Last fall, I tried to make the case that all-electric vehicles were ideally suited for the transportation needs of most of the people who live in Hawaii. I stand by that idea, but realize that there are others (like Vinod Khosla) who are more into biofuels in the islands than EVs. David Cole is one such proponent, and his call to take a look at sugar cane as an ethanol feedstock is getting a bit of attention (like, for example, the New York Times).
We've always known that the economics of ethanol production vary widely from place to place. Take Hawai?i, for example. The main problems with making the biofuel locally include reviving the sugar can fields – and finding the land and workers to make this possible – to make the feedstock, building production plants, and arguments over water rights. Water rights are a tricky issue in Hawai?i, since so many people need the precious resource.
An often-overlooked aspect to the energy debate is location. Different places have different energy needs and energy production possibilities. For a long time, Hawaii, for example, imported just about all the energy it needed. With new technologies coming online, Hawaii's energy production potential has increased. Columnist Jan TenBruggencate at the Honolulu Advertiser used his column yesterday to see how the piecemeal alternative energy infrastructure being built no only in the islands but arou