The Irony of Enhanced Geothermal

When an 18-member MIT panel released a study claiming that Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) could supply  10% of all US power (and not just in traditional geothermal regions) by using new drilling techniques to to tap the heat much deeper down than conventional geothermal resources with an $800 million investment in research and development over a decade to make it cost effective, my first thought was, “There’s another great idea our government isn’t going to fund because they’re too busy pandering to corn farmers and oil companies with subsidies that don’t yeild long term benefits to society.  And if the the US government isn’t going to pay for it, who is?”

I got my answer today, from the intrepid Toronto Star reporter (and Clean Break blogger) Tyler Hamilton.  Tyler writes that a consortium of Canadian Oil Sands developers called Geopower in the Oil Sands has decided to research the technology in order to provide process heat to replace the extensive use of natural gas in oil sands extraction.  I think it’s extremely ironic that one of the world’s most CO2 intensive energy sources (because of all the natural gas used in extraction) may end up funding necessary research into one of the most promising clean technologies.

 We can also thank the Governator, because it was California’s new well-to-wheels fuel decarbonization law may well have been a factor which led these companies to look into carbon free sources of heat for their processes (although they have long had reason to worry about their carbon intensity, since Canada is a signatory of the Kyoto protocol.


  1. Well that is ironic. But good news.

    The fact that the Bush Administration has continually attempted to zero out DOE research and development funding for geothermal energy is rediculious. As the MIT report and this Geothermal Energy Association report both demonstrate, geothermal energy is a long way fromm reaching it’s full potential – both for current technologies and for new technologies like enhanced geothermal energy.

    Geothermal, with it’s ability to generate clean, reliable, baseload power and it’s clearly large potential (10% of all U.S. power) is clearly deserving of considerable government support.

  2. tomkonrad said

    Geothermal is massivly underappreciated, both by the government (no surprise) and investors. Although I think I’ve seen a change in attitudes of investors since the MIT report came out… most of the geothermal stocks are up nicely since then.

    Coincidence? I hope not.

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