Friday, May 9, 2008

Open Blog to Congressional Delegation: Hawaii Could Use Your Significant Support of OTEC

Associated Press (5/9/08): Oil passes $126 on Venezuela concerns
Honolulu Advertiser (5/9/08):
Drivers near ‘tipping point’ as Hawaii gas prices climb
Honolulu Star-Bulletin (5/10/08): Horizon to increase fuel surcharge
May 12th Update: Crude reaches new trading high -- $126.40 

Dear Hawaii Congressional Delegation Members (delivered by email):

As representatives of the Aloha State, you undoubtedly know that your constituents pay the highest electricity rates in the nation. You also know gas prices are skyrocketing back home.

According to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, Hawaii’s highest gas prices ever were TODAY – an average of $3.88 for regular and $4.529 for diesel. Regular gas in Wailuku, Maui averages $4.177, the highest ever – about 49 cents a gallon more than you’ll pay when filling up in the Washington metro area. And that’s for regular; your cars probably burn premium. Do that on Maui and it’ll cost you $4.50 a gallon. “Lucky We Live Hawaii” starts to have a hollow ring to it. (Note: the above figures were quotes on May 9th, and some subsequently were eclipsed by even higher prices.)

When Will Gas Be in the Past?

But that’s today. Since charting a path to our future is what you’re expected to do, we hope your daily routine includes envisioning a future that doesn’t depend on oil and gasoline – a future that Hawaii will help introduce to the rest of the nation and planet.

Hawaii will do that with your help in championing ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) every opportunity you get. Who better to do that but representatives of the country’s only archipelago state – and one anchored in the tropical ocean at that?

You’re familiar with OTEC; the first proof of the theory that differences in water temperature could be exploited to create electrical energy was three decades ago in Hawaiian waters. A small demonstration plant ran for years in Kona. You know all that. The question is, are you sufficiently alarmed about what’s happening to our state to embrace OTEC as the islands’ primary power source – and soon?

Wanted: The Vision Thing

It’s not just drivers who are at the “tipping point.” So are electricity customers. You can’t go to a picnic in the park or a restaurant or bar without hearing about soaring power prices. And those costs are showing up everywhere – from meals to gas to the groceries.

You want complaints? Hold a town hall meeting the next time you’re home and you’ll hear complaints about all this and more -- including predictions that our stagnant economy won't rebound until 2010.

What we need from you is hope and a vision. Talk about OTEC has been around for a long time, but even now that its economics make sense (oil at $126 and rising), you still hear OTEC denigrated by key players in the power chain (see our post on The Nile River Argument that's going around town).

You can help move Hawaii beyond the talk and denigration stage by making a strong endorsement of ocean thermal energy conversion. OTEC may achieve a toehold in the islands without you, but it will happen faster and with more determination with your help.

Think of the Children

By the time today’s elementary school kids graduate from college and are looking to start their careers, will Hawaii still be dependent on imported oil for its power generation and transportation fuels? If so, will they have any hope of launching that career at home in the islands?

Twenty years from now, OTEC could be well on its way to replacing fuel oil for electrical generation – first on Oahu, where the greatest fossil fuel consumption is, and eventually all the islands. With OTEC, oil's stranglehold on the state will be over, and a whole new industry will be there for the taking for our best and brightest graduates.

Senator Inouye, you were there when President Kennedy challenged the nation to reach for the moon, arguably his greatest legacy. With your leadership, our Congressional delegation’s legacy could be just as important on a planetary scale.

The ocean each day absorbs the energy equivalent of more than 250 billion barrels of oil. Let’s start tapping that energy with OTEC, first right here in Hawaii and then around the world – and bring us back from the brink of an economic and ecological tipping point.

Best wishes for renewed success as you help chart our energy future.

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