EskimoJoe writes "BASEL, Switzerland — When tremors started cracking walls and bathroom tiles in this Swiss city on the Rhine, the engineers knew they had a problem.
"The glass vases on the shelf rattled, and there was a loud bang," Catherine Wueest, a teashop owner, recalls. "I thought a truck had crashed into the building."
But the 3.4 magnitude tremor on the evening of Dec. 8 was no ordinary act of nature: It had been accidentally triggered by engineers drilling deep into the Earth's crust to tap its inner heat and thus break new ground — literally — in the world's search for new sources of energy.
On paper, the Basel project looks fairly straightforward: Drill down, shoot cold water into the shaft and bring it up again superheated and capable of generating enough power through a steam turbine to meet the electricity needs of 10,000 households, and heat 2,700 homes.
Scientists say this geothermal energy, clean, quiet and virtually inexhaustible, could fill the world's annual needs 250,000 times over with nearly zero impact on the climate or the environment.
A study released this year by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said if 40 percent of the heat under the United States could be tapped, it would meet demand 56,000 times over. It said an investment of $800 million to $1 billion could produce more than 100 gigawatts of electricity by 2050, equaling the combined output of all 104 nuclear power plants in the U.S."
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