Lawmakers consider Maui renewable energy bill

Hawaii: Ending Original Net-Metering Program

HONOLULU (AP) — Driven by high fuel prices and a goal to use only renewable energy in Hawaii by 2045, state lawmakers are pushing a bill to help a local business produce clean fuel.

State lawmakers considered a bill Thursday to allow the state to issue $30 million in bonds to a company to produce renewable energy on Maui. The money would help Hawaii Renewable Resources grow energy crops and build a facility to make renewable natural gas.

Animal waste and energy crops such as grasses can be turned into renewable natural gas, which can be a sustainable alternative to traditional gasoline for cars and trucks.

Hawaii Renewable Resources says the compost and water leftover from making the renewable fuel will be given to local farmers to help increase local food production.

The company says it plans to grow the crops on old sugar cane plantation land. Paul Tower, the company's president, wouldn't comment further on the project.

This bill comes at a time when Hawaii's last remaining sugar plantation, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., plans to end sugar operations by the end of 2016. The company has been growing sugar for over 140 years but plans to switch gears and pursue diversified agriculture for its 36,000 acres currently in use.

Tran Chinery, a spokesperson for the sugar company, would not comment on the plans proposed in the bill.

Supporters of the bill say it's a step closer to sustainability and will help ensure that Hawaii can produce enough food to feed its residents.

A disruption in food imports or energy would create "terrific hardships," said Erik Kvam, director of Renewable Energy Action Coalition of Hawaii. "I'd prefer to talk about resiliency, and having the capacity to feed ourselves."

More than 80 percent of Hawaii's energy comes from petroleum, making it the most petroleum-dependent state in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The islands often have the nation's highest gas and electricity prices.

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