Entrepreneur's bold plan for Molokai Ranch? Grow hibiscus for bio-fuel

MOLOKAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A green energy entrepreneur is proposing to buy Molokai Ranch and turn a part of into a farm for hibiscus that would be used for bio-fuel.

Sound far-fetched? It's anything but, and Molokai residents aren't sure they're on board with the plan.

The $260 million ranch covers nearly a third of the island.

And earlier this month, the CEO of Hawaii-based renewable energy company Lamplighter Energy shared his vision for the property with about a dozen people at a community meeting.

"What we grow is an edible hibiscus that's really tall and has one center stalk," Andres De Rosa said.

A utility company in South Korea contracted De Rosa's company to grow the organic bio-fuel in an effort to phase out coal.

De Rosa said the product would be shipped overseas from Hale O Lono Harbor.

Critics, though, say the land should be used to benefit the people living on it.

"What we want to use our lands for is the same thing our ancestors used our lands for and that's to produce food," activist Walter Ritte said.

Ritte said whoever buys the property will play a big role in the island's economic future.

For the past couple months, residents have been coming together to figure out as a community what should happen with Molokai Ranch, Ritte said.

And right now, Ritte is asking Lamplighter Energy to give residents six months to come up with conditions under which it would support a sale.

"The previous buyers were from Singapore and they had a whole different outlook at what the future of this island should be," Ritte said. "That was 30 years of conflict."

Whoever purchases Molokai Ranch will become the state's seventh largest landowner. The 55,000-acre property includes two closed hotels, golf courses, cattle pastures and 20 miles of coastline.

At the community meeting, De Rosa told residents that 20,000 acres of the property would be used to grow hibiscus.

Another 5,000 acres would be leased to local farmers. He said the remaining 30,000 acres aren't suitable for farming.

"This is all of your open shoreline. This is all of your hunting ground. This is all of your valleys and hiking areas," he said.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.