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Chelsea Green Blog

US to Open Federal Lands for Geothermal Energy

Once in a while, we Grasshoppers© will take a few minutes out of our whirlwind day to “chat” about the relevant issues of the day. Here’s one such chat (via Skype):
dp How do you feel about opening up federal land for geothermal energy? jte 1. okay so long as it doesn’t entail ruination of otherwise “wild” land 2. okay so long as reasonable fees are required from private businesses that utilize the public resource. 2a. “reasonable fees” are those that don’t inhibit the utilization of the resource (see point 1) but that also don’t hand high profit resources to private businesses for cheap. dp “proceeds shared by local, state and federal governments” jte 2b. just cuz they say proceeds will be shared by governments doesn’t tell us how much proceeds there will be. e.g. on forest lands, sometimes they charge like $1 per acre to loggers. the loggers can make a lot of money and the governments have very little to share with one another. it shouldn’t be that hard to estimate the commercial value of the geothermal energy ventures… …and the cost of building the infrastructure and all that… and so figuring out how high the fees would have to be before the expected profits become too measly. dp the article also doesn’t say whether the land is “wild” or not—only that it’s not Yellowstone jte national parks are a tiny little drop in the federal land holdings. they are the “crown jewels” but millions of acres of land—much of it mostly undeveloped—is in the form of national forest and under the control of the bureau of land management. (or something like that) dp are they going to have to cut down a bunch of trees to get to the geothermal? jte yes, but hopefully only as a city person would define ‘bunch.’ i mean, hundreds or thousands of trees will have to be cut for sure, dp hm jte but if that is out of 10 million trees in the relevant area then it probably doesn’t matter. if it involves the creation of lots of new roads into previously roadless areas, that’s a problem. (see point 1) if the new roads are minimal, then we’ve got ourselves a deal. but all in all, could definitely be a great thing and a good piece of the G.O.R.E. Project.
Here’s an excerpt from the piece that started it all, from
WASHINGTON – The Interior Department plans to make available 190 million acres of federal land in a dozen Western states for development of geothermal energy projects—a move that could produce enough clean electricity for 5 million homes. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said Wednesday that under a leasing program, as many as 270 communities could benefit from direct use of geothermal energy, generated from intense heat deep beneath the Earth. “Geothermal energy is replenished, is a renewable resource that generates electricity with minimal carbon emissions …(and) reduces the need for conventional energy sources,” said Kempthorne. […] The plan, expected to be made final in two months, calls for leasing land to project developers with the proceeds shared by local, state and federal governments. […] He said it is estimated that the available leases could produce enough energy to generate 5,540 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 5.5 million homes. Geothermal energy also can be used directly for heating buildings. “Today both city and state buildings in Boise are heated and powered by some of Idaho’s geothermal resources,” Kempthorne, a former mayor of Boise and former Idaho governor, said in a conference call with reporters.
Read the whole article here.

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