Geothermal Energy Could Save the Climate—or Trigger Lots of Quakes

WIRED | 5/30/2019 | Nathanael Johnson
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This story originally appeared on Grist and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Imagine if there was a carbon-free form of energy hiding in the ground beneath you. One that we could turn to anytime, even on cloudy, windless days.

Need - Imagination - Research - Energy - Country

There’s no need for imagination: It exists. Research suggests that geothermal energy could be the key to running the country on purely renewable power. A recent memo from the conservative clean-energy think tank ClearPath estimates that geothermal energy could supply as much as 20 percent of the country’s electricity. That would put the United States nearly on par with Iceland, which gets roughly a quarter of its power from underground heat. But getting there depends on loosening regulations and borrowing drilling techniques from the oil and gas drillers.

“It’s a great resource, but one that doesn’t get a lot of love,” said Spencer Nelson, who directs the energy innovation program at ClearPath and wrote the memo.

Members - Congress - Subsidies - Reform - Energy

Members of Congress might well pass subsidies and regulatory reform to encourage geothermal energy, if they realized its potential, Nelson said. It’s the sort of issue—far from the supercharged partisan battles—that could get bipartisan support in this strange political climate.

At the moment, geothermal energy is limited to a few spots in the western United States, in California, Nevada, and Utah, where steam from underground hot springs turns electrical turbines. It supplies a total of 0.4 percent of the country’s electricity, in part because politicians keep forgetting about it, Nelson said.

Congress - Incentives - Energy - Lawmakers - Power

When Congress has passed incentives to encourage clean energy, lawmakers have tended to be less enthusiastic for geothermal power. Wind and solar get 30 percent tax credits, but the geothermal tax credit is just 10 percent. “It was a mistake,” Nelson said. Congress didn’t think to include geothermal back in 2005, when it passed a law easing environmental...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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