substituting Hawaii imports while reducing our footprint

hawaii oil imports

...More on resurging interest in development strategies for "import substitution"...prompted by comments on my previous post.

Note that the same Hawaii imports that rank right up there as ‘substitution’ candidates--energy, transport and food-- also loom largest in our ecological footprint.

And yup, Hawaii could ‘resurrect’ these substitutes, since it once actually did feed itself (fish, poi, rice), generate its own energy (whale oil, wood), and transport itself with local power (horses, canoes).

So, in a sustainability strategy, Hawaii needs to substitute imports of energy and food, which means  100% renewable energy and local food self-reliance, and also probably switching to EVs. Let’s delve deeper.

What is the scale of these challenges and what might substitution might do to our island economy?

First, note that Hawaii residents spend 36% of their income on these items that constitute 57% of our ecological footprint. [These figures come from the Hawaii Consumer Expenditure Survey and the CoolClimate footprint calculator.]

We spend 5% of income on electricity, which is 10% of our footprint. The corresponding figures for transport (excluding air travel) are 16% and 30%. The food figures are 15% and 17%.

Second, we know that substitution cannot be 1-for-1 if we are also to achieve sustainability. For one thing, we waste lots of food and energy and drive plenty of unnecessary miles.

Moreover, the location factors in each substitution effort can dramatically influence our footprint. For example, if our food is 'bio-intensively' grown in areas immediately surrounding each neighborhood, the energy cost and transport of food could be significantly reduced in the process.

Right: we haven't begun to talk about all the other stuff we consume, from tools to toys. I'll return in a subsequent post to the question of how Hawaii might continue to trade for this other stuff...

Still, import substitution in these core energy/transport/food sectors is probably a bigger deal. Indeed, at least in energy, Hawaii might find a new comparative advantage...

Published by Ken on August 23rd, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking

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