Last year Hawai`i state Representative Cynthia Thielen was chosen by Hawai`i’s Governor Linda Lingle to run on the national Republican ticket against longtime US Senator Dan Akaka. I talked with her after the election, won by Akaka, about her renewed focus on energy in her home state. An excerpt of the interview was published last December in the Honolulu Advertiser for my weekly Q&A column. Here is the interview in full (ellipses are gaps in audibility).

What I’m Reading | Cynthia Thielen
State House Representative R-50th

Q&A with Christine Thomas

What are you reading?
A very compelling book. Its title is The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World and the author is Paul Roberts. It was first published in 2004 and he has done an updated afterward in 2005 because things are moving so fast. It’s an excellent book. It’s compelling; it’s a warning signal, as it may be too late to make the changes that we need to make on the climate change end.

Can you say more about what’s so compelling about that?
He’s talking about the “last of easy oil” but it goes beyond that. With the knowledgeable people and uncontroversial examination of what are our world oil supplies that can be tapped, he and experts feel that we’ll reach the peak around 2030 and it goes downhill from there. He’s talking about that oil depletion is the most serious crises that industrial nations around the world are going to face. So it’s not just the supply of oil, but he also talks about the world oil map, the map of political instability. The mid-east has vast reserves of oil and that’s where we see the most political instability.

He then goes into the climate change issue and talks about the UN inter-governmental panel on climate change, and they’re talking about that we must get to carbon-free technology, at least 1/7 of our energy from carbon-free sources no later than 2030. That’s just 24 years.

The one weakness that I found in the book was when he was talking about renewable energy. OPEC opposes renewables and really actively gets involved in trying to prevent renewables from being part of the energy mix. I hadn’t put two-and-two together until reading this book. They look at the US as being unfriendly to OPEC nations when we look at expanding our renewable energy sources. That makes me even more committed to expanding renewable energy technology. The one weakness I found was that he discounts the renewable energy technologies available and coming online. … It’s something he should have examined or discussed…It should have said, the end of oil and the beginning of renewable energy that will help us reach those benchmarks.

How did you discover this book?
When I was running for the United States Senate, the main issue I focused on was totally eliminating our dependence on foreign oil and developing renewable energy. I was looking for books that may examine this issue and came across this one after the election and grabbed it. I’ve been reading it ever since. I jumped to the afterward when I read the renewable energy section. I’m hoping he’s going to take on the development of renewable energy in the future.

Is Hawai`i uniquely poised to be a leader in renewable energy?
I think Hawai`i can be the test site for the nation, and the leader to develop our resources. What we need here are renewable energy zones that would actually help things move ahead. We need to do what our national leadership has not done—we need to be prepared. Our government has been pathetically unprepared. We need to show that here’s a state that can be prepared and here are the steps we’re going to take to do it.

Energy has long been your focus, but does the absence of a focus on renewables in Roberts’ book “fuel” your desire to make this Hawai`i’s priority in the coming session?
Absolutely. I don’t think we have the option to delay. That’s my message, and I’ll keep saying it: Get off foreign oil. It’s linked to terrorism and nations that support terrorism. Get off foreign oil, particularly in Hawai`i with our renewable energy potential. I’ll be pushing to make it our priority, for the environment and our economy.

Do you ever think about writing something yourself to fill in the renewable energy hole in Roberts’ book?
Possibly, but I think I do plan to get a hold of him and say look—pay some attention to Hawai`i because this is where it could happen, and see if he’s interested in following up. He has a body of knowledge on the oil industry and some on climate change that’s deeper than I could get in the next couple of months, and I don’t want to delay. I want to move ahead.