is to make it to 100 percent renewable energy, but that day we think is years in the future," said utility vice president Ron Cox. "We see natural gas as a cheaper, cleaner alternative to the oil." The utility is looking at importing liquefied natural gas to Hawaii, though the upfront costs are high for a receiving terminal and other infrastructure.

The high cost of diesel-fueled electrical power is "an economic hammer that pounds down on the Hawaii anvil ... devouring the disposable income of the working middle class in this state," Gov. Neil Abercrombie said. But renewable-energy advocates worry that gas is just another fossil fuel. The Hawaii-based environmental organization, Blue Planet, is pushing for the islands to demonstrate to rest of the world that a more rapid move away from carbon-based energy is possible.

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