I visited Iceland's newest geothermal plant -- it's a tourist attraction with a swank, high-tech visitors' center -- where steam from the Earth is used not only to generate power, but to heat Reykjavik's homes, water, and even the streets and sidewalks (keeping them ice-free in winter.) Other geothermal plants heat the greenhouses that keep Icelanders in tropical fruits, despite living on the Arctic Circle. The story discusses how Icelanders hope to build similar plants in California (which still has enormous geothermal potential) and Africa (where they could provide freshwater supplies for drought plagued regions.)
Personally, the publication of this piece is bittersweet, as my editors say it is likely to be the last Chronicle Foreign Service story ever, owing to the Chronicle's financial woes.
[Update, 9/1/09: Several eagle-eyed readers noticed a typo -- put in by a copy editor -- which has been corrected in the online edition. The phrase "fifty-mile-deep wells" should have read "fifty mile-deep wells." (emphasis mine). Thanks to those who pointed it out.]
Image (c) 2009, Colin Woodard. All rights reserved.