Contemporary Material and Energy Flow Analysis

The contemporary material (2009) and energy (2008) flow analysis for both Hilo and Kona was conducted using the methodological framework proposed by the Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat 2001). Since this method was originally developed for nation-level applications, several case-specific modifications were made in order to derive material and energy flow data for small units.

Material flow data revealed that both Kona and Hilo are heavily reliant on imports, particularly for metals, fossil fuels, final products and food. While there is a small amount of industry and agriculture in each region, it is not nearly enough to satisfy the demands of the residents and tourists.  Furthermore, Hawaii has no oil or coal deposits. One interesting difference is that Kona imports about twice the lumber that Hilo does, possibly to support a more robust or resilient construction industry in the face of the economic downturn.

Comparison of the two cities shows that consumption in Kona in 2009 was much lower than that of Hilo. Greater consumption of final products in Hilo can be attributed to a couple of factors - greater economic activity and higher sales in the automotive industry. Retail sales in Hilo for 2008 were around 28% higher, driven mostly by differences in population. Hilo is characterized by a 30% larger population, mostly local inhabitants, while Kona is has a large population of short-term tourists. This population demographic also explains higher auto sales in Hilo. Inhabitants of Hilo would prefer to buy cars while tourists prefer to rent them. Anecdotally, we also know that a number of Hilo residents travel all the way to Kona everyday for work.

Similar to material flow analysis of both cities, the energy side of the research also reveals some interesting facts concerning the two cities on Hawai’i Island. Despite their similar populations, Hilo has much higher transportation fuel consumption than Kona.  This is possibly attributable to the larger commuter population around Hilo, as well as its historically lower fuel prices. Kona, however, has much higher per-capita electricity consumption, likely owing to the concentration of hotels, restaurants and retail to serve the tourism economy.

Preliminary overview of material flows for Hawai’i Island (Houseknecht et al. 2006)

This project is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation