Hawaii can lead. We can lead in passing meaningful and bold energy legislation in Washington, D.C., and we can lead here at home by setting our own tough policies and being the first state in the nation to eliminate our dependency on fossil fuel and run on a clean energy economy.
Hawaii is already the first in the nation to require all new homes to utilize solar hot water heaters (or other highly efficient heaters).
We should also be the first state in the nation to completely ban new fossil fuel power plants and be the leader in electric car usage. We should also offer the steepest disincentives on oil use and the richest incentives for photovoltaic, wind and other clean energy technologies.
As you are painfully aware, in the time it takes you to read this, somewhere between 15,000 and 50,000 gallons or more of oil will leak into the gulf. Countless birds, fish, and wildlife will slowly die. And pristine marshlands, once vibrant and full of life, will be silenced.
President Barack Obama recently said we need to move forward on clean energy. I agree.
But my enthusiasm is tempered by knowledge of past resolutions of a similar nature that went nowhere because we simply could not summon the political will or gird ourselves for the sacrifices it entails.
I remembered that President George W. Bush said something similar about needing to make progress on clean energy. In 1979, with 37 percent of oil coming from foreign sources, I remember Jimmy Carter also saying, "Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 — never."
We have doubled our dependence since then.
I even remember Richard Nixon in 1974 saying, "By 1980 the U.S. will no longer be dependent on any other country for the energy we need!" Wow, makes me want to go campaign for him.
From Nixon to Obama, the last eight presidents have all made bold statements about the importance of our country getting off of our addiction to oil.
But yet our dependency only grows. I, for one, am tired of the rhetoric, tired of the political posturing and tired of those who persist in fighting change because it threatens their special interests. It is time for action, it is time for courage and it is time for leadership.
How many more young people have to die in the Middle East? How many more ecological disasters must we endure, all in the name of protecting the profit margins of Exxon Mobile, BP and the like?
I’m tired of politicians more worried about their careers than they are of protecting our planet.
I’m tired of big electric and big oil spending 120 times more than the alternative energy sector to lobby and buy their way through Washington.
This country has never been serious about getting off of our dependence on oil, and it is time for that to change. It’s time for an energy revolution. It’s time for leadership. A strong, bold, comprehensive national clean energy bill has the potential to transform our environment, our economy, our national security, and our future.
We need to draw a line in the sand that is being polluted daily around the world and say no to big oil, no to the big utility monopolies and we need to take our country back.
Both in Washington and here at home, we need to stand up and be counted. We need to lead.
State Sen. Gary Hooser represents Senate District 7 (Kauai, Niihau). He is also a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.