Blue Man

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“I HAVE A GOOD BUSINESS CARD AND A EVIL BUSINESS CARD,” Henk Rogers, founder of Blue Planet Foundation says. He points to two cards, one white and the other black, sitting side-by-side atop desk.

“One is for the good that we do with Blue Planet Foundation, the other is to make money!”

While Rogers now has his feet firmly planted in both worlds, it wasn’t always that way. The video game designer who brought Tetris to the game consoles everywhere (his company, Blue Planet Software, owns the trademark for the ground-breaking game) laughs when he points out the patchwork bag he carries with him. “I bought this for ‘Burning Man’… two ‘Burning Mans’ ago.”

While the bag made of fabrics from Thailand isn’t a favorite with his wife, he sees it as a reminder of the person he is at heart. “I’ve always been a hippie.”

While his free spirit shines through now, he recalls a buttoned-up time when he was jetting from one meeting to the next. He ran into a high school friend who reminded him of his teenaged vow to never wear a suit. “She asked me, ‘do you even own a pair of jeans?’-I didn’t, so I went right out and bought a pair,” Rogers says. It’s all been downhill from there, so to speak. It was a much more serious situation, however, that got Rogers focused on his newest passion, clean energy. In 2005, Rogers suffered a heart attack. “I was in the ambulance, and I said to myself, I am going to live.” Afterwards, the doctors told Rogers that he was lucky to be alive.

“So, I thought to myself, what is it that I don’t want to leave unfinished? And, I thought of the corals.” An avid surfer, Rogers always loved the sea life and coral reefs found in Hawai’i’s waters. “When I learned that our use of fossil fuels was leading to the bleaching and killing of the coral reefs, I thought ‘I need to do something.'” Thus, Blue Planet Foundation was born.

Rogers feels that Hawai’i is the perfect place to start a clean energy initiative because of the state’s isolated nature and because of its position in the world. “If you look at the globe, with Hawai’i at the center,” he explains, grabbing a globe from his desk, “You’ll see that the earth looks completely blue. That’s where I got ‘Blue Planet’ from.” Additionally, he sees Hawai’i’s location between the U.S. Mainland and Asia as the perfect gateway to bring clean energy initiatives to places beyond the Aloha State. And, make no mistake: He sees Blue Planet Foundation going global. Rogers admits that it’s been tough to lobby for clean energy initiatives. Early this legislative session, a bill to cap solar tax credits was advancing. Blue Planet Foundation called the proposed measure “penny-wise and pound-foolish.” However, there has been progress. He points to programs that have worked to replace traditional light bulbs with the more energy-efficient CFLs.

At a time when purse strings are tight, how can clean energy make good business?

“We spend $6 billion on imported energy,” he says. “Can you imagine if we kept that $6 billion here?” He points out that Hawai’i was once energy self-sufficient, and through wind, solar, even wave energy, our state can do it again, all while setting an example for the rest of the world.

Rogers says that it’s silly to not use solar-heated water “we have so much sun!” he exclaims. He drives his electric Tesla, before that, he was tooling around town on an electric scooter. He also drinks tap water.

“Why are we importing bottled water from France? Hawai’i’s water is just as good, if not better.”

In addition to his Blue Planet Foundation and video game empire, Rogers also is working to support clean energy-related research. To this end, he’s built a solar-powered research lab that houses scientists as they research storage systems for clean energy on his Big Island ranch.

“It’s all a process,” Rogers says. “But I’m confident that we’ll reach our goal of a Hawai’i that’s only fueled by clean energy.”

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