Options for Transportation Policy

For the 2010 legislative session, the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative effort will shift its focus to transportation sector energy efficiency and renewable fuels. Currently, policy analysts are estimating policy costs and impacts (e.g., job creation, energy savings, and environmental benefits) of incentives and other policies designed to encourage more efficient fuel use and promote alternative fuel production and use. That information will be delivered to working groups to review and use as background for crafting proposed bills for the upcoming legislative session. The Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative will present its final policy recommendations in late fall 2009.

Policy options for automobiles and for aviation include the following:

  • Higher-efficiency cars and trucks—Although fuel-efficiency standards are essentially a federal domain (PDF 75 KB), a number of states do offer rebates or tax incentives for purchase of alternative-fuel, hybrid, and other fuel-efficient vehicles. Initiatives along that line could have a significant impact on vehicle efficiency in Hawai‘i.
  • Biofuels—Although the state of Hawai‘i already has several policies in place that promote biofuel production (see Transportation), there is no significant biofuel production in Hawai‘i as yet. However, studies and analyses indicate that Hawai‘i has strong potential for producing ethanol from sugar cane, cellulosic ethanol from sugar cane residue or other biomass, and biodiesel from tropical oilseed crops. The Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative and others are actively pursuing avenues for establishing such industries and are working to identify additional policy initiatives that would support such development.
  • Electric vehicles—Measures similar to those available for encouraging purchase of fuel-efficient or alternative-fuel vehicles can also apply to electric-drive vehicles. In addition, measures affecting utility policies for charging electric vehicles (or possibly drawing power back from their batteries) could go a long way toward fostering use of electricity for automotive transport in Hawai‘i.

For more on electric-drive vehicles and their connection to the electrical grid, please see National Renewable Energy Laboratory reports from 2006 (PDF 569 MB) and 2009 (PDF 746 MB) or the April 2009 edition of Solar Today.

  • Aviation—With more than a quarter of its current energy use going to aviation (second only to Alaska and far more than most states), Hawai‘i faces a relatively unique and difficult challenge. At present, there are no viable alternatives to petroleum-based jet fuel (kerosene). On the other hand, Hawai‘i may have a relatively unique opportunity to address this issue. One of the most promising technologies for developing less expensive biobased jet fuels is microalgal oil. Certain microscopic algae have high lipid or oil content and will grow at very rapid rates. That oil can be converted to not only biodiesel, but kerosene substitutes as well. The University of Hawai‘i and other Hawai‘i institutions are at the forefront of research on microalgae. Policy measures designed to support that research and foster prospective microalgal oil industry could help Hawai‘i develop solutions for sustainable aviation energy use.


For more information on microalgal oil fuels, please visit the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Web site. 

Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative