Geothermal Power; Real Answers to Big Oil
There Are Real Energy Alternatives!
We are told that oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy are the only viable means to run civilization. If we stick to business as usual, then the reports are right. If we keep tinkering with toys that are inefficient and that have hazards to nature of their own, then they are right. But, we do not have to ruin the planet with oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy through war for these limited resources. We can take a bold step with off the shelf technology that is a tool for creating virtually limitless energy and forget the expensive, inefficient toys as they stand now. We can also forget traditional energy sources with the wars and ruination of the planet that come with them. If the tiny country of Iceland can achieve 100% energy independence after a crippling economic crash, then so can we! How did they do it? They converted every energy requirement to run from geothermal power. About the only use for fossil fuel products these days are for the vehicles not yet traded in for electric and any commercial air traffic arriving in or leaving Iceland. Otherwise, everything runs from geothermal electrical power generation. A 2011 report states that 84% of power generation is from renewable sources (1). Since then reports indicate 100 %.
Iceland rests on a volcanically active region, and it is not alone in world in this. There are many regions that exist in a similar situation, but almost all of them are devoid of geothermal plants. Japan sits over a region of considerable Seismic and volcanic activity, yet it relies totally on fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Not a single geothermal plant exists despite protests in favour of shutting off nuclear energy after the Fukushima meltdowns. There are protests over the rising costs of fossil fuels, all of which have to be imported. The Japanese people still want energy and there is plenty right under their feet! Canada boasts a single geothermal plant as an experiment, otherwise, it uses coal, gas, oil-sands and nuclear energy. A Canadian invented the most advanced deep oil and gas fracking technique (2) that is now wrecking so much havoc in the US and Canada as well as increasingly in Europe. The west coast of all of N. America could easily support hundreds of geothermal plants that could provide more than enough power for the continent. (3)
Italy is another “hot spot” ideal for geothermal energy (3). So is the central US near Yellowstone Park and the main Hawaiian Island. The whole region around Indochina is ideally suited for geothermal energy as is the west coast of S. America and New Zealand. There are no shortages of ideal locations! Almost all of them do not have a single generation plant. Is it because they are hard to make? Iceland has proven otherwise (4)! Almost all of the needed technology can be taken from other methods of fuelling. The only thing that is “new” and different is the sinking of collection shafts to a hot spot inside the earth. Water can be recycled through the shafts to be converted to steam to run steam turbines connected to dynamos or generators (5, 6). The rest is simple and has already been worked out, having been in use for well over a century. There are natural hot water vents all over, so some of the work has already been done by nature (7). We need only to hook up the generator! This is nowhere more true then in deep sea volcanic vents (8) that naturally spew out hot water at 600 degrees Celsius. We have the technology to tap even these! It is a shame that very few of these plants exist and that most of them are in Iceland!
The best locations are close to naturally existing vents, such as in Iceland, Canada, the US and many other places. We would not have to drill too far to get to the energy source. The plants can be made to any size and equipped with the latest in electrical power generation. These plants can run the electrical grid that powers so much of what we use today. With the use of electric transport of all kinds, the need for any other fuel can be sharply reduced. We could leave uranium in the ground. The uses for oil would be reduced to making plastics and lubrication. None of it would be burned and any in use would be recycled. The same goes for coal and gas.
There is another consequence from such a radical change of paradigm. Going totally geothermal would spell the loss of millions of jobs with far fewer in return from the new energy sources. We already know what the consequences are for sharp job losses. We see that broadcast on the news daily since the crash of 2008. But even this can be changed with a new outlook on working, such as shorter work hours with no loss in pay. With more leisure time, the economy could see a real boost. In the meantime, there will be a greater demand for work as many power plants will have to be constructed and then maintained. There will also be work in the form of an orderly shut down of outmoded energy sources. Indeed, many components can be removed directly from these and recycled in geothermal plants.
With yet another rapid paradigm change, what will happen to hundreds of millions who now have leisure time? This have to be the task of education to teach most of us, alternate ways of life beyond the work-a-day grind that almost everyone depended upon until the great crash of 2008. The existing system of politics and finance will also have to change to one where the equitable sharing of resources becomes the new norm. As politics and economics stand now, it is a contradiction as hundreds of millions more in abject poverty will not serve as any kind of market for anything. If there are few to sell commodities to, then what is the point of even beginning development and production? This is true so long as we cherish and cling to the profit ledger where profits outweigh human needs. One might ask, if you take away the profit motive, what will serve as an incentive? There was plenty of incentive before there was any such thing as a profit. All of us living today are the proof of that. We need to rethink what we accept without challenge.
If fear is the block, then the geothermal option can be introduced gradually. Eventually, the oil and gas will run out anyway and we should have a back up plan up and running. But if fear is the block, then consider this; by taking the negative option and doing nothing, we move inexorably to a more and more polluted planet with less oxygen and the possible extinction of life. The negative option is no option!