Philippines Harness Geothermal Energy
For all the problems experienced by the Filipino people, from Ferdinand Marcos and his wife’s famous collection of shoes, to the poverty of the people, to the military upheavals and tales of corruption, this country has managed to brilliantly utilize its geothermal resources. The Philippines have a population of about 90 million inhabitants and they are the largest consumer in the world of electricity from geothermal sources.
The Island of Leyte is home to the masterpiece of geothermal energy production, creating approximately 28 percent of electricity used in the Philippines. Marcos has this to his credit: in the 1970s when the first real oil crisis played out, he authorized the government to research and learn about geothermal energy, and find a way for the country to utilize this natural resource.
The Leyte geothermal “hot rocks” field has been described as “one of nature’s most perfectly designed” sources for geothermal energy. About one and one-half miles below the surface is a huge area that contains boiling water. It covers an area approximate to 416 square miles. Very hot rocks heat the water but are separated by a thick layer of rock that is water-resistant. The layer above the boiling water, however, is much softer and makes drilling possible. Approximately 90 wells propel the steaming water upward to the surface and out. That energy source then makes it possible to operate turbine engines to produce electricity.
This same geologic “hot zone” is sometimes referred to as the “Pacific Ring of Fire.” As well as the Philippines, it also sits under the surface of Japan, Indonesia, some countries in Eastern Asia, and 13 states in the United States. Although the United States is said to have the world’s leading source of geothermal energy in the Geysers, sitting 72 miles from San Francisco, California, the United States has lacked the regulatory structure or consistency of laws to utilize them as efficiently as the Philippines have. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, should he win the U.S. Presidential election in November, is a proponent of geothermal energy and renewable energy alternatives in general. He has stated that the U.S. goal should be 10 percent power generation through renewable sources in four years’ time.
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