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Google Funding the Next Big One?

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the mole-men-approved dept.

Google 295

wdavies writes "According to this New York Times article, Google is funding a controversial deep drill geothermal project north of San Francisco. Apparently the company, AltaRock, omitted to disclose that the same deep drilling caused a major quake in Basel, Switzerland when it was last used. Given the notorious geological instability of the Northern Californian coast, this strikes me as kind of dumb — and given the known likelihood of this technique producing earthquakes, somewhat EVIL."

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Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28461897)

Yes, Google's given these guys $6.5 million. But the United States federal government has given them $200 million--especially the Department of Energy. If you're a United States citizen, you should be aware that you are also funding "the next big one."

Also the article says it's "nearly the same" drilling technology as the one that caused the quake in Basel while the summary says it's the same. It seems it's not the same though. The article goes on to say:

Officials at AltaRock, with offices in Sausalito, Calif., and Seattle, insist that the company has learned the lessons of Basel and that its own studies indicate the project can be carried out safely. James T. Turner, AltaRock's senior vice president for operations, said the company had applied for roughly 20 patents on ways to improve the method.

I don't know about Basel but I'm certain these guys know they would face serious legal/criminal action if they didn't know for sure it was safe.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28461937)

I don't know about Basel but I'm certain these guys know they would face serious legal/criminal action if they didn't know for sure it was safe.

They just need to know to the best of their ability that it is safe, maybe they are just an incompetent lot.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (4, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462519)

... or it's an easy way to "Terminate" California's budget problems:
  1. Have California, along with the "underwater" housing literally slide underwater into the ocean, along with the debtors, the expenses of maintaining the infrastructure, the political, social, and financial problems dealing with illegals, etc.
  2. PROFIT! - Get disaster relief funding

Think of it - land that was inland now becomes beach-front property ... how much of that land does Google have options on?

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (1)

Virtual_Raider (52165) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462583)

I don't know about Basel but I'm certain these guys know they would face serious legal/criminal action if they didn't know for sure it was safe.

They just need to know to the best of their ability that it is safe, maybe they are just an incompetent lot.

I guess in that case they would be guilty of criminal negligence or something similar. I for one welcome our ground breaking overlords :)

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (4, Informative)

sonamchauhan (587356) | more than 5 years ago | (#28461963)

> I don't know about Basel but I'm certain these guys know they would face serious legal/criminal action if they didn't know for sure it was safe.

Why don't you read the article?

Alarmed, Mr. Häring and other company officials decided to release all pressure in the well to try to halt the fracturing. But as they stood a few miles from the drill site, giving the orders by speakerphone to workers atop the hole, a much bigger jolt shook the room.

"I think that was us," said one stunned official.

Analysis of seismic data proved him correct. The quake measured 3.4 -- modest in some parts of the world. But triggered quakes tend to be shallower than natural ones, and residents generally describe them as a single, explosive bang or jolt -- often out of proportion to the magnitude -- rather than a rumble.
Triggered quakes are also frequently accompanied by an "air shock," a loud tearing or roaring noise.

The noise "made me feel it was some sort of supersonic aircraft going overhead," said Heinrich Schwendener, who, as president of Geopower Basel, the consortium that includes Geothermal Explorers and the utility companies, was standing next to the borehole.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (2, Insightful)

sonamchauhan (587356) | more than 5 years ago | (#28461985)

Forgot to add ... why aren't they drilling in some desert area... some abandoned nuclear test site? Sure, the power transmission losses will be larger, but so will the safety (especially compared to SF)

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462197)

Forgot to add ... why aren't they drilling in some desert area... some abandoned nuclear test site? Sure, the power transmission losses will be larger, but so will the safety (especially compared to SF)

First of all it's "north of San Fransisco" and by North they mean it's actually North of Santa Rosa. And it looks to be about 20 miles north of that up near Clear Lake. And if you go to their project site [altarockenergy.com] and look at the map at the bottom, you'll notice in the past week there's been 3.0 or larger earth quakes in that region. The 3.4 they had in Basel looks to be just another daily occurrence in those parts.

If you look where they're drilling, there's not a whole lot of homes around there. I'm not sure what the radius of destruction is from the epicenter for a "big one" but I don't think it's massive enough to hit a lot way out there. I could be wrong. But you know, I bet if they see a 3.4 like Basel, they shut it down if the government doesn't first. I do like the interactive map on their site so you can see the earthquakes relative to their drilling.

Who knows? They could have determined that unstable areas are safer for drilling since the region around you is having 3.0+ earthquakes all the time? Not like you're going to screw anything up if the plates are shifting constantly anyway, right?

Also, the government funded stuff is all over the place (Utah included) so don't worry, they want this energy source available to all and non centralized. I'm not sure what your motivation is here or why the summary labeled this as pure evil Personally, I'm interested in what this could do for non-polluting energy. I think in order to get the drilling permits and convince backers it was safe enough for America you would have to show a lot of proof. But I'm not a seismologist. Looks worth a shot to me though.

Lastly people take risks in the name of discovery and production. It happens every time a human leaves Earth's gravitational pull, it happened in the early days of a lot of technology until it was perfected. I'm not arguing we should risk human lives, I'm just pointing out that we might be blowing a risk out of proportion that, since non of us are seismologists, none of us really understand. Is it like drilling a pinhole through a one inch slab of marble or drilling the pinhole through one millimeter thick pie crust? I highly doubt they'd be wasting their time if they didn't know the ground would remain stable long enough for their tunnel to remain intact. It looks like they're taking precautions and claim to have refined the process to make it safer at least.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (1, Offtopic)

The Grand Falloon (1102771) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462397)

Also, Clear Lake is pretty shitty. They would be hard pressed to fuck it up any worse than it is. Seriously, the only time that lake is ok to swim in is in the middle of the night (so you can't see the water) when you're drunk off your ass (to make your body a hostile environment to all the things that are going to try to grow inside you). And the locals, man, don't get me started.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462767)

And the locals, man, don't get me started.

Apparently they have mod points, and they are angry.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (1)

ForexCoder (1208982) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462493)

First of all it's "north of San Fransisco" and by North they mean it's actually North of Santa Rosa. And it looks to be about 20 miles north of that up near Clear Lake.

That's not that far away if a large (6-7 magnitude) quake hits. If you don't believe me, read up on the Loma Prieta Quake [wikipedia.org] in 1989. 42 people died in the collapse of the Cypress structure over 50 miles away from the epicenter. It also took out a section of the Bay Bridge and destroyed many building in San Francisco. This was from a quake that was centered south of Santa Cruz.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (0)

Rufus211 (221883) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462629)

First of all it's "north of San Fransisco" and by North they mean it's actually North of Santa Rosa. And it looks to be about 20 miles north of that up near Clear Lake. And if you go to their project site and look at the map at the bottom, you'll notice in the past week there's been 3.0 or larger earth quakes in that region. The 3.4 they had in Basel looks to be just another daily occurrence in those parts.

Santa Rosa's not exactly far from San Francisco. And since it's just Santa Rosa that's close you're fine with them being leveled in an earthquake?

Also you fail to note that those "daily occurrences" are only there because of other, much smaller, geothermal plants next door. If 3.0's are acceptable daily occurrences from the smaller plants, then would 4.0's or 5.0's be acceptable daily occurrences from this new, larger plant?

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (4, Informative)

Temporal (96070) | more than 5 years ago | (#28463173)

Also you fail to note that those "daily occurrences" are only there because of other, much smaller, geothermal plants next door.

Do you have a link to back that claim? Earthquakes in the 1-4 range really are a natural daily occurrence all across CA and many other places in the world. Check out the USGS real-time map:

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsus/ [usgs.gov]

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (5, Informative)

Curlsman (1041022) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462911)

Born and raised in California, earthquakes tend to be boring:
Magnitude 3.x is what the news programs talk about in between the weather and highway traffic.
4.x tends to be somebody says something fell over.
5.x is when you start to notice...

Loma Prieta was 6.9 and the epicenter about 60 miles from my home, about the same distance to the houses that collapsed and burned in San Francisco. It's not the distance but the local ground conditions that made the difference: the only thing that happened at my house was an empty soda can fell over. In the Marina District, the landfill (from the 1906 earthquake) turned to jello, something like that happened in Oakland to the freeway, and my house on a natural slope was fine.

Besides, there is no "if" about a coming large quake, only "when", and to a lesser extent where: most likely the northern end on the Hayward fault. Santa Rosa would be the San Andreas fault.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (5, Funny)

mini me (132455) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462039)

Yes, but unlike Google, the government's motto is "Do evil." At least I'm pretty sure it is.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (2, Insightful)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462079)

You're correct. That's why limited small government is so important.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (0, Flamebait)

wordsnyc (956034) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462799)

Ayn? Is that you? Alan said you'd come back to save us.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462063)

to be fair, $200 million is just a drop in the bucket compared to all the other stolen money [infowars.com] that you have no control over.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (2, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462171)

Yes, Google's given these guys $6.5 million. But the United States federal government has given them $200 million--especially the Department of Energy. If you're a United States citizen, you should be aware that you are also funding "the next big one."

And what am I going to do with this knowledge? I can't exactly refuse to pay taxes, nor in our convoluted sense of "freedom" elect any officials with real (positive) tax reforms. Sure, I could complain to congress, but honestly the entire internet has been complaining about many, many, many laws with little to no response about them (the DMCA, prohibition of certain drugs, copyright reform, etc).

