jamie beard was apprehensive. She was on the wheel of a black Toyota Prius, multitasking at 80 mph down the Hardy Toll Highway out of George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Simply earlier than selecting me up, she had been interviewed for a nationwide TV information present. Now, swerving via lanes, she was working via numerous shit eventualities: What if one thing she mentioned pisses off one of many oil and fuel executives she had come to adore, or one in all her fellow local weather activists?
As she was ruminating and driving, a Ford F-150 with tires larger than the Prius is tall squeezed by us within the quick lane, so shut that Jamie gripped the wheel tight to maintain the little automotive regular. One aspect of her hair was buzz-cut; the opposite was a bob. It, like the remainder of her, was regular and roiling on the identical time. “Welcome to Texas,” she hollered. A smile unfold throughout the small oval face that makes her look extra 24 than 44, and she or he turned her consideration to our vacation spot: “Simply wait till you see the Woodlands. The cops patrol the streets on white horses!”
The Woodlands is a self-described master-planned vacation spot about 30 miles north of downtown Houston, developed within the Seventies by George Mitchell. A Texas legend. He’s the man who made it financially viable to fracture rock and extract pure fuel from shale. Now, almost 50 years on, the suburb is a bonanza of luxurious properties, resorts, woods, condominiums, and fountains with musical water reveals—and places of work of a number of the largest oil and fuel corporations on this planet. Large Oil Palooza. As we sped nearer to our resort, dwelling base for this whirlwind journey, Jamie began rolling via our tightly packed schedule of conferences with present and former oil trade people: drillers, startup founders, geologists, CEOs at multinational firms. When she took a breath, I requested her concerning the new Earth-piercing applied sciences that she was enthusiastic about. And I requested her about fracking. Then she remembered her worries. And bought anxious once more.
The anxious vitality, the troubles, they have been as a result of Jamie—an vitality lawyer and entrepreneur and lifelong environmentalist (“