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Aiona sees jobs in energy

The GOP gubernatorial candidate wants to speed up fuel projects and give tax incentives

By Derrick DePledge

LAST UPDATED: 9:02 p.m. HST, Oct 21, 2010

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona said yesterday that he would put the state on track to reduce by half its dependence on fossil fuel by 2018.

Aiona, the Republican candidate for governor, said the target would be achievable by accelerating renewable projects already being planned by utilities and others. The state has already committed to getting 70 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2030 under the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.

Aiona said the state spends $4 billion to $6 billion annually on imported fossil fuel, so if that bill can be cut in half, it would keep more money in the state's economy.

"We will be able to infuse that $2 to $3 billion into our economy. And what that means is we'll be able to create more jobs. And there'll be more jobs, I think, in our clean-energy industry and other high-paying jobs in the state of Hawaii," Aiona said at a news conference at his campaign headquarters, where he released his proposals on alternative energy, agriculture and the environment.

Former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, the Democratic candidate for governor, has also made renewable energy and food and energy security significant parts of his platform. Abercrombie has proposed an independent Hawaii Energy Authority that would have policy and regulatory oversight over alternative energy. He would make the state's Public Utilities Commission only a rate-setting agency.

Laurie Au, a spokeswoman for the Abercrombie campaign, said the new energy authority would help break through what Abercrombie sees as delays in the state's move toward energy independence.

"The real question on people's minds is who will change the way government operates?" she said in a statement. "People don't want a continuation of the political gridlock that prevailed in the Lingle-Aiona administration. The people of Hawaii want new leadership."

Aiona said he would propose a tax credit for property owners who invest in infrastructure such as irrigation systems, crop-processing facilities, utilities and farmworker housing to help preserve the state's important agricultural lands.

He also said he would consider legislation to tighten land use and zoning designations that have led to what he described as "fake farms" that are more like estates for luxury homes.

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