Hawaii Legislation Would Ban Gasoline-and Diesel-Powered Vehicles

Published May 10, 2016

In a far-reaching effort to further Hawaii’s embrace of renewable energy, state Rep. Chris Lee (D-Kailua) and state Rep. Nicole E. Lowen (D-Kailua Kona) have introduced legislation targeting vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel fuel for elimination.

The bill, House Bill 2085, is vague on how fossil-fuel powered vehicles would ultimately be eliminated, leaving it to the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism to develop a plan. The bill aims to reduce and ultimately eliminate the import of fossil fuels for ground transportation by 2045. It builds upon legislation signed into law by Gov. Dave Ige (D) on June 18, 2015, mandating 100 percent of the islands’ electricity be produced by renewable energy—such as wind, solar, and geothermal—no later than 2045.

Nation’s Highest Electricity Prices

Located nearly 2,500 miles from the U.S. mainland, Hawaii imports most of its food, fuel, and other necessities. In 2013, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Hawaii imported 91 percent of the energy it used, and in 2014, the state had the highest electricity prices in the nation.

Opponents of the legislation fear eliminating fossil fuels will further drive up the cost of living in Hawaii. Testifying in early February against the Lee-Lowen bill, a representative of the state Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism pointed out the legislation’s goals effectively meant every car sold in the state would have to be electric or powered by a hydrogen cell by 2028. That, in turn, would require laws restricting the cars people can buy.

Keli’i Akina, president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, testified against the bill and says the high cost of living in the state already makes it hard for families to make ends meet.

“Bills like this don’t help, as they put artificial targets ahead of the practical realities of living in Hawaii,” Akina said. “Instead of spending their time coming up with new environmental mandates, the legislature would be well-advised to do some real-world studies of the effect of such legislation.”

Despite such concerns, the State Legislature is moving forward with the bill, which has already cleared several committees with little or no opposition. 

Making Living in Paradise Difficult

Replacing Hawaii’s entire fleet of gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles at a price ordinary people can afford will be daunting.

“This is an example of politicians compelling citizens to buy only what the politicians decide they can buy, and if the politicians are wrong, disruptions of energy along with much higher costs will leave Hawaiians poorer and, lacking vehicle choice, less free,” said Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research. “We are already seeing much higher energy costs in places like Germany and California, where energy poverty is rising because politicians and government officials made political decisions [that take] away peoples’ choices in the market.”

Marita Noon, executive director of Energy Makes America Great, says HB 2085 is so bad, it’s almost comical.

“HB 2085 would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad,” said Noon. “Not only will it make the cost of living higher for every resident, it will destroy much of the beauty that brings tourists, and therefore revenue, to the state. Meeting the 100 percent electricity mandate will be hard enough, but to add the extra capacity for every vehicle’s charging needs, if HB 2085 passes, will require solar panels and wind turbines on nearly every available inch of land.”

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.


Keli’i Akina, “Grassroot Institute of Hawaii Testimony on HB 2085 relating to Fossil Fuel Vehicles,” March 16, 2016: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/grassroot-institute-hawaii-testimony-hb-2085-relating-fossil-fuel-vehicles