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Sierra Daily

Oct 12, 2010

West Virginia, Green Energy Giant?

While California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is blasting Big Oil for its attempt to repeal his state's landmark global warming law, West Virginia governor and senatorial candidate Joe Manchin (D) is busy defending the honor of his state from Philadelphia actors and cap-and-traders, proudly trumpeting the lawsuit he filed against the Obama EPA's attempts to limit the damage from mountaintop removal mining. The disparity between the states is generally ascribed to the fact that West Virginia depends on coal for nearly all its electricity, while California's natural resources give it access to substantial solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy.

It looks like West Virginia is going to need a new excuse. A study commissioned by California-based  Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the search-engine giant, has found that West Virginia has "the largest geothermal hot spot in the eastern United States. . . . If engineers are able to tap the heat, the state could become a producer of green energy for the region."

Of course, as long as the coal industry can externalize its environmental costs onto society at large, and as long as there's no price on carbon to level the playing field for geothermal, this promising new clean industry will struggle to gain a place in the state's energy mix. Joe Manchin just may end up regretting he plugged that cap-and-trade bill.

--Paul Rauber

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