The question is: Why burn carbon? Coal? Gas? Oil? What do we want to get by burning this stuff? We want heat! Heat turns water into steam and steam turns electric generating turbines. Some day I will deal with this century olde steam engine system that we still use in everything from coal to nuclear power plants. But, for now I ask: Why not just mine HEAT DIRECTLY?
One country, Iceland, has an unfortunate, yet fortunate circumstance. They have over 100 active volcanoes on their little island. They can throw water on the lava and the resulting steam creates close to 50% of the electricity used by the entire nation. The remainder is hydroelectric. We, in the US, don’t have lava fields. But we don’t need volcanoes. Just go down a few miles into the Earth’s crust and you find that it is very hot down there. The principle of what is called the Hot Dry Rock technique shows that energy is abundant under out feet. The amount of heat within 10,000 meters (about 33,000 feet) of the Earth’s surface contains 50,000 times more energy than all the oil and natural gas resources in the world.
Drill two well pipes. One of the wells is used to press water into the porous rock. The water heats up and within the second well it flows up to feed a thermal power unit which produces electricity. This is not future technology. A successful energy company in California is doing this now. And if Congress would take the big giveaways from oil and coal companies (a subsidy that gives them an unfair advantage) heat resource energy development companies would thrive and provide clean power as long as the earth’s core is molten. Our government knows this. That is if they wish to read and study just some reports of our own recent engineering accomplishments. As a matter of fact.. well.. just read the next paragraph.
Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico have studied hot dry rock since 1974. An experimental facility was built in Fenton Hill, New Mexico, involving a well drilled 11,500 feet into rock at 430°F to demonstrate the feasibility of hot dry rock technology. Water pumped down the well at 80°F returned to the surface at 360°F. Although the Fenton Hill facility was decommissioned in 1996, the plant produced as much as five megawatts of power, proving that energy from hot dry rock can be extracted for practical applications.
Who shut this down and why is not the question today. The answer is this. We could power North America with just a few hot rocks.
Please note that, according to the above map from http://www.nrel.gov (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) West Virginia could power the entire east coast without ever blowing up any more mountains.