Climate change is the greatest threat our nation will ever faced, and allowing political dysfunction to keep us from properly addressing it will likely be the worst mistake our nation has ever made. But, in the face of a monumental denial effort orchestrated by the Koch Brothers and their fellow fossil fuel robber-barons, sometimes one must take matters into their own hands.
That’s just what David Ige, Democratic Governor of Hawaii, has decided to do. At the Asia Pacific Resilience Innovation Summit in Honolulu, Governor Ige announced that he will not be turning to natural gas to replace their petroleum plants but instead will be committing entirely to renewable energy, with plans to complete the transition by 2045. It is not only the right thing to do, but the most profitable one as well. On top of that, he has ordered the University of Hawaii to become “net carbon zero” (i.e. emitting no carbon) over the next twenty years.
The islands will have a surprising ally in the process- the U.S. military, which currently buys 50% of the island’s electricity to power their extensive naval bases. As infrastructure ages and weather conditions become more volatile due to the onset of climate change, power grids become more unsteady and the military, for obvious reasons, would like to have a backup. They are currently working to install their own backup grid capable of producing a gigawatt of electricity on its own accord, in compliance with President Obama’s mandate to the Department of Energy to focus on green energy.
If everything should go according to schedule the biofuel plant at Fort Schofield and the solar farms should be completed in eighteen months. Unlike our Republican Congressional legislators, the military is very aware of the threat that climate change poses to our nation- in fact, they even released a report last year in which the Pentagon declared climate change an “immediate threat” to our national security. For the party that is obsessed with our national security, it’s astonishing to see the GOP entirely ignore the clear warnings from the Pentagon itself, but continue to waste their energy derailing the nuclear accords with Iran.
The unique geography of the islands have resulted in it being very difficult to generate electricity, and consumers have been paying up to three times the cost of a kilowatt on the mainland. That’s why the Governor and the Hawaii Electric Company are hoping to jump-start a green economic boom with a consortium of private companies, known as the Energy Excelerator, that has gathered $400 million in investments. Juan Cole at the Nation writes that “even a lot of their research money is coming from private investment in this research and development activity, with hopes of patents and future revenue streams going to the private sector. These military research centers, coupled with the state-backed Excelerator and other R&D enterprises, have the potential to make Hawaii an indispensable center for green-energy innovation and to allow the state to profit from breakthroughs and from selling them abroad.”
This momentous decision by Governor Ige has catapulted Hawaii to the front of the American green energy movement, and will hopefully provide a lasting precedent that both other states and the enemies of progress will notice. The Kochs and their fellow oligarchs will surely not appreciate the actions taken by Governor Ige, but he at least can see the writing on the wall. Being islands, Hawaii has a vested interest in slowing climate change- left unchecked, Hawaii will no longer exist in a century or so as the archipelago is swallowed up by the murky depths from whence it came. We can only hope that it is not too late.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.