Steaming Forward

NICK CORNISH for TIME

HOT HOT HOT: A quarter of all electricity in Tuscany is generated from underground steam

Five unshaven men with blackened work boots and thick gloves move toward the giant, greasy drill that has just emerged from beneath the ground. Once the drill is unhinged and swings freely, the crew encircles it and locks onto it a 9.5-m extension that will take this subterranean search for the mother lode even deeper into the earth. It is a rugged if familiar ballet of industrial labor, repeated daily from a perch halfway up a 65-m-high steel tower.

But this time the familiar scene is not taking place on a North Sea rig or in a dusty...

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