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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 12:03 p.m., Thursday, July 20, 2006

Group to do renewable energy research in Hawai'i

Advertiser Staff

Three of state's largest landowners announced today they will form a consortium with several international firms to conduct research on the development of renewable energy crops, products and services in Hawai'i.

The local participants are Kamehameha Schools, Maui Land & Pineapple Co. and Grove Farm Co., the companies said in a news release. The consortium also will include Vinod Khosla, a nationally recognized leader in renewable energy and co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Khosla, now a partner in a venture capital firm, has made substantial investments in private companies involved in ethanol research and development.

The consortium, called Hawai'i BioEnergy LLC, will identify sugarcane and other potential fuel crops, processing techniques and distribution channels for biofuels within the state, according to the release.

A new law that kicked in April 1 required most gasoline sold in Hawai'i to contain 10 percent ethanol. Five companies say they plan to produce ethanol locally, but none have broken ground yet. The state currently imports 100 percent of the ethanol used here.

The consortium also will include Brasil Bioenergia, a company formed by leading Brazilian industrialist Ricardo Semler; and Tarpon Investments, an investment firm with expertise in the Brazilian energy sector. Brazil is the world leader in ethanol production and is expected to become energy independent this year, according to the release.

"The development of a viable biofuel industry in Hawai'i can yield huge economic benefits for the state," Grove Farm chief executive Warren Haruki said in a written statement.

"Hawai'i imports well over 40 million barrels of oil a year, including 500 million gallons of fuel purchased for vehicles. At $3.50 to $4.00 a gallon at the pump, the cost to consumers is nearly $2 billion a year."