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Bush administration cuts funding for geothermal energy

Bush administration cuts funding for geothermal energy

Bush administration cuts funding for geothermal energy
March 13, 2007

The Bush Administration is seeking to eliminate federal funding for geothermal energy research according to a report from Reuters. Oddly, the move comes as the White House has made a push for renewable energy to reduce dependence on foreign oil imports. Apparently the administration appears to be focused on biofuels as liquid fuels and nuclear for electricity generation.

“The Department of Energy has not requested funds for geothermal research in our fiscal-year 2008 budget,” Reuters quoted Christina Kielich, a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy, as saying. “Geothermal is a mature technology. Our focus is on breakthrough energy research and development.”

Some scientists would beg to differ.

“Geothermal energy within the United States… could supply a substantial portion of the electricity the United States will need in the future, probably at competitive prices and with minimal environmental impact,” stated an MIT-led study on published in January. “Unlike conventional fossil-fuel power plants that burn coal, natural gas or oil, no fuel would be required. And unlike wind and solar systems, a geothermal plant works night and day, offering a non-interruptible source of electric power.”

“We’ve determined that heat mining can be economical in the short term, based on a global analysis of existing geothermal systems, an assessment of the total U.S. resource and continuing improvements in deep-drilling and reservoir stimulation technology,” said Jefferson W. Tester, a Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT, who lead the panel on geothermal power. “This environmental advantage is due to low emissions and the small overall footprint of the entire geothermal system, which results because energy capture and extraction is contained entirely underground, and the surface equipment needed for conversion to electricity is relatively compact.”

The MIT study said that new geothermal power projects could provide 100,000 megawatts of electricity — enough to power about 80 million U.S. homes — by 2050, but would require $300 million to $400 million over 15 years to become cost competitive with other source of power.

Geothermal accounts for 0.36 percent of electricity generation in the United States (2006 figure), most of which occurs in California. Presently the United States is the world’s largest producer of geothermal energy.

Last year, the DOE requested no funding for geothermal for the 2007 fiscal year. Funding has been averaging around $26 million for the prior three years, according to Reuters.


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