Hawaiian Ethanol Power Plans

Cindy Zimmerman

Heco Hawaii is still trying to figure out how to meet state government requirements for ethanol in gasoline and now the electric company wants to use it for power. The Hawaiian Electric Company, also known as HECO, made Pacific waves this week when officials announced they could use ethanol for a new power station on Oahu. According to this story in the Pacific Business Journal, “We would love to use locally produced ethanol in the new Campbell Industrial Park plant from day one of operation in 2009,” said Hawaiian Electric Co. President Mike May. Oahu Ethanol Corp., which already was preparing to produce ethanol next year, is at Campbell Industrial Park, next-door to the HECO power plant site. Oahu Ethanol President Dan KenKnight plans to produce ethanol initially from imported molasses and then get local growers to supply him with sorghum.
I have read several articles on this from Hawaii and I have to say I just don’t get it. Like this story in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, they say this “could help ethanol businesses that are just getting started in Hawaii.” Why do they need more help? The state is requiring that at least 85 percent of gasoline sold contain 10 percent ethanol, starting next month. However, there is currently NO ethanol produced in Hawaii. Seems like there is already a built-in market without the local power industry wanting to use any ethanol that is produced there and it’s not likely they can ever produce enough ethanol on the islands to meet that demand. I’m confused.