Dixie Meadows is a smudge of vibrant green in an otherwise muted pink and tan landscape. To travel there from Fallon, Nevada, the nearest city, one must first drive 40 miles east on US Route 50, a stretch of highway known as the “loneliest road in America,” and then another 40 miles north on a gravel road into Dixie Valley, a low-lying plain between the Stillwater Range and the Clan Alpine Mountains. Desert shrubs extend as far as the eye can see, until a shimmer of water appears on the horizon—the first sign of a desert oasis. Fed by a series of over 100 seeps and springs, these 760 lush acres at the foot of the Stillwater mountains encompass the entire global range of the endangered Dixie Valley toad. They are also a “surface expression,” as geologists put it, of an as-yet untapped geothermal energy source.
Wearing a straw cowboy hat and using a wooden staff as a walking stick, Patrick Donnelly leads the way into Dixie Meadows’ shoulder-high reeds, where we hope to find the smallest of the western toads. As the Great Basin director of the Center for Biological Diversity, Donnelly campaigned to get the Dixie Valley toad listed as endangered, which the Fish and Wildlife Service did in April on an emergency basis for only the second time in the past 20 years. Donnelly has also worked tirelessly to halt the progress of the largest threat to the Dixie Valley toad and the green oasis it calls home: the Dixie Meadows Geothermal Project. Donnelly is concerned that if the geothermal project proceeds as planned, it will disturb or even dry up the series of hot springs that have created this verdant oasis.
Many experts believe the future of geothermal energy lies in enhanced geothermal systems, which lack some of the natural characteristics needed to produce electricity from the Earth’s heat but may be used as geothermal energy sources with the right human interventions. Proper development of enhanced systems would drastically expand the potential for geothermal energy’s role in the US energy system.
Using geothermal fluid in heating and cooling systems can help big institutions, like universities, city governments, and even upscale resorts save money and reduce their carbon footprint. The geothermal system at the Peppermill Reno Resort paid for itself in three years, two years faster than expected.
Earlier this month, the European Union and the United States called for Zaporizhzhia and the surrounding area to be demilitarized, but Russia has rejected the suggestion, saying it would make the plant “even more vulnerable.”
Oleh Savitskyi, a board member of the non-governmental organization Ecoaction and a climate and energy policy expert with the Ukrainian Climate Network who worked in the ministry of energy and environment protection of Ukraine until June, has been following the situation closely. The Bulletin reached Savitskyi by phone in Kyiv earlier this week to discuss the escalating situation at Zaporizhzhia, what happens if the plant goes offline, and the outlook for Ukraine’s energy supply in the coming months and years.
After more than a year of wheeling and dealing with resistant holdouts, the Senate Democrats finally passed a package of climate legislation on Sunday under the umbrella of the Inflation Reduction Act. The bill, if it passes the House as expected and is signed into law by President Biden, will be the country’s first major climate law.
The package earmarks $369 billion for energy security and climate change programs over the next 10 years, including: $44 billion in tax credits for wind, solar, and other renewable power sources like hydrogen and another $30 billion for investing in renewable energy technologies, including solar panels and wind turbines; $30 billion for nuclear power companies, to discourage existing power plants from shutting down; $9 billion to encourage investments in efficient heating and cooling systems; and $36 billion to encourage individuals to buy new or used electric vehicles.