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Geothermal Energy

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July 18, 2008 12:38PM
Daniel Kunz: Sustainable, renewable geothermal energy can be a reality
Rising demand for energy is spurring an unsustainable and growing dependence on non-renewable energy resources, much of it from overseas markets. As a result, our country is at a tipping point as we scramble for ways - technologically and politically - to develop domestic energy resources. Fortunately, one of the most viable and sustainable renewable energy resources available is, quite literally, beneath our feet: geothermal power. Even more fortunate is the fact geothermal power happens to be in the midst of a development renaissance, and much of the focus of that development is here in the West.

Twenty to 30 years ago, extensive exploration drilling occurred throughout the West and some of the first geothermal binary cycle power plants were built. For a number of reasons, these energy sources were not developed to their full potential. As a result, very few geothermal power production plants were built in their wake. But we've learned a lot about renewable energy over the past few decades and today geothermal energy is growing into a $1.5 billion per year industry. The benefits from geothermal energy are far-reaching and geothermal power production is now highly efficient; it is competitive, it is non-polluting, and immediately viable.
Now that the technology exists to build efficient, productive geothermal plants, it is imperative we demonstrate the political will to responsibly develop this unique resource. To that end, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service have planned meetings across the West and in Alaska this month to gather public input on a plan for potential geothermal energy development on some federal lands.

On July 21, a meeting will take place in Boise. At stake during the upcoming meetings is deciding whether dozens of geothermal development land-lease applications, filed prior to Jan. 1, 2005, are in areas appropriate for geothermal development. I would invite you to consider the value of your input at these meetings. Public support for renewable energy will play a crucial role in making sustainable, domestic energy a reality. This reality will lead to improvements in our environmental conditions, strengthened national security, the development of "green-collar" jobs and cheaper energy costs. Our failure to act immediately on this opportunity would be equal to accepting the status quo.

As we now know, unchecked fossil fuel consumption has produced significant environmental consequences, including air pollution, groundwater and land contamination, and some experts believe global climate change. In addition, events have compelled America to re-evaluate its relationships with traditional energy trading partners, forcing us to look inward for solutions. China's rapidly emerging economy has placed enormous strain on energy supplies and, as India's infrastructure accelerates its development, that global demand will become nearly insatiable. If we continue our reliance on traditional energy resources, we may not be able to supply adequate energy at affordable rates.

Combined, these signals point to only one, logical conclusion: We must increase the production of energy domestically and we must do so by sustainable means.

Geothermal Energy

Paul P. 1712July 18, 2008 12:38PM

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