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Source: Fred Noyes of New Hampshire

Posted: May 9, 2004

Vast Energy Stores Waiting to be tapped in the Geothermal Resources of the U.S.

What must we do to get congress to serve the best energy interest of the people? I raise that question because that august body has failed so miserably to address the needs. Energy and how we secure it is the motivating force that governs our economy, our health and welfare and our national security

The concern cited above must not wait while congress procrastinates. We hear few if any, politicians quibble with what President George W. Bush said regarding our energy needs during his State of the Union message of 2003 when he proposed a $1.2 billion research program so "America can lead the world in developing clean hydrogen-powered automobiles. " He asked then that we (congress and the American people) join him "in this important innovation to make our air significantly cleaner, and our country much less dependent on foreign sources of energy." And no member of congress, according to my knowledge has been eager to take a public stand against our president's follow-up remarks on energy, spoken during his State of the Union message this year, namely that "consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy to make our economy run so I propose you (congress) to pass legislation to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy."

No one in congress appears to oppose such a program but who among them have stepped forward to help?

For instance, in a letter mailed on November 7th of last year I appealed to two senators whose overall voting records in the present congress, I believe are as responsible as you can find. I called their attention to a need to repeal or amend the Geothermal Steam Act of 1970, which has made it illegal to harvest geothermal energy from virtually all public lands. Those senators are New Hampshire's own Judd Gregg and John Sununu.

Told by government geologists that no studies have been conducted regarding the harvesting of geothermal energy beneath Mount Rainier I suggested to Senators Gregg and Sununu that legislation be introduced to amend or repeal that law, or at least a comprehensive study be conducted to determine what could and should be done to harvest the vast quantity of energy in the geothermal hot spot being generated there. Three months have gone by and I still await their reply.

I wasn't asking for a pig in a poke. The harvest of geothermal energy generated by modern means dates back to 1910 at Lardello Italy. That plant still operates.

The largest geothermal plant, "The Geysers," is in northern California. It was built in 1962 and has operated virtually without a hitch. It produces an equivalent amount of electricity needed to supply San Francisco.

A plant at Mauna Loa, the world's most active volcano, supplies about 25% of the Big Island of Hawaii's electrical power needs and could, according to some experts, supply all of that islands electricity and be further expanded to generate hydrogen via electrolysis for export to countries that are not fortunate enough to have geothermal "hot spots."

Over 2,800 megawatts of electricity are produced geothermal-clean in the United States supplying about 4 million people.

Geothermal power plants now produce over 8,200 megawatts in 21 countries supplying about 60 million people, mostly in developing countries.

Today about 95% of the buildings in Reykjavik Iceland are heated with geothermal energy making that city, once fueled by imported coal and known then as "one of the dirtiest city in the world, now among "the cleanest." Shell Hydrogen, a subsidiary of Shell Petroleum, has established a Hydrogen fueling station in Reykjavik to serve the motoring needs. British Petroleum (PB stands for "beyond petroleum") also has a hydrogen operation there. The next step, according to Iceland's political leaders is to convert that country's fishing fleet to hydrogen fuel.

While congress stalls, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor, turned Governor of California announced that his campaign promise of "Hydrogen Highways" is still a priority. He has plans underway to provide 200 hydrogen-fueling stations throughout the state by 2010. He says it will help reduce air pollution there by 50%.

It has been established that geothermal power could serve 100% of the electrical needs of 39 countries (over 620,000,000 people).

America is blessed with an abundance of geothermal energy. The Cascade Range that parallels the west coast, the mountains of Alaska and the Aleutians abound in it. Unfortunately most of the geothermal "hotspots" are on public land and the Geothermal Steam Act of 1970 forbids the harvest.

That Act must be amended or repealed but while President Bush has called for the development of alternative energy in America, on this issue congress has chosen to twiddle its collective thumbs.

As I have done often before concerning energy issues, I contacted J. David Cohen, about the need to repeal the Geothermal Steam Act of 1970.Cohen, a Manchester, New Hampshire native, who graduated with an engineering degree from UNH in 1954, became employed by General Electric's Jet Engine Plant, Lynn MA right out of the army. When retired two years ago he was serving as Principal Combustion Engineer. Cohen is a walking encyclopedia of Yankee common sense, and of engineering and mathematical facts. Below find his comments:

"The Geothermal Steam Act of 1970 is one of the most shortsighted laws that Congress, in its ignorance, has ever passed. It prohibits exploitation of geothermal energy from National Lands that hold some of the world's largest pools of raw heat. The geothermal energy accumulating beneath the ground in areas such as Yellowstone and Mt. Rainier is of such vast magnitude that it could potentially meet our national energy needs for centuries. The road map for that energy will be the creation of steam from feed water, the driving of steam turbines, the creation of electrical energy from turbine driven dynamos, and finally the electrolysis of water to produce pure hydrogen to fuel our clean air society of 2050 and beyond. That hydrogen will replace most fossil fuels to power our surface transportation systems, and supply on demand electricity in a decentralized manner.

This is a partial description of our hydrogen society. It is the key to replacing petroleum, which will disappear by mid-century. Naturally obtained petroleum will be exhausted at a time when world population has grown to 9 billion from today's figure of 6.4 billion, and 1950's figure of about 2 billion. That huge population will be hungry for energy and geothermal energy is the way.

We will need this just to feed the giant world population. If we don't do it, the economic and human disaster that will follow will make history's black plague epidemic look like a walk in the park."

While congress twiddles its thumbs is there anyone out there who wishes to debate Mr. Cohen on this topic?

The opinions presented here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the editors of HydrogenHighway.com®

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