All Steamed Up

The world's biggest country is starting to go geothermal thanks to one of the smallest

Paco Cruz / Digital Press Photos / Newscom

The blue lagoon near Reykjavik, Iceland.

Xianyang, China, was once a great place to live--during the Qin dynasty, anyway, more than 2,000 years ago. Since then, it has gone pretty much downhill. Today Xianyang is one of the most polluted cities in a very polluted country, partly as a result of the air-fouling coal that's burned to generate much of its power. The air in Reykjavík, by contrast, is crystal clear, because nothing is burned there. Iceland's capital gets 100% of its heat and 40% of its electricity from geothermal power. (The rest comes from hydropower.) The same forces that have scattered no fewer than 130 volcanoes...

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