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Geothermal energy; many of us have never heard of it, and if we have, it sounds like science fiction. 

The first human use of geothermal resources started over 10,000 years ago, when settlers established themselves around hot springs for warmth and cleansing. 

Geothermal energy is heat from the earth that can be harnessed to generate power. Today, we have the technology to transform this natural occurring phenomenon into energy used to power homes, industries, military bases, and much, much more. Now, all we need is Texas to invest in geothermal energy production. That’s why I filed House Bill 3576 this session at the Texas legislature. 

Winter storm Uri caused Texans extreme hardships. Millions of people lost power and water, and hundreds even lost their lives in this unprecedented cold front. Although I was moved to see neighbors helping neighbors in extraordinary ways, I was frustrated because we never should have been in a prolonged power blackout in the first place. 

You’ve already seen more finger pointing than people have fingers about what went wrong, and I’m not going to add another finger to that fight. Instead, I’m going to point us towards an old, but untapped, source of energy – geothermal energy.   

Ironically, I had already filed HB 3576 regarding geothermal energy investment before winter storm Uri, but the energy crisis caused by the winter storm further illustrated why we must research alternative forms of energy to diversify our energy portfolio. 

You might not know this, but the federal government and many private actors have invested in geothermal energy production in Texas for decades. The 1970’s were characterized by oil embargoes and sharp spikes in oil prices, which forced the United States government to invest in energy independence through geothermal energy production. In 1989, the Department of Energy backed a geothermal project named Pleasant Bayou Power Plant near Houston. The power plant proved to be successful, with enough energy to power about 1,000 homes. 

In absolute numbers, the United States is the country that produces the most geothermal energy in the world. Most of the geothermal energy in the country is produced in California, Nevada, Utah, and Hawaii. However, due to the size of the United States, geothermal energy accounts for less than 1% of domestic electricity generation. In other parts of the world, geothermal energy is already much more common. In fact, geothermal sources account for 66% of Iceland’s primary energy use, and 38% in Kenya.

There are three main reasons to promote domestic geothermal energy production. First, geothermal energy is a baseload energy, which means that it is uninterruptible and always on. Second, extracting geothermal energy has a relatively small surface footprint, meaning it does not take up too much space and it’s easier to protect the facility from extreme weather. 

Third, geothermal energy builds on the expertise already used in the oil and gas industry, creating significant technology and job cross-over. 

Geothermal energy is uninterruptible, has a small surface footprint, and will create more jobs.  

Geothermal energy will not replace other forms of energy production in Texas, it will just give us another tool in our tool belt. Our recent energy crisis exemplified the necessity of diversifying our state’s energy portfolio, and the answer is literally right beneath our feet. 

HB 3576 will stimulate an industry with great promise and potential. As we saw during winter storm Uri, losing power for any prolonged period of time can be deadly. This time it was our inability to heat our homes and keep our water and gas utilities online during an extreme cold front. Next time it might be the inability to cool our homes during a heat wave. Reliable energy is paramount to our daily survival and geothermal energy will provide more reliability. 

I want Texas to maintain its status as an energy leader and pioneer. We must continue innovating entrepreneurial solutions before others beat us to it. 

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by state Rep. R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra of McAllen. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the author. Rep. Guerra can be reached by email via: [email protected]


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