“The ultimate price is not paid in dollars, but in ecological crimes against nature, injustices to native peoples and in extinctions to some of the most majestic creatures with which we share the planet. Sacrificing all this to keep Hawaii’s lights on and homes and condos air-conditioned is not merely unacceptable, but is also ill-conceived and reprehensible.” That was MauiTime contributor Rob Parsons, blowing the whistle on imported Southeast Asian palm oil in a 2008 feature titled “Deadly Price.”
Two years later, the issue remains a hot one, as Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) moves forward with plans to burn palm oil for power generation. Per an agreement between HECO and the Natural Resources Defense Council approved by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), HECO will initially use palm oil supplied by a company called Sime Darby at its Maalaea generators. Most of Sime Darby’s plantations are in Malaysia and Indonesia, and the company—which raked in more than $560 million in profit last fiscal year—has been blasted by environmental groups for causing massive deforestation.
The question is simple, even if the answer isn’t: Instead of switching from one imported fuel to another, why not focus on renewables like solar, wind and wave generation and locally grown biofuels?