Some of us are old enough to remember the Arab oil embargo in the mid-1970's. Oil prices increased 400% in six months, and there was gas rationing at the pumps. Our nation responded by spending millions of dollars on alternative energy technologies, vowing never again to be dependent on foreign interests.
But by the late 1980's, oil prices returned to reasonable levels. And, with it went our heightened national zeal to truly reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Our nation has gone to war to stabilize the Middle East, and to safeguard democracy. We have gone to war over oil. Our sons and daughters have fought and died in the desert. The volatility in both the price and access to a barrel of oil demonstrates how insecure our nation is --- oftentimes held hostage to forces beyond our control. Our renewed drive for energy independence began several years ago with billions being invested once again in alternative energy.
This time, we cannot waiver. This time, we cannot blink. The spilt blood of our fallen U.S. warriors must not be in vain. We must stay the course. Our nation's energy security requires it. The future of this planet, and the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren demand it.
In January of this year, U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Panetta announced a "rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region." This should come as no surprise for those who have lived and worked in this region.
Seven of the ten largest armies are in the Pacific. Three of the world's most populous nations are in this region. And, the greatest economic growth is here in this region. Energy independence underpins the ability of the United States, or any nation, to meet its treaty obligations, maintain its military capabilities and ensure our nation's security. Energy security is directly tied to a nation's economic prosperity.
With this charge, I welcome you to this Summit. There will be information sharing, networking and even some deal making. Those who have gathered this week all have one thing in common -- we realize that we can no longer rely on petroleum products to fuel our economies and ensure our security.
I wholeheartedly support our federal and Defense Department's investment in alternative energy. I have done my best to help fund their efforts. Whether it involves the testing of new technologies that will heat water, cool buildings, handle waste, power vehicles, or produce energy, they are leading the way. I applaud Navy Secretary Mabus' investment in a "Great Green fleet" which was successfully showcased at the recent RimPac exercises. We are investing in change that is bold and innovative.
Hawaii's climate, our insular nature, as well as our extreme dependency on imported fuel, positions us to be an alternative energy bridge in the Asia-Pacific. We are a testbed of increasing importance in the region.
This is due, in large part, to the State of Hawaii's goal of 70% clean energy in 2030. The most important development I see over the past two years is the growing consensus among industry, government and families that Hawaii is on the right path to have clean and locally produced energy fueling our state.
Hawaii is second in the nation in installed photovoltaic panels per capita, as more families and businesses take their energy future into their own hands. As this momentum builds, it translates into real jobs -- Hawaii currently ranks 3rd nationally in "clean energy" job growth. We are on our way.
In the end, to be successful requires leadership and political will at all levels. We must stay the course until we as a state, nation, and region reach our collective goal of energy self-sufficiency and security.
I wish you good luck, good discussions and Godspeed.