New Geothermal Map May Give False Impression

By:  Rebecca Terrell
10/27/2011
       
New Geothermal Map May Give False Impression

Researchers claim to have discovered vast untapped oceans of geothermal energy they say could replace coal and other so-called fossil fuels as primary U.S. energy sources.

With funding from Google's philanthropic division, Google.org, the Geothermal Laboratory at Southern Methodist University (SMU) recently completed a study on geothermal potential in the continental United States. The grant money enabled SMU to include "tens of thousands of new thermal data points" to construct the most accurate subterranean heat flow map to date. SMU scientists estimate U.S. potential at nearly three million megawatts of power, an amount more than adequate to supply current domestic electricity needs.

Unleashing geothermal energy requires drilling several miles beneath the Earth's surface to unlock heat trapped in the crust. Well operators inject water in a continuous loop into fractures formed by the drilling process. As the water heats up, it is piped back to the surface where the steam drives an electricity-generating turbine. Google.com quotes Secretary of Energy Steven Chu extolling the virtues of geothermal as a reliable form of energy because "the earth is going to be hot. You can bank on it, [so] you can consider the energy source effectively in unlimited supply."

Researchers claim to have discovered vast untapped oceans of geothermal energy they say could replace coal and other so-called fossil fuels as primary U.S. energy sources.

With funding from Google's philanthropic division, Google.org, the Geothermal Laboratory at Southern Methodist University (SMU) recently completed a study on geothermal potential in the continental United States. The grant money enabled SMU to include "tens of thousands of new thermal data points" to construct the most accurate subterranean heat flow map to date. SMU scientists estimate U.S. potential at nearly three million megawatts of power, an amount more than adequate to supply current domestic electricity needs.

Unleashing geothermal energy requires drilling several miles beneath the Earth's surface to unlock heat trapped in the crust. Well operators inject water in a continuous loop into fractures formed by the drilling process. As the water heats up, it is piped back to the surface where the steam drives an electricity-generating turbine. Google.com quotes Secretary of Energy Steven Chu extolling the virtues of geothermal as a reliable form of energy because "the earth is going to be hot. You can bank on it, [so] you can consider the energy source effectively in unlimited supply."

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