I don't know about Basel but I'm certain these guys know they would face serious legal/criminal action if they didn't know for sure it was safe.

All releasing pressure does is make the next earthquake less powerful. Really, if you cause an earthquake in this way, you are simply accelerating a natural process, however this is A) predictable and B) will create less damage, compared to the natural quake.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (4, Informative)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462549)

And what am I going to do with this knowledge? I can't exactly refuse to pay taxes, nor in our convoluted sense of "freedom" elect any officials with real (positive) tax reforms. Sure, I could complain to congress, but honestly the entire internet has been complaining about many, many, many laws with little to no response about them (the DMCA, prohibition of certain drugs, copyright reform, etc).

Well... hold on here. when you say "the entire Internet has been complaining", you mean a couple-few hundred thousand people have been bitching about these things on blogs, twitter, email, useless "e-petitions", and in some cases mass form emails sent to congresscritters -- form letters indistinguishable from spam for all intents.

How many of "the entire Internet" have actually written a letter to their representative, or even know who their representatives are?

People do have power, but they have to use it. And sitting around complaining to others who already agree with them doesn't count.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462707)

Well... hold on here. when you say "the entire Internet has been complaining", you mean a couple-few hundred thousand people have been bitching about these things on blogs, twitter, email, useless "e-petitions", and in some cases mass form emails sent to congresscritters -- form letters indistinguishable from spam for all intents. How many of "the entire Internet" have actually written a letter to their representative, or even know who their representatives are?

Yes, and those few hundred thousand usually happen to be the ones most affected by it. Its similar to putting a bunch of restrictions on dairy farmers and watch how the public doesn't seem to care much about it yet dairy farmers do, but using that reasoning to keep the legislation in effect because most of the population doesn't know how it works. Same with the DMCA, the people who complain about the DMCA are usually those affected by it, plus, I consider it part of congress's duties to check out what their legislation has done not just to the lobby groups but on those who it also affects who don't have the millions to be represented. Despite making a huge change in copyright law, the DMCA hasn't done anything positive save for the safe harbor provisions, the rest has lead to nothing but destruction. If a person were to Google DMCA they would find the first batch of results to be not only "this is what the DMCA is" but active anti-DMCA groups. They should take that as a sign that they might need to review that bill and repeal it if need be.

As for writing letters, I have written a few letters to my representatives and the only time I got a letter back was when I specifically urged them to vote against a certain bill, I revived a nicely written reply assuring me that they were heavy promoters of the bill and they would vote for it. Considering there was no way that anyone beyond a third-grade reading level could mistake that what I wrote was in support of the bill the only logical explanation is they didn't read it.

As for voting, in America if it isn't a republican or democrat you are out of luck. For example, I am a libertarian, however I don't think that there will be a libertarian in high office for quite some time. I share some beliefs with both republicans and democrats but both have things I am overwhelmingly against, for example, even though republicans are pro economic freedom, they seem to think we need laws prohibiting anything that might be morally questionable which I disagree with strongly. And even though I am for a lot of the pro-freedom of speech that democrats propose, I strongly oppose their crusade to tax everything, their crusade for stronger government and their crusade on weakening second amendment rights.

So really, my beliefs are not represented at all in congress and those who are supposed to be listening to me don't, nor do they even take the time to check what their actions did to the world.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (2, Insightful)

servognome (738846) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462963)

So really, my beliefs are not represented at all in congress and those who are supposed to be listening to me don't, nor do they even take the time to check what their actions did to the world.

Elected officials aren't going to listen to everybody. They listen first to the people who helped them get elected, the people who voted for them, then their own gut feeling. Rather than trying to influence your representative directly, educate and organize your neighbors. Unless you can deliver a congress person votes, there is no practical reason for them to listen to you. The DMCA exists is because legislators are afraid of anything that could cost their districts jobs and money. Why would a representative change the staus quo and upset businesses when those asking for change can't deliver votes?

Well organized vocal minorities can have a great amount of influence. The trade embargo against Cuba has continued because it's an important issue to Cuban exiles in Florida, an important electoral state.

Just writing letters or even e-protests won't make a politician change. Convincing your neighbors to vote in accordance with the issue(s) you find imporant will. It's a lot of work, but freedom isn't easy.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (0)

Dhalka226 (559740) | more than 5 years ago | (#28463095)

Yes, and those few hundred thousand usually happen to be the ones most affected by it.

To be fair, while the people directly affected by something are naturally going to be the loudest in support or opposition, I'm not sure that they should be the ones most involved in the decisions about it. At their heart, laws deal with interactions between people and that means that a lot of the time they're going to end up in some way harming one group of people or another. Even something as simple as theft harms thieves by putting them in jail for doing it, we just generally accept as a society that that is right and proper; that they deserved their outcome. In less clear-cut cases, some groups end up harmed--sometimes greatly--because doing so is perceived to do more good for more people than the harm it inflicts. It's just a form of utilitariansm [wikipedia.org] .

