|Iceland's Blue Lagoon|
We're once again carrying a torch for alternatives -- particularly geothermal energy. And a surprising amount of money and expertise fueling the flame comes from Iceland, which has been steadfastly cozying up to this fuel source for a few decades now.
Geothermal power is expensive to tap into (though cheap to maintain) because it involves an exploration and drilling process similar to oil. As with other types of power, sky-high oil prices are making it more attractive. It's as clean as energy comes, and a well-managed field churns up a steady stream of steam power day in and day out for decades at a time.
It probably won't lower heat and electricity prices for consumers in the short term, but investments being made in the U.S. now should in the long run drive innovation and broaden competition in our energy market. That can't be a bad thing for consumers. Geothermal energy is entirely domestic, making it more reliable than oil or natural gas. And it's entirely renewable if managed properly, making its prices, if not lower, then at least more predictable. Then there are all those additional uses that make geothermal energy so attractive to the Icelanders. Magnus Johannesson, chief executive of Iceland America Energy, sees local markets developing here for many of them. Snow removal, for example, would be useful in the Rocky Mountains, while geothermal powered air conditioning would be valuable in Las Vegas. Outdoor heated pools could make a splash in Seattle or San Francisco. Alaskans would be interested in fish farms and fish drying while California farmers might buy into fruit and vegetable drying. The toughest problem right now, however, is that the U.S. geothermal industry is simultaneously a mature and underdeveloped industry. According to a 2005 survey from the