Stories by Jeff Tester

Expert Voices

U.S. lagging in geothermal energy as China and others pull ahead

A geothermal plant spewing steam on April 12, 2017, outside Myvatn, Iceland.
A geothermal plant on April 12, 2017, outside Myvatn, Iceland. Photo: Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images

Less than a decade after it began its program to deploy geothermal energy on a massive scale, China now has the largest amount of geothermal district heating of any country in the world, providing a cleaner, more environmentally friendly way to heat communities and to mitigate the poor air quality that results from burning coal.

The big picture: First used in Idaho in the 1890s, geothermal works by recovering heat naturally stored in the earth. Unlike wind or solar, it provides a consistent, efficient and nearly emissions-free level of energy production when used for heating. While China and other countries push forward with geothermal technology, the U.S. lags far behind, meeting barely 0.01% of our heating demand with it.