In other words, laws should be evaluated on their own merits. That includes the complaints of those affected by it, but only as part of a broader outlook. In your example, it's entirely possible that the "bunch of restrictions" placed on dairy farmers has a public health benefit, or serves to drive down costs for the rest of the public. Of course a dairy farmer wouldn't like to see anything cut into his profits, but I think there's something to be said for trying to ensure that even poor people have access to milk without considering it a luxury. Being a libertarian I'm sure you'd argue that the market would handle it and that's fine, but it doesn't necessarily speak against the law.

As for writing letters, I have written a few letters to my representatives and the only time I got a letter back was when I specifically urged them to vote against a certain bill, I revived a nicely written reply assuring me that they were heavy promoters of the bill and they would vote for it [. . .] the only logical explanation is they didn't read it.

Somebody read it, or at least scanned it. They knew enough to know you were writing about a specific bill. As far as the response, rather than chalking it up to inattentiveness or some sort of neglect, the more likely explanation is it's simply a form letter that they sent to anybody who wrote about that particular topic. You obviously disagree with the position, but despite the impersonal nature of the reply, did you come away from reading that with any doubt as to where they stood the matter?

I don't know how many letters a given politician might receive during their term, but it's probably impractical for them to respond to each of them in a personal way.

As for voting, in America if it isn't a republican or democrat you are out of luck.

I agree on a personal level, but the reality is republican or democrat isn't what matters. What matters is what the public is willing to vote people out of office for.

I recall an episode of the West Wing about flag burning. They had a poll that the public overwhelmingly supported an amendment to make flag burning illegal. One pollster tried to spin that as "lead the charge for this amendment and you sew up re-election right now." Another came along later and explained, "he never asked them how much they care." As it turned out, only an exceptionally small minority of a large majority would actually base their vote on the president's support or lack of support for such an amendment.

Back to real life and your example: Even if you're completely correct that "the entire Internet" is overwhelmingly against the DMCA, and even if you're entirely correct that we can extrapolate that to mean the vast majority of the American public is overwhelmingly against the DMCA--and I don't actually believe you've made a strong case for either at this point--how much do these people care? How many are willing to vote their representatives out of office for it? How many are willing to vote their representatives out of office for ignoring the will of the people?

Logically speaking, the answer is not many. Politicians are beasts of self-preservation; if they thought the issue was going to get them thrown out of Congress, most would change their tunes in a hurry. If people aren't willing to take that step, what incentive is there for politicians to change their mind--regardless of how they made their mind up in the first place? Maybe they really believe the DMCA is important, maybe they're in the pockets of big media. They feel invincible for good reason.

It's one of many failings of a representative system to be sure, but that's the system we've chosen. We talk a lot about checks and balances in the government in the United States and with good reason, but most Americans fail to realize it includes them. THEY are the final check and balance on every person in government. If people refuse to exercise those rights, or do so in superficial ways, so be it. We get the government we deserve.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (2, Insightful)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28463139)

Anecdotal evidence saying how you personally write to your reps doesn't cut it. I write to mine to -- but the real problem is that we're in the minority. A very, very, very small minority. Until people start doing more than complaining to each other, it will remain that way.

The best way for that change to occur will be for the people who who complain to each other start complaining to others outside of the choir. Logically, coherently, and in a way that makes them both aware of the problem and willing to help fix it.

As for the rest, it doesn't change on its own. Probably just idealism, but the things that the political parties have stood for over time have changed -- and one would have to assume this is the result of the people we vote in and out of office. Will the names of the parties change? You're probably right, not for a very long time. BUt it need not be that long before the beliefs they represent under their current names change. A few political "generations" (terms) is often enough to effect that kind of change.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462351)

Would breaking off and sinking California really be all that bad for the rest of the country?

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (2, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462535)

Would breaking off and sinking California really be all that bad for the rest of the country?

Hell yeah!

If California breaks away, the weight of Maine hanging so far east will drag the whole country into a barrel roll around the Houston/Williston axis. Before you know it, the USA will be face-down in the ocean with it's ass in the air.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462735)

Breaking off from the USA wouldn't be that bad, our economy is strong enough to do it. Yeah our budget has taken one to the chin lately but all that money we pour out to the federal gov staying home would sure help fix that.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (1)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462927)

Yes, you retard, losing the 7th largest economy in the entire world would be rather bad for the rest of the states.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462427)

Just how could one ever hope to prove that drilling caused an earthquake? I find it very difficult to believe that any sane amount of drilling could ever start an earthquake. I might be convinced that drilling could trigger a quake that would have occurred a few minutes later if no drilling had taken place.

Re:Unfair Blame to Both Google And AltaRock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28463105)

I don't know about Basel but I'm certain these guys know they would face serious legal/criminal action if they didn't know for sure it was safe.

