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Small changes can cut isles’ heavy fuel reliance

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By now we’ve been inundated by all the news on the infamous BP oil spill.

Today marks Day 77 since the company’s offshore oil drilling rig exploded in the Gulf Coast. The blame game has been initiated, and BP continues its public relations damage control, but the oil keeps on gushing.

The Deepwater Horizon tragedy has surpassed the Exxon Valdez incident in Alaska as the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, and the name will be embedded in everyone’s psyche for decades to come — or until the next oil spill.

There will also be many unanswered questions about the long-term impacts of the spill on the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem for decades to come.

How does this relate to Hawaii? There’s no oil drilling off our shores, but take a look around — we’re surrounded by the ocean. So, yes, indeed, we are affected.

A disaster on a similar scale as the BP oil spill would affect our most precious asset, including the beaches so often cited in national travel magazines as some of the best in the world.

Tourism, our No. 1 private industry, would be affected, as would anyone who relies on the ocean for their livelihood and who depends on it for recreation.

Hawaii isn’t immune. In February 1977 an oil tanker called the Hawaiian Patriot carrying nearly 100,000 tons of Indonesian crude oil caught fire and exploded, creating a massive oil slick some 300 miles west of the Hawaiian Islands.

It could happen again. Even if it doesn’t, there is a ripple effect.

Whether we drive automobiles, use plastic products or hop on a plane, we all use petroleum in some form. It’s pretty much unavoidable in modern life.

So yes, we use the stuff that BP and other oil companies pump up from the ocean floor.

The United States consumes about 19.5 million barrels of oil per day, with a whopping 71 percent of it going to transportation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In Hawaii, petroleum provides nearly 90 percent of all energy consumed. Due to our isolated location, we rely heavily on imported fossil fuels.

In small ways, we can reduce this in our day-to-day lives by bringing reusable bags to the store, biking or walking instead of driving when possible, and recycling.

In paradise we tend to be apathetic, but we can still take action.

Hundreds of Hawaii residents participated in the global Hands Across the Sand event, a symbolic demonstration against offshore oil drilling held June 25 at 13 beaches across the state. On Oahu, people lined up at Laniakea, Waimea and Queen’s Beach in Waikiki.

Tourists continued to sunbathe and boogie-board while participants linked hands in a show of solidarity against oil drilling and in support of clean energy.

While some surfers and bikini-clad women poured Hershey’s chocolate syrup on themselves, pretending it was oil to pose for media photos, it was 61-year-old Eva Uran of Makiki who inspired me most.

She carried a sign saying, "I bicycle for oil independence."

A month ago, Uran decided to reduce her oil consumption by giving up her car and riding a bike full time, a well-used pink Acapulco Giant with side packs to carry her belongings.

Uran, a semiretired desktop publisher, bikes everywhere — from her home to the airport, for instance, even though it takes her more than an hour.

She says if she can do it, people in their 20s, 30s and 40s can do it, too.

Now there’s an example of someone who really practices what they preach. Kudos to Eva Uran.

To see how you can help with gulf cleanup efforts, go online to or

Nina Wu writes a column about environmental issues on the first Monday of every month. E-mail her at


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