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Hirono: They put red light on green jobs

From the Office of Rep. Mazie Hirono:

This week, the House Majority pushed through an Energy & Water Development Appropriations bill that promotes an outdated focus on fossil fuels, keeping Hawaii and our nation dependent on foreign oil.

According to the U.S. Census, last year oil was Hawaii’s top foreign import costing us $4.5 billion. When oil prices go up, all of us feel an immediate impact: families are forced to stretch paychecks further and businesses have to find even more room in their budgets just to keep their doors open.

Hawaii’s families know that we need to embark on a new direction on energy. But the House Majority’s bill slices in half a program to promote saving money through energy efficiency and rolls back efforts to decrease carbon pollution.

It also cut by $75 million investments in clean energy innovation through the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), which supports projects such as algae-based biofuels, smart grid technology and electric cars.

Yet, the bill increased funding for research on fossil fuels to $554 million, an increase of over $200 million from last year’s amount.

In April, I talked with clean energy leaders throughout Hawaii and asked what do we need to do to keep our momentum in this field? The overwhelming answer: keep supporting R&D for clean energy.

That’s why I wrote an amendment to the bill increasing our total investment in ARPA-E to $333.4 million. We paid for it by trimming fossil fuel research to $420.6 million.

This is the same amount President Obama said the Energy Department actually needed for fossil fuel research. And it was still $73 million more than last year’s budget.

Warren Bollmeier of the Hawaii Renewable Energy Alliance once told me: “The path we need to take to energy independence is one where we level the playing field for clean energy.”

That’s what this amendment did – struck a fair compromise to support research and development in clean energy while also being careful with our tax dollars.

Unfortunately, supporters of fossil fuels were able to block this amendment. While I’m disappointed, I’m going to keep fighting. Because the stakes are just too high.

There are more than 11,000 jobs in clean energy in Hawaii and these businesses generate $1.2 billion for our state economy. The clean energy industry keeps jobs and money in Hawaii, and moves us one step closer to energy self-sustainability.

The people of Hawaii and Americans across the country want to see us take a balanced approach to our energy. It makes no sense to cut research that can help end our dependence on imported oil.
Thanks for reading.

To contact Hirono, call (808) 541-1986 or visit: www.hirono.house.gov

The direct (free) numbers to call Hirono’s office from the neighbor islands are:

Hawaii Island — 935-3756
Kauai & Niihau — 245-1951
Lanai — 565-7199
Maui — 242-1818
Molokai — 552-0160

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