House bill aims to eliminate fossil fuels from ground transportation in Hawaii

This story appeared in the Pacific Business News on Friday, February 23, 2018 

A bill currently circulating in the state Legislature would create a new state initiative with the intent of reducing and ultimately eliminating fossil fuels in all forms of ground transportation in Hawaii.

House Bill 2728, which was introduced by state Rep. Chris Lee, D-Kailua, Waimanalo, would create a clean transportation initiative. The state Department of Transportation, in collaboration with the Hawaii State Energy Office and the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, would be tasked with assisting stakeholders in planning to reduce and eliminate fossil fuels from all government-owned and -operated ground transportation by 2035 as well as all ground transportation thereafter.

The initiative would also come up with a plan to deploy necessary infrastructure, develop recommendations regarding additional steps to achieve the goals and convene stakeholders in a forum.

The bill, which passed its second reading in the House on Feb. 16, has received support from various interest groups during testimony. Honolulu-based investment firm Ulupono Initiative said in its testimony it supports HB2728 because it “aligns with our goal of increasing production of clean, renewable energy” in Hawaii.

“In Hawaii, while [around] 20 percent of electricity generation is renewable energy, less than 1 percent of energy use in transportation is renewable,” Ulupono Managing Partner Murray Clay said in his testimony. “Electrifying ground transportation is presently the most efficient and impactful way to move transportation toward more renewable energy.”

While Hawaii mandates 100 percent renewable energy generation by 2045, it does not have a similar goal for the transportation sector. In December, however, Hawaii’s four county mayors signed a proclamation to eliminate fossil fuels from ground transportation by 2045.

Blue Planet Foundation said the state “should support these county goals with a complementary initiative to coordinate stakeholders and planning across the islands.” The nonprofit said in its testimony that while Hawaii has made progress in reducing its carbon emissions from the energy sector, emissions from ground transportation have been increasing.

“The shared vision for 100 percent clean transportation isn’t just about electric vehicles. Many vehicles today can use renewable alternative fuels such as locally produced biofuels and biodiesel. It also means more walking, biking, and public transportation opportunities — hallmarks of livable communities,” Blue Planet Foundation said.

According to the Hawaii State Energy Office, only 6,748, or about 0.6 percent, of the more than 1 million registered passenger vehicles on Hawaii’s roads in January were fully electric. The small percentage of EVs currently operating in the state highlights how dramatically ground transportation would have to change in order to achieve a clean transportation future in Hawaii.

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