Friday, April 25, 2008

Oil Price Jumps $5 in Week; $150/Barrel by June?

NEW YORK, April 25-(Kyodo), Crude oil futures in New York turned sharply higher on Friday morning with the benchmark contract surpassing $119 per barrel and nearing an all-time high of $119.90 on renewed concern over a tighter supply.

The price of oil jumped $5 in the past week, rice is being rationed, the ethanol backlash has begun and Hawaii arguably is more dependent on oil this week than ever. (Honolulu motorists: Drive along Nimitz Highway ewa of downtown or out Lagoon Drive and count the number of new cars waiting to roll onto our streets.)

At this rate of increase, our SWAG on when oil hits $150/barrel is sometime in June -- based on nothing more than a gnawing dread. Hawaii is more dependent on oil than any other state for our electricity generation. This fact alone means oil price increases “tsunami” (not ripple) through our economy, and we’re all feeling it.

Inching Toward Independence

As we wrote recently, each up-tick in the price of oil heightens local awareness of the fix we’re in, and positive responses are out there. The Honolulu Advertiser editorializes today in support of bills still alive in Hawaii’s Legislature on photovoltaic systems and net-metered energy. (Among its assertions: "...our current methods of generating and distributing electricity are growing unsustainable.") Elsewhere, the paper reports on the State government’s initiatives to build energy-saving equipment in State buildings.

All well and good and worthy of support, but they’re akin to crawling when sprinting is what’s required. This blog promotes ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) as a big-picture attack on Hawaii’s petroleum dependence. Just as the Advertiser calls solar power “a no-brainer in sunny Hawaii,” OTEC is a no-brainer for surrounded-by-a-tropical-ocean Hawaii.

The Base-Load Alternative

This point can’t be made too often: OTEC will provide base-load electricity generation and will replace imported fuel oil for that purpose. Solar, wind and wave power all are ripe for additional development here and are to be encouraged, but as intermittent power sources, they have obvious limitations absent a massive energy storage capability.  (We recently met Rinaldo S. Brutoco, who introduced us to how hydrogen can store power created by Hawaii's plentiful renewable energy resources for later release.  He's a co-author of Freedom from Mid-East Oil.)

Hawaii’s Legislature and her Public Utilities Commission will be asked to address issues holding up OTEC's development. Important, too, will be efforts to publicize Hawaii’s ongoing oil-dependence crisis and ways around it. 

The Pacific Congress on Marine Science and Technology will be held in Honolulu in early June. Check out its website and get ready for some high-level presentations by high-powered people who can help show the way to energy sanity in our state.

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