Slow walking geothermal energy

Denis Pombriant
6 min readJun 7, 2019

If we admitted that there was an energy emergency instead of a climate emergency, you could reasonably expect that the DoE and other government entities would be all over it like a junkyard dog. There would be a Manhattan Project. Instead government and industry are content to burn through the fossil fuels and play chicken with climate.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Once, when he was running for president in 2012, former Texas governor and current Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, said that he’d abolish the Department of Energy. Things happen, Perry never distinguished himself as a presidential contender, and Donald Trump did. Perry got a consolation prize of sorts in being named Secretary of Energy though he got more than he bargained for.

According to a January 2017 story in the New York Times Perry figured he’d be the cheerleader for the US energy industry–the fossil fuel industry–which, having been Texas Governor, he thought he was well qualified for.

But according to a contemporary story in Vanity Fair a couple days later whose headline says it all: “Energy Secretary Nominee Rick Perry Reportedly Didn’t Realize He’d be in Charge of America’s Nukes,” Perry had little understanding that nearly two thirds of his $30 billion budget was spent on maintaining America’s arsenal of the world’s deadliest weapons. He had no idea what the Department of Energy did.

Fast forward to June 2019 and has another interesting story about Perry and energy. “DOE: Geothermal generation could reach 60 GW by 2050, with tech improvements” reports on a new study by our Department of Energy that almost breathlessly documents that with technology improvements and cutting red tape, by 2050 the US could be producing as much as 60 GW of geothermal electric power. That’s a tiny fraction of the 1.1 terawatts of electricity we use today.

Be still my heart.

What came before

Perhaps unfortunately for Perry and his department, in 2006 an interdisciplinary panel of scientists and engineers convened at MIT (yes, that MIT) produced another report paid for by the DoE titled, “The Future of Geothermal Energy.” In it the researchers posed a hypothesis, could Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) be used to replace up to 10 percent of the nation’s electric generating…

Denis Pombriant

Researcher, author of multiple books including “The Age of Sustainability” about solutions for climate change. Technology, business, economics.