Hm, there was the subway building company that caused buildings to collapse in Amsterdam (IIRC) and then caused for yet more buildings to collapse in Cologne (Germany) a few months later, including the historical archive. A dozend people lost their home and two their life. Oddly enough I haven't heard of any real consequences yet.

Under Pressure (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28461943)

It seems to me that the only thing a large drill may do is release the pressure that's building up. It's not going to "cause" an earthquake per se, it's going to release one before it happens natually, which will likely be less intense than if it had been allowed to build up pressure in the first place.

Re:Under Pressure (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462105)

Hmm... they say they ADD pressure in order to fracture the hot rocks, this added pressure would never occur otherwise.

Re:Under Pressure (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462439)

and, once those rocks are fractured, water is then supposed to be injected so that it can be turned into steam (the mode through which the power will actually be extracted) which I would imagine would increase the pressure. There is the section of the article where they describe a similar process taking place close to the surface in another part of the state where it has caused a significant increase in seismic activity, all of which is apparently close to the surface. the article suggests that more destructive seismic activity and larger quakes emerge from deeper faults.

"the next big one" (2, Interesting)

seifried (12921) | more than 5 years ago | (#28461949)

Is going to happen sometime in the future regardless of what we do (baring some major advances in geological technology and the ability to control earth quakes which from a geek perspective would be pretty damn cool, but I'm not holding my breath).

Re:"the next big one" (4, Insightful)

wooferhound (546132) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462083)

Well , if a quake is produced Sooner than it would have occurred naturally, then the intensity won't as strong since stresses would be released before they could build up to be stronger.

Re:"the next big one" (4, Funny)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462467)

Que 70's chika-bow-wow

Drilling doesn't CAUSE quakes! (4, Informative)

An Ominous Cow Erred (28892) | more than 5 years ago | (#28461951)

Plate tectonics causes quakes! Sometimes, however, drilling *releases* stress, triggering quakes that were already going to happen, the drilling just throws the straw on the camel's back, so to speak.

In fact, technologies like this could be useful in doing controlled release of earthquakes, such that you can pick the time it can occur so people are ready for it.

Re:Drilling doesn't CAUSE quakes! (0)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28461975)

Yes, I'm sure that is what it would be used for. Also, how do you do this from space? we need to be able to do it from space..

Re:Drilling doesn't CAUSE quakes! (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462005)

Yes, I'm sure that is what it would be used for. Also, how do you do this from space? we need to be able to do it from space..

Why go to space? If you need to evacuate California couldn't you just send them to New Zealand for a month?

Re:Drilling doesn't CAUSE quakes! (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462089)

woosh.

The conspiracy theorists say US spy satellites caused them earthquakes in China.

Re:Drilling doesn't CAUSE quakes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462155)

Meta-woosh.

New Zealand is known for its negative attitude toward Californians.

Re:Drilling doesn't CAUSE quakes! (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462273)

Meta-woosh.

New Zealand is known for its negative attitude toward Californians.

The sheer weight of them would cause earth quakes.

Re:Drilling doesn't CAUSE quakes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462575)

This is only because kiwis are grown in California.

Re:Drilling doesn't CAUSE quakes! (2, Informative)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462165)

In TFA, they say they add pressure to the system, what you are talking about could be valid if it wasn't for that fact. By artificially adding pressure, I would assume that they may cause something to move which would NEVER have moved otherwise.

Re:Drilling doesn't CAUSE quakes! (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462355)

Yes the steam they are making is adding pressure, but the question is if we are capable of adding enough pressure to amount to more than the proverbial straw on a camel. That doesn't seem likely to me, although since they are using large amounts of heat energy already stored in the crust I suppose it is possible.

Re:Drilling doesn't CAUSE quakes! (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462387)

yeah, i feel like the pressure is the point of the project and it's not the pressure added by injecting the water, but by the heat coming through the rock turning that water into steam. essentially creating a steam explosion several miles underground in under conditions that probably have more unknowns than knowns, all in an area with known levels of significant instability seems like a prospect deserving of extreme scrutiny.

That's a good point... (1)

tlambert (566799) | more than 5 years ago | (#28463129)

That's a good point...

"essentially creating a steam explosion several miles underground in under conditions that probably have more unknowns than knowns, all in an area with known levels of significant instability seems like a prospect deserving of extreme scrutiny."

Let's try the experiment and scrutinize the results.

-- Terry

Re:Drilling doesn't CAUSE quakes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462173)

we still dont have the technology to understand and control plate techtonics to the point where we can localize and limit the effects of drilling. Doing this so close to a densley populated area is madness It's like saying, "oh let's give you a little ebola virus so that you develop immunity to it" ya right!

