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We Have Just Begun to Tap Geothermal Energy's Potential

A leading US geothermal developer applauded new House legislation seeking to tap possibly hundreds of thousands of megawatts of new geothermal energy to meet US power needs. "Today, nearly 3,000 MW of new geothermal power are under development, which will create over 10,000 new jobs and new investment of over $7 billion, but much more is possible," Paul Thomsen, Public Policy Manager of Ormat Technologies, told the House Science Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.

The House Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing, titled, "Developing Untapped Potential: Geothermal and Ocean Power Technologies," examined proposed legislation that could significantly boost geothermal energy production. Rep. Gerald McNerney (D-CA), recently introduced a bill, HR 2304, that would "direct the Secretary of Energy to conduct a program of research, development, demonstration, and commercial application for geothermal energy, and for other purposes." The legislation authorizes $400 million for geothermal research for fiscal years FY 2008 through FY 2012.

"The OMB proposal to terminate geothermal research is not only short- sighted, it just doesn't make any sense," commented Thomsen. "By passing this legislation, Congress will recognize that we have just begun to tap the enormous potential of geothermal energy in this country." Paul Thomsen spoke on behalf of his company as well as the U.S. geothermal trade association, the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA). OMB had proposed zeroing out geothermal programs at the Department of Energy in its FY 07 and FY 08 budgets.

"There are substantial needs for improvements in technology, resource information, and efficiencies for which federal research are vital," said Karl Gawell, GEA Executive Director. "Rep. McNerney's legislation is urgently needed to ensure that federal energy programs work to tap the tremendous potential of our nation's geothermal energy resources."

"Today, we are tapping only 3.5% of the estimated hydrothermal resource base. Is that acceptable when our country imports 10 million barrels of oil a day and is 60% dependent on net petroleum imports?" Thomsen told the Subcommittee. "HR 2304 recognizes the answer is no and the time to take action is now," he emphasized.

The potential for geothermal energy production is significant, with only a fraction of the potential currently tapped. According to Thomsen's testimony, "a vast potential exists that could help meet the country's growing electricity needs, spur economic growth and help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases." Recent reports by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology both estimate that over 100,000 MW of geothermal power is possible in the future, with continued research and development support.

To view a copy of Thomsen's testimony, and GEA's statement for the record, please visit the GEA website at or email

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