Text of Grassroot Institute request to President Biden for Jones Act waiver for fuel imports

The following letter was sent by Grassroot Institute of Hawaii President Keli’i Akina to U.S. President Joe Biden on March 3, 2022.

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As the Russia-Ukraine conflict has made Hawaii vulnerable to a fuel shortage, we ask that you issue a targeted one-year Jones Act waiver for the transportation of fuel to our state as soon as possible.

The islands already are suffering from a run up in fuel prices prompted by the conflict, with gasoline exceeding $5 a gallon for premium. The higher fuel prices will reverberate throughout our state’s economy, adding to the cost of many goods and services and threatening our future well-being. 

Hawaii needs a waiver from the Jones Act for oil imports so it can access less expensive oil from U.S. sources, should the need arise. 

Because of the Jones Act, it is too expensive to import oil from U.S. sources. Thus, Hawaii is almost wholly dependent on foreign sources for its oil imports, including a quarter to a third from Russia, which has made the islands especially vulnerable among U.S. states to fallout from the crisis in Ukraine.

In an unexpected turn of events, Par Hawaii, which operates Hawaii’s only refinery, said just today that it is suspending its purchases of Russian crude and is “turning to other grades of crude, principally from North and South America, to meet fuel production requirements.”

But the issue of the Jones Act remains. As already noted, Hawaii could import oil from U.S. sources — and does in small quantities. But in general, Hawaii depends mostly on foreign-sourced oil because it is simply too expensive to ship goods to Hawaii aboard Jones Act carriers. 

In addition, there is a limited supply of Jones Act tankers, and redirecting them to the Hawaii trade could be problematic.

A waiver of the Jones Act would give Hawaii much-needed purchasing flexibility and help ensure its energy security.

The requirements of the Jones Act also pose a threat to America’s national security, by encouraging Hawaii to rely on U.S. geopolitical rivals for its critical energy supplies. 

Moreover, in the years leading up to the conflict, millions of dollars flowed from Hawaii to those various geopolitical rivals, money that could have been going to U.S. companies instead.

Therefore, we ask that you immediately grant Hawaii a one-year Jones Act waiver for the transportation of fuel, to help make such fuels affordable again. 

Thank you for your consideration.

E hana kākou (Let’s work together),

Keli’i Akina

President and CEO
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

CC: U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz
       U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono
       U.S. Rep. Ed Case
       U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele

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