The prospects for geothermal energy are heating up

A recent Wall Street presentation by key startups has boosted my optimism about this emerging sector

Drill, baby, drill — but not for oil and natural gas. It’s easy to get excited by the potential of geothermal energy. For starters, that potential is pretty massive. Advocates call geothermal the “sun beneath our feet,” so much so that it’s a cliché. Yet that description is no exaggeration. The Earth’s molten core is roughly as hot as the surface of the sun — due in part to the continual decay of naturally occurring radioactive elements — and will generate heat for about as long as our local yellow star does.

And that’s just the core. There’s some 40 times as much crustal thermal energy than the energy of the planet’s combined reserves of uranium, seawater uranium, lithium, thorium, and fossil fuels. Extracting “just 0.1 percent of the heat content of Earth could supply humanity’s total energy needs for 2 million years,” according to the US government’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy.

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