Hawaii's "green" future may reverse the islands' current situation from fragile energy importer to robust biofuel exporter if new ventures like Hawai`i Bioenergy succeed.
This consortium, with several of the islands' largest landholders and prominent technology and venture partners, is focusing its collective resources on integrating emerging oleo-fuels technologies with Hawaii's vast, solar, land and water resources.
Besides sugarcane-- whose demise left tens of thousands of acres of fallow cane land across the islands-- the consortium will explore a variety of new enzymatic and advanced processing technologies that allow ethanol to be refined from switchgrass, pineapple by-products and other crops. Unlike corn-based biofuels, Hawai`i BioEnergy's focus is on true positive net energy balance fuels.
According to Vinod Khosla, a founder of Sun Microsystems who has joined the consortium, Hawai`i BioEnergy will "provide a framework where expertise in renewable fuels and new venture development converge to advance energy security for Hawai`i."
Khosla joins David Cole from ML&P and others from Kamehameha Schools and Brasil Bioenergia in this nimble and savvy venture.
Hawai`i already requires almost all gasoline sold in the islands to contain ten percent ethanol, and a recent "Biofuels Summit" generated broad support for incentives and infrastructure planning to jumpstart the industry in the islands.
These initiatives prompted one observer to call Hawai`i the "Saudi Arabia of the Pacific" and predict the islands will be able to produce much more bioenergy than we can ever consume ourselves.
Other observers say the large amounts of highly productive land, world-leading crop-growing technology and Hawaii's year-round sunny climate and rich soil could make Hawai`i BioEnergy the first potentially economical and sustainable biofuels company in the United States, with the potential to be the AOL of biofuels companies. (BTW, notice that Steve Case's name keeps popping up in Hawaii's sustainability movement?)