Report encourages investment in safe, clean geothermal energy

If the U.S. is going to insist on looking for energy underground, there’s a better option than drilling for oil, researchers say: generating steamy geothermal electricity by circulating water down into hot rocks below the earth’s surface and back up into power plants. An MIT study commissioned by the U.S. Energy Department says geothermal energy can be accessed affordably, sustainably, and large-scale-ably with an investment of as little as $800 million over 15 years. (Cost comparison: That’s about the price of one “clean-coal” plant.) Current U.S. geothermal production is comparable to its solar and wind generation combined — which we all know ain’t much — but the study estimates that with proper investment, hot rocks could meet some 10 percent of U.S. electricity needs by mid-century. “This is a big resource that is perhaps undervalued by people who are thinking of options for the country,” says study leader Jefferson Tester. Maybe ’cause it’s not as fun to say as “nucular.”