Tester taps into energy resource ‘right beneath our feet’

Senator cosponsors bipartisan bill promoting geothermal energy

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – It's abundant.  It can provide America with clean, low-cost energy.  And it's right beneath our feet.  But it isn't fossil fuel.

It's geothermal energy. And Senator Jon Tester, along with a bipartisan group of colleagues, wants to make it a much bigger player in the future of energy development in America.

Tester has cosponsored the National Geothermal Initiative Act of 2007.  The bill sets a goal for the U.S. to draw 20% of its energy from geothermal resources by the year 2030.  Geothermal resources include hot springs and hot rock below the surface.

"If there's a renewable resource in Montana more plentiful than wind, it's geothermal energy," Tester said.  "Earth has been giving off energy for billions of years, and it's ours for tapping in to.  This measure gives geothermal energy the attention it deserves, and it will help make Montana a leader in energy development."

The National Geothermal Initiative Act of 2007 sets aside $75 million next year for geothermal research, then $110 million per year through at least 2012.  Right now, there is no money for geothermal research in next year's budget.

The legislation also:

  • Funds     exploration of new geothermal resources.
  • Provides     money to study and map existing resources.
  • Advances     new drilling technology for geothermal wells.

Tester noted that Montana researchers are already experimenting with geothermal heating, using warm water in abandoned mine shafts to heat buildings in Butte.

The National Geothermal Initiative Act of 2007 is Senate Bill 1543, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.

Joining Tester in cosponsoring the bill are Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, Ken Salazar, D-Colo., Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.