Two years ago the legislature boldly passed a $1 per barrel tax on most oil imported into Hawaii. The idea was to tax the source of our problem—oil—to fund solutions. More than half of the revenue from the oil tax, however, was diverted to fill a puka in the state budget. It's time for lawmakers to align the tax with the policy's original intent and dedicate the barrel tax to energy and food security programs. The state energy office, tasked with researching, planning, and implementing the transition to clean energy, was solely funded by federal stimulus dollars. As those dollars run out, a new source is needed.
According to three separate surveys commissioned by Blue Planet, more than two-thirds of Hawaii residents support paying an additional amount on their energy bills (approximately a $3 per barrel tax) if the revenue was dedicated to clean energy solutions. Our current energy challenges warrant increasing the barrel tax to $2 per barrel or more and expanding the tax to Hawaii's other fossil fuel source, coal. An equivalent carbon tax on coal would yield about $5 million in revenue for the critical efforts to promote energy and food security.