That's about how much Hawaii spends on imported oil each year.
That's about how much food and energy we import each year.
We may be dependent on imports for food and energy, but we are not a dependent people.
Imagine a future where more of that $5 billion stays in Hawaii's economy, instead of being shipped overseas.
Or a future where more of our food is fresh and local.
Imagine the jobs we'll create right here.
Congresswoman Hirono discusses how clean energy investments from Congress are helping the state save thousands yearly from solar panels atop the Kalanimoku Building
Last month, I met with agriculture and clean energy leaders across the state who want that future, who believe, like I do, that we have to accelerate our progress to make Hawaii more sustainable. It has been heartening to see so many people come together to share their ideas.
Unfortunately too many in Congress disagree, especially when it comes to developing clean energy. They want to pursue an energy policy that's outdated and wrong. Just look at the budget passed by House Republicans -- it would continue giving oil companies billions in subsidies yet cut investments in clean energy that have helped Hawaii companies and provide a path to energy independence.
Source: Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative Road Map
We need a different approach.
Last week we unveiled a sustainability plan on what our state -- and the nation -- needs from Washington to become more sustainable. I hope you'll take the opportunity to read our full report. This plan is a living document and we welcome more feedback. Please feel free to share your thoughts by sending an email to: SustainableHawaii@mail.house.gov.
Our four point energy sustainability plan embraces the challenge of energy independence as a way to create jobs and build a new economy for Hawaii.
Below is a brief outline:
Grow Hawaii's clean energy industry by extending federal tax incentives and maintaining support for research and development. We know that this is vital to providing homeowners and businesses with resources to advance our clean energy goals. In fact, thanks to a program in the federal Recovery Act, more than 100 Hawaii businesses were able to access over $63 million in tax credits to install energy efficiency upgrades, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. We can also help pay for these clean energy incentives by ending the $4 billion in federal subsidies to the oil companies.
Help our families manage prices at the pump during our clean energy transition by supporting public transportation, cracking down on oil speculation, making sure that oil drilled in the U.S. benefits U.S. consumers, and, in limited, targeted circumstances, release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Train our workers for the clean energy jobs of tomorrow. Some examples of federal funds heading to workforce development include the $24 million grant to invest in workforce development in Hawaii for clean energy, agriculture, and health care--areas where we need more qualified workers and a $2.5 million grant that UH received for training in smart grids.
Help families and businesses reduce costs and better manage energy use by increasing energy efficiency.
Warren Bollmeier, president of the Hawaii Renewable Energy Alliance said this about our plan: "In Hawaii, we know what the future looks like a lot sooner than the rest of the country. The path our nation needs to take is one where we level the playing field for clean energy. A plan like this that looks to the future and helps invest in a wide range of clean energy options is how we'll make Hawaii energy self-sustainable.
And Kelly King of Pacific Biodiesel said: "Pacific Biodiesel has shown that homegrown renewable energy companies can be sustainable--and grow and create jobs here in Hawaii. Congresswoman Hirono's plan is about laying the groundwork for a sustainable economy that supports these types of businesses, engages all stakeholders, and helps to keep us focused on continuing the progress we've made together."
We also need strategies to help boost our local food production. That will help us build a stronger Hawaii that is less dependent on the mainland.
Farmer Jesse Delaros shows Congresswoman Hirono 4.5 foot tall okra in Waianae Valley, grown through natural farming techniques
Our four point agriculture sustainability plan looks to help provide a solid foundation for farming in Hawaii and grow this industry:
Assist in meeting the basic needs for Hawaii's agriculture industry, for example, by helping deliver water to farms and ranches and continuing research on Hawaii pests, diseases, and crops.
Help encourage production of more of Hawaii's food by providing farmers more outlets to sell their products, such as farmers markets and schools. Kapiolani Community College has proposed a program to help Hawaii farmers provide locally-sourced meals to public school students. Also, with the average age of Hawaii's farmers nearing 60 years, we need to help "grow" more farmers for the future.
Support our agricultural exports that provide jobs here and continuing crop insurance programs that help protect farmers from losses due to diseases, pests, and natural disasters.
Help support new opportunities in agriculture like agritourism and capitalizing on the appeal of the Hawaii brand.
David Fuertes, co-owner of Fuertes Ranch on the Hawaii Island, said about our plan: "Hawaii's vibrant local food community is committed to bringing the freshest products from our farms to Hawaii's kitchens and tables. Buying and eating local is a great way to keep money circulating in Hawaii's economy, enjoy fresher and healthier food, reduce our environmental footprint, and help maintain our agricultural heritage and open spaces. We can do better than processed and imported foods; such as our local grass-fed beef, and our Natural Farming Pork that is healthier and tastier to our consumers. Mahalo to Congresswoman Hirono for highlighting and supporting the growing movement toward local food sustainability."
Congresswoman Hirono discusses local produce
with Delan "Rusty" Perry, Hilo Farm Bureau President
This is just the beginning.
Making Hawaii more sustainable when it comes to energy and agriculture won't be an easy task, and it won't happen overnight. We also need to continue to address issues like clean water, clean air, preserving coastal areas, and other ways to protect the quality of life we treasure. Thanks for taking the time to read this and don't forget to send your thoughts on our plan. That's the only way we're going to move Hawaii forward -- with all of us working together.
As always, please stay in touch: visit my website www.hirono.house.gov to send an email, call my District Office at (808) 541-1986 or send me a tweet at @maziehirono. The direct (free) numbers to call my office from the neighbor islands are:
Hawaii Island -- 935-3756
Kauai & Niihau -- 245-1951
Lanai -- 565-7199
Maui -- 242-1818
Molokai -- 552-0160
Mazie K. Hirono
Member of Congress
2nd District of Hawaii