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A Yellowtone Fantasy

Came across this little article in the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune from 23 Nov 2008.

Controversy erupts like Old Faithful

Imagine if the fastest, most efficient way to meet the nation's need for clean energy was to tap into its most treasured natural resource: Yellowstone National Park.

Self-proclaimed problem-solver Steve M. Green claims that the geothermal energy of the Yellowstone caldera could generate enough steam-powered electricity to power man's needs across the globe.

"While the United States currently uses about 4 trillion kilowatts annually, the energy produced from just 3 percent of the caldera via steam generators would provide 10 trillion kilowatts a year," said Green.

Green's idea: Carefully locate hundreds of steam-powered generators over the caldera and distribute the power throughout a rebuilt electrical grid providing access for home use as well as powering stations for electric automobiles and trains.

Green said this Manhattan Project of energy ideas would create and sustain millions of jobs and revitalize the U.S. automobile and steel industries.

"We have the most powerful source of energy on the planet here in the United States," Green told the Star-Tribune. "If we choose to properly use that energy and we can demand of our leadership to utilize this energy -- then we won't have to demand anything from abroad. In fact, all of this could have been for less than the $1 trillion we just spent on this bailout."

That's just an excerpt, but it's enough...

I'm not going to waste my time on a detailed rebuttal to this, because there's no reason to. Quite simply, this ain't gonna happen, and there's no need to get all worked up about it.

First, I see nothing in that article that tells me anything about Mr. Steve M. Green's background or expertise, or if he's speaking for himself or some group or organization. I'd also like to know, for example, how he arrives at the numbers he cites. I also need to know why he'd think that his politically impossible solution to a non-problem should be considered.

Second, his prescription works just as well for hydroelectric dams. And unless he's claiming there's some benefit to centralizing all his powerplants in one remote location with a fairly harsh climate, dams would probably be easier to build and maintain..

Third, this would make any argument about preserving areas for the sake of preserving them moot. If you want to make that argument, then fine. But that means that you then can't tell me that all sorts of places are exempt from other forms of energy extraction. That means a dam across the Yosemite Valley and the Grand Canyon, drilling rigs off the coast of Florida and in the Alaskan arctic and changes to every other national preserve that can produce electricity.

Fourth: Yellowstone is the same place where snowmobiles are anathema because of their noise and smell. Has anyone who thinks this is a good idea actually heard the noise made by a geothermal plant?

So like I said earlier, I'm not gonna get worried and upset about this. Because quite simply, there's no reasonable or rational combination of economic and political circumstances which would make this happen. We'll see a nuclear powerplant in every town long before we got to even considering doing this.