Heady questions (5, Interesting)

StreetStealth (980200) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462191)

In fact, technologies like this could be useful in doing controlled release of earthquakes, such that you can pick the time it can occur so people are ready for it.

This is a really interesting idea, the kind of stuff that makes for thoughtful sci-fi and even more thought in real life. What if we could tell the Big One was coming in the next decade but had the technology to loose its destruction at a time of our choosing?

How would such a thing be done? How would you convince the populace and governing bodies that it was necessary? How could you make absolutely sure it was necessary?

How would insurers decide to react? Where would everyone go? What about those refuse to leave? Are there temporary measures that could improve structural stability for 24 hours? What about people who couldn't afford them?

What are the potentials for abuse? How would the specifics of the release be affected by politics? If there were a way to control where the greatest damage would occur, how would it be chosen? Who would choose? Would the people in the way have a say? What kind of legal liability would those involved at different levels have?

A controlled quake release could save thousands, even tens of thousands of lives. But once there's an element of human control to unexpected disaster, all bets are off as to how our civilization deals with the responsibility.

Re:Heady questions (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462599)

Yeah, anyone else kind of reminded of the Xindi? I can't wait until we can turn this into a weapon!

Re:Heady questions (5, Insightful)

adolf (21054) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462773)

You asked...

What if we could tell the Big One was coming in the next decade but had the technology to loose its destruction at a time of our choosing?

Then folks would be ready for it, just like OP said.

How would such a thing be done?

RTFA.

Where would everyone go?

Vacation.

What about those refuse to leave?

Give them video cameras, clean water, some canned goods, and a P38.

Are there temporary measures that could improve structural stability for 24 hours?

Yes. Tape the windows, close the doors. Remove things from shelves. And avoid doing this in dry season or rainy season, whichever is worse for the upper layers of the crust.

What about people who couldn't afford them?

Help them.

How would insurers decide to react?

They'd act like cowardly children with solid cherry desks, country club memberships, a trophy wife, and a new German car, just like they do any other time something expensive happens.

How would the specifics of the release be affected by politics?

Poorly. Just as every other case where a politician gets involved.

If there were a way to control where the greatest damage would occur, how would it be chosen?

Whatever's cheapest.

Who would choose?

Maps. And clinical, heartless engineers.

Would the people in the way have a say?

They had a say when they elected the government.

What kind of legal liability would those involved at different levels have?

Who cares? If we can print enough money to bail out the economy, we can print enough to cover everyone's ass in a man-made Teh Big One.

No, but... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462811)

injecting high pressure water CAN trigger them. And make them much worse. And yes, this is about injecting water to be heated. With that said, I suspect that they have done their homework and figured things out. The venture in EU was a disaster, because the company did not do their homework and literally hit a known fault.

Caused a quake in Basel? (3, Insightful)

rhook (943951) | more than 5 years ago | (#28461957)

And just how do they know that the drilling caused the quake?

Re:Caused a quake in Basel? (2, Insightful)

unfunk (804468) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462025)

That's what I'm curious about;

"I think that was us," said one stunned official. Analysis of seismic data proved him correct. The quake measured 3.4 - modest in some parts of the world. But triggered quakes tend to be shallower than natural ones, and residents generally describe them as a single, explosive bang or jolt - often out of proportion to the magnitude - rather than a rumble.

Yup... that's some nice reasoning behind that claim. How about we see this seismic data that's mentioned but not linked to?

Re:Caused a quake in Basel? (1)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462199)

Well, they were drilling, and then there was an earthquake. So obviously the drilling caused the quake, right?

Re:Caused a quake in Basel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28463049)

Oh my god, you're on to something! I remember when we had an earthquake in the S.F. Bay Area when I was a child, while I watched my father on a step-ladder drilling a hole on a forced-air heating duct in our garage ceiling. Drills cause earthquakes! Ban drills, they're evil!

Re:Caused a quake in Basel? (2, Informative)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462233)

In TFA, they say artificially caused quakes are easy to identify:

Analysis of seismic data proved him correct. The quake measured 3.4 modest in some parts of the world. But triggered quakes tend to be shallower than natural ones, and residents generally describe them as a single, explosive bang or jolt often out of proportion to the magnitude rather than a rumble.

Triggered quakes are also frequently accompanied by an air shock, a loud tearing or roaring noise.

The noise made me feel it was some sort of supersonic aircraft going overhead, said Heinrich Schwendener, who, as president of Geopower Basel, the consortium that includes Geothermal Explorers and the utility companies, was standing next to the borehole.

It took me maybe half a minute to realize, hey, this is not a supersonic plane, this is my well, Mr. Schwendener said.

Probability (4, Insightful)

Shatrat (855151) | more than 5 years ago | (#28461959)

Probability of a major earthquake if google drills for power: 1

Probability of a major earthquake if google does not drill: 1

If there is a quake, at least it will release some tension now rather than a year from now when it will be greater.

Re:Probability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462503)

so probability of earth being taken out by a large asteroid before next large quake = 0?

If they can trigger earthquakes... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28461979)

It should be possible to avoid the Big One and instead have a lot of small quakes at predictable places and times.

Housing Crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28461981)

Sounds like a cheaper way to end the housing crisis in California.

Is Google EVIL now? (5, Funny)

iCodemonkey (1480555) | more than 5 years ago | (#28461991)

Does this mean google is now a super-evil corporation(TM). Will we have James Bond types trying to bring it down? (disclaimer: not enough sleep, lack of coffee and to much TV are my excuses)

Re:Is Google EVIL now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462179)

Depends. What is Google searching for?

Re:Is Google EVIL now? (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462481)

Does this mean google is now a super-evil corporation(TM).

No, you all have it exactly backwards. Look at this - California is bankrupt, they're planning on paying creditors IOUs. No money. Nada. They've already asked the feds to help and Obama has said 'No'.

Google knows this and knows that the only other ways to get money out of the feds is either to wage war on them or have a (presumably) natural disaster. Wars take time and are all sorts of messy, not to mention ethically marginal. A natural disaster on the other hand - who can argue with an Act of God? This is just a small down payment to help rescue the entire fucking state from themselves.

Brilliant, I say. Absolutely brilliant.

Major Quake? You got to be kidding me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28461993)

The heaviest quake was a 3.4 on the richter scale. That's not major. California had one of this magnitude just this week.

Re:Major Quake? You got to be kidding me (1)

AaronW (33736) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462551)

I don't really worry about earthquakes until they start getting above 5, and even then it's no biggie around here. We have those every few years around here and there's rarely much damage since most of the buildings are designed to withstand far greater earthquakes. A 3.6 is nothing around here, and most of us have already experienced a number of quakes larger than that. California has done a lot to retrofit and upgrade older buildings and infrastructure especially after the Northridge and Loma Prieta earthquakes. Where other areas of the world consider a 5.6 to be major we consider it fairly common and no big deal.

Omitted to disclose? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462017)

"omitted to disclose" doesn't even make sense. It's either "omitted" or "did not disclose". What exactly are they trying to say?

Re:Omitted to disclose? (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462337)

`has not agreed to voluntarily disclose by not providing the fact that a quake occurred in Switzerland."

There, fixed for you ;-))

3.4? (5, Insightful)

macshit (157376) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462061)

Apparently (it's hard to say for sure, since all the stories I found were kinda sensationalist) the project in Basel caused a magnitude 3.4 quake.

That's an extremely small earthquake.

Big trucks going a construction site also rumble and shake the ground when the go past. People bitch, but it's not considered a reason to stop construction projects (except perhaps in very exceptional circumstances).

Frankly the furor seems to be more the "OMG they're doing something we don't understand which doesn't involve overeating and reality television! Stop them!" sort than it does a well-grounded and considered opposition.

Re:3.4? (3, Insightful)

linzeal (197905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462109)

It was a 3.4 earthquake in an area without significant fault lines. That is 'significant'.

Re:3.4? (5, Informative)

e9th (652576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462303)

Without significant fault lines? This article [sciencedaily.com] seems to suggest otherwise.

Re:3.4? (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 5 years ago | (#28463059)

The fact that Switzerland is covered in mountain ranges seems to suggest otherwise too.

Re:3.4? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462803)

Basel was nearly *destroyed* by a quake in 1356 (probably magnitude 6.2 to 6.5), see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1356_Basel_earthquake.

The main prob: Basel is an industrial center, especially chemistry and pharmacy, so *when* the next "big one" (even if "as low as" 6.5) hits they're going to have *massive* problems. It's said that Basel is in the Ttop10 list of cities most endangered by quakes. Even a "6-ish" quake would cause direct damages estimated in the region of 50 billion SFR. Possibly bursting dams in the region would cause additional damage.

Re:3.4? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462131)

Simple Solution, turn it into a reality show. The sheeple will love it.

Re:3.4? (1)

Raenar (1079055) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462365)

Simple Solution, turn it into a reality show. The sheeple will love it.

And get contestants to out-eat each other before the quake hits to see who wins.

Re:3.4? (2, Interesting)

scubamage (727538) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462379)

I think they're more worried about a massive series of quakes being set off, like the ones in China which they're pretty darn sure were caused by water pressing down at a newly built dam.

Bad Idea (1)

AndrewStephens (815287) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462201)

The allure of limitless energy from beneath the surface of the earth is enticing, but we have such short memories. Do nobody behind this project remember the ill-fated British INFERNO project from the 70s?

What if it were Exxon? (1)

Miros (734652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462223)

I'm shocked at how good people feel about this, and how much license many of the commenters are willing to give to this venture even if it is known to possible trigger a significant seismic event. What if this were being funded by Exxon instead of KP + Google? I doubt people would be as dismissive of the risks involved. also, filing for patents on improving the process is the whole point of funding something like this, not building a single power station, but gaining the know-how and experience necessary to scale it and the IP protections necessary to prevent others firms from exploiting the knowledge gained. That's just _at best_ spin; because clearly, if something is patented it has to be safer.

B Movie (2, Funny)

haggus71 (1051238) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462235)

This sounds like one of those really bad disaster movies of the 70's starring Charlton Heston. Oh wait... http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071455/ [imdb.com]

Forget that! It's even better. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462555)

Crack In The World [imdb.com] ... with physics that makes "Mission To Mars" look plausible. ^_^

Re:B Movie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462727)

Actually, it's this plot: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090264/

Terminator (2, Funny)

basementman (1475159) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462267)

I think this is will be skynet's first strike against mankind.

Releasing pressure might be a good thing (4, Insightful)

stox (131684) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462305)

I would rather have a number of small quakes rather than one large one. If this results in pressure being gradually released from a fault zone, I would consider it an asset, not a liability.

Re:Releasing pressure might be a good thing (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 5 years ago | (#28463131)

What if the large one isnt due for 150 years.. do you still feel the same?

Personally, I feel that people alive 150 years from now are imaginary people, and would thus gladly shove the big one at them instead of taking a bunch of smaller ones now.

just turn that frown upside down (2, Funny)

empraptor (748821) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462323)

any crazy ideas on how to harness energy of triggered quakes? mine: carve a large pattern around the area to direct the quake at a giant pendulum which will then swing the gays straight... and the straights gay. for science!

Their Fatal Mistake (5, Interesting)

rally2xs (1093023) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462331)

was drilling in La La Land. They should have drilled in Montana, the Dakotas, anywhere where people are semi-reasonable about things. This project will be stopped, bet on it. It will join the power line that was stopped from connecting a large solar farm to San Diego, the LNG seaports that were stopped from being built anywhere along the left coast and wound up in Mexico, the area where they refused to build powerplants for about 10 years and not only caused themselves rolling blackouts but made their competitive position in the electricity market so weak that Enron could easiy butt-F them, as well as their being one of 5 states with diesel fuel standards so stringent that it is impossible for anyone to import or build a diesel car clean enough to be sold there, and on and on. California as a political entity is non-viable, it's just taking a while to totally collapse...

Google being "evil"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462441)

Steve, is that you?

Quick! (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462569)

Someone check to see if Google has been buying up useless desert land in Arizona and Nevada!

What scare-mongering stupidity! (0)

Archeopteryx (4648) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462585)

"Caused?"

I defy you to prove that.

The forces involved in an earthquake are so far beyond what man can control or cause that it is not even funny.

Re:What scare-mongering stupidity! (3, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462643)

The forces involved in an earthquake are so far beyond what man can control or cause that it is not even funny.

What about lubricating a fault with water?

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462609)

Oh, lighten up. Everyone's sick of waiting.

It's pure genius... (1)

Onyma (1018104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462637)

It's not evil at all. They are secretly buying up land in Nevada and Arizona and hoping that the entire state of California will drop into the ocean. Then they will own the western coast, build a new silicon valley, and set up massive off-shore server farms driven by wave power. From there it's a small leap to world dominance! Evil? I think not... just Genius! Just don't tell Superman or he'll spin the earth backwards until the Internet is back to Mosaic and Excite.

Geothermal energy (1)

Meor (711208) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462653)

Geothermal energy is bar-none, the cleanest, cheapest energy there is. We should be tapping Yellowstone for energy.

Re:Geothermal energy (1)

d4nowar (941785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462891)

And just think of all of the meat we can harvest!

Punquake (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462749)

"Today, Google made Earth-shattering news when..."

Americans They no Nuts, They Crazy (1)

cubicle (121759) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462819)

If something sound dangerous this sure is it. The best way to acquire more energy is use less of it. Playing with the forces of nature is dangerous. If it caused problems in one place it will cause problems in California. I doubt it will cause the big one, but I can see it causing small shock waves that will be disruptive, destructive, and ultimately cost more resources and energy than it replaces. I also worry for the people who would be working there if a geothermal event were to occur such as a small volcano would they be able to escape before it killed them

Meh,Google is already past evil with GoogleUpdater (1)

Technomancer (51963) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462967)

This thing is probably worse than some rootkits.

Evil? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28462979)

Who cares about an earthquake? Some little Eichmanns might get hurt. The atmosphere won't be harmed at all. Nothing evil about it.

Think Green!

If they don't stop this drilling... (1)

Svartormr (692822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28462991)

...they'll unlease an inferno [wikipedia.org] !

new shoreline property (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28463175)

ARIZONA BAY!!!! SWEET!!

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