Hawaii-born President Obama yesterday visited Iowa, where his presidential campaign sprang to life early last year, and his remarks had particular relevance to his home state’s energy plight.
The President selected Newtown as the location for his speech on renewable energy. Newton’s economy has crashed since Maytag left town, but wind turbine towers are now built in the old Maytag plant, and turbine blades are manufactured elsewhere in town. (The photo shows him inspecting a wind turbine tower.)
Bringing It Home
The President’s remarks about the importance of reducing the nation’s dependence on oil played well in Hawaii. The state’s congressional delegation, the governor and other state officials, numerous other politicians, business people, environmentalists, editorial writers, citizens and bloggers have all been communicating the same goal for the state.
Right there is Hawaii’s mantra. No other state is as dependent as Hawaii on imported oil (there are no natural oil deposits in the state). Oil provides more than 90 percent of the state’s energy; electricity generation alone accounts for 78 percent – far and away the highest percentage in the country (Florida is #2 at about 10 percent).
An Imperative To Change
Tourism is the state’s economic engine and is wholly dependent on air travel for virtually every tourist’s visit. The overwhelming majority of goods consumed in the state arrive by oil-burning ships. And when the oil price shoots above $100 per barrel as it did last year, Hawaii’s economy goes into free-fall faster than just about anywhere, with the possible exception of Michigan.
Renewable energy development that eventually produces alternatives to jet fuel and bunker oil is absolutely essential for Hawaii’s long-term survival. But even before those breakthroughs are achieved, the state is an ideal location for aggressive development of vehicles powered with electricity generated by green energy technologies, including baseload ocean thermal energy conversion that eventually will tap the sea’s stored solar energy.
The Hawaii-Iowa connection was perfectly evident during the President’s visit yesterday, and his speech did more than set a tone for the nation’s goal to achieve energy independence. In Hawaii, it amounted to a validation of the course we’re already on by necessity and more inspiration to lead the nation in the effort to get off oil.