TECHNOLOGY: Steam from the Earth

"I was so surprised that I almost dropped my store teeth", says Walter Holmes, an official of the Interior Department. What amazed him was a new surge of interest in one of the nation's most exotic sources of energy. His office has been flooded by 2,456 applications for future rights to explore federal lands for geothermal energy — the energy from the earth's heat.

There is no question that the source holds promise. Sprawling over The Geysers area in Northern California is the U.S.'s only full-scale (411,000 kw.) geothermal power plant. Trapped thousands of feet below...

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