Environment: Hot Tempers in Hawaii

Exploiting clean geothermal energy could threaten a rain forest

It sounds like anenvironmentalist's dream. On the Big Island of Hawaii, the state government and several energy companies hope to replace by 2007 much of Hawaii's imported foreign oil with a supply of clean, natural and endlessly renewable power. They plan to do this by tapping the geothermal power contained in the molten rock that lies underground in the volcano-studded land.

However, environmentalists are anything but happy. Local conservation groups, along with such national organizations as the Rainforest Action Network, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, call the geothermal project unsafe and unnecessary. Moreover, they argue, the drilling...