U.S. Geothermal Group Urges Congressional Support

Legislation before the U.S. Congress to fund federal agencies for the remainder of this fiscal year could be a “major setback” for geothermal energy unless Congress intervenes, the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) told congressional leaders yesterday.

The bill before the House, H.J. Res 20, includes a $300 million renewable energy funding increase but lets U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) decide how to spend the funds. In a letter to Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) the GEA Executive Director, Karl Gawell, argued that “the only way to ensure that DOE and OMB do not simply revert to their irrational insistence on terminating the geothermal research program is to schedule a congressional hearing specifically on geothermal energy, its potential, and the role of federal research.” Last year, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) proposed terminating geothermal research, arguing that it was a mature technology with little potential for research to produce worthwhile results. Congress had effectively been on the path to reject that proposal, with the House adopting an amendment last year to the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill sponsored by Representative Millender-McDonald (D-CA) appropriating $5 million for geothermal research in FY 07, and the Senate Appropriations Bill restoring the entire $23.5 million Geothermal Program. “There is simply no justification for terminating geothermal energy research at the Department of Energy,” Gawell said. “Recent studies by the National Research Council, the Western Governors’ Association Clean Energy Task Force and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology all support expanding geothermal research funding to develop the technology necessary to utilize this vast, untapped domestic renewable energy resource.” Last year the Senate Energy Committee held a hearing regarding geothermal and other renewable energy resources on the public lands, but it did not examine the DOE research program or its role in expanding production from the vast geothermal resource base. No similar hearings were held in the House. “While geothermal energy has had numerous hearings in the distant past, there has not been a specific hearing of this nature in many years, and one is long-overdue,” GEA told congressional leaders.