Rural communities in Nevada are welcoming the Bureau of Land Management proposal to open up public lands for geothermal energy production.
On Sept. 17, 2019 the agency is set to launch the bidding process that would open up 141 parcels of public land totaling 386,837 acres across Churchill, Eureka, Elko, Esmeralda, Humboldt, Lander, Mineral, Nye, Pershing, Washoe and White Pine counties. As a result, it’s expected to be the largest act of its kind in state history.
Becoming a leader in geothermal energy production is in the best interest of our state and for our rural communities.
Why is this important? Geothermal is a profitable renewable energy source. Our resources are ranked among the best in the country. Moreover, geothermal energy is reliable and cost-effective, and isn’t tied to fuel costs. Importantly, geothermal is not an intermittent source of energy, but generates energy every day around the clock.
Earlier this year our organization, The Western Way, released an economic impact study on rural renewables in Nevada. It assessed 29 rural renewable projects that were constructed from 2006 to 2017. In that time frame, these projects generated a total of $7.9 billion for their local economies that led to the creation of 12,000 jobs, resulting in $947.3 million in wages. Overall, $152.3 million in state and local tax revenues were generated. This resulted in measurable economic benefits for rural Nevada.
As the federal government controls 84% of public lands in our state, BLM’s plan to enable safe exploration and development of geothermal energy production on public lands should be applauded. Their plan perfectly falls in line with a multiple-use, sustainable-yield view of land management that is good for both the environment and the economy.
The agency’s announcement to open up geothermal leases also aligns perfectly with the Trump administration’s America-First Energy Plan, an all-of-the above energy plan including fossil fuels and renewable sources like geothermal that can be produced on public lands.
Energy independence is critical for our nation’s well-being and for the consumer. With this in mind, Congress should consider and act on H.R. 3794 — the bipartisan Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act of 2019 to further spur development of rural renewables here in Nevada. If passed, this bill would encourage and permit the production of geothermal energy on public lands and create a new revenue sharing mechanism to bolster local communities even further.
Our organization was formed to drive conservative leadership on western conservation and environmental issues. We work with local governments to reduce red tape and bring information regarding new energy sources like geothermal to counties that desire it. Exploring and developing geothermal energy, for instance, aligns with a limited-government, balanced-use philosophy that is returning to natural resources development and land management.
The Silver State has the potential to increase rural renewable energy production of geothermal sources. Our communities will substantially benefit from the influx of investment dollars, new jobs and more tax revenue.
This heavily underutilized resource has the potential to propel our state, and the rest of the country, into the future — a future with a clean energy outlook.
Blake Guinn is the Nevada Director of The Western Way (TheWesternWay.org), a nonprofit organization urging Western conservative leaders to acknowledge actual environmental challenges and deliver efficient, pro-market solutions.
This piece originally ran in the Reno Gazette Journal on September 13, 2019.