Blue Planet: Here in Hawai'i, Ready to Change Us For the Better

Blue Planet: Here in Hawai'i, Ready to Change Us For the Better

There are a number of people and organizations talking about making sustainable changes within the world. Heck, there are even some in Hawaii. Henk Rogers is one of the few who returned to Hawaii after a prosperous hiatus with a distinct plan: To get Hawaii independent of fossil fuels within ten years.

Ambitious? How will he do it? Whom is at his side? All good questions you may have asked yourself.

We sat down with Jeff Mikulina, the executive director of Roger's Blue Planet organization, to get the scoop on how they intend to achieve the ambitious goals they set out to accomplish in the coming decade.

First, a little background: A self-made technology magnate (Rogers) has a heart attack after decades of starting, managing and heading a number of successful software companies, each based on the mainland. Having spent a significant portion of his childhood—and undergraduate studies—in Hawaii, it was the 'aina that called to him after such a traumatic health scare. Rogers returned to O'ahu, continuing his technology work, yet adding a new vision of clarity to everything he did; including the launch of Blue Planet. Essentially, Rogers realized that he absolutely had to reach three personal goals before he could consider himself a success.

The plan he set in motion included three distinct parts. First, How can he get the State of Hawaii off fossil fuels within ten years. Second, how can he put an end to all war, and third, Rogers wants to figure out how the world will end.

Lofty? Maybe. But Rogers is off to one heck of a start. In his first year of conceiving Blue Planet, he managed to conduct a seminar (with the help of Fred Friendly productions) that brought luminaries including Robert Kennedy for a mock summit that tested the waters of what life would be like if there were in fact no fossil fuels available. How would we energize our nation? Who would provide the technology? How would it be set in place? Who would profit? How different would every day life be?

All these questions were playfully deduced and voiced during the hour-long session, which since has run nationwide on PBS, in addition to spurring a number of follow-up efforts from Blue Planet.

Now in its second year of existence (and just beginning to gel, according to Mikulina), the kid gloves are off and it’s time to get to business.

“This year we’re all about community advocacy and planning,” said Mikulina. “Essentially, we want to stay as the neutral guys in this new age, and figure out how to realistically get Hawaii energy independent. All the resources are there.”

Translation: Solar people are out to sell you solar. Same goes for wind, wave and bio-fuel. Business is business. Someone needs to mediate which technologies are not only the most efficient, but which are available now and realistic to put in place immediately.

To kick off this next phase, Rogers and Mikulina brought in ex-Carter Administration energy specialist Dennis Hayes, Pacific BioDiesel founder Kelly King (from Maui), a representatives from the Department of Business and Economic Development, Peter Cooper from Better Place (who aims to make efficient vehicles sold using the cell phone model, where patrons will purchase miles in blocks), Mark Duda from SunTech (who’s company skyrocketed from $1 million in sales in 2007 to over $30 million in 2008), all of whom sat in a Model U.N.-style meeting to mull over the issues at O’ahu’s East-West center this January.

In addition, Blue Planet executives are pitching a few dozen bills during the next legislative session (over the next 3 months) that range from a law demanding solar hot water heaters on all new builds in Hawaii, to unbilled financing for Energy Efficient appliances in all homes, island wide.

Mikulina has been working closely with David Murdock on Lana’i on a proposed 400 megawatt wind farm on the same island, which Murdock wants to back, and could satisfy nearly 20 percent of the entire island chain’s energy needs. One challenge is the cost of not merely building the wind farm, but the lines needed to transfer power to neighboring islands.

Glad someone is thinking about this stuff? Me too. And as we’re busy putting around in what should be the silver years for gas-run vehicles, know that Mikulina, Rogers and a few dedicated players at Blue Planet—right here in Hawaii—are working to change the world, one island chain at a time.

What has Mikulina most excited? His eyes gleamed with excitement when he mentioned a phone call he fielded from Comedy Central Network: Blue Planet is slated to be on “The Colbert Report” some time this spring. Keep your eyes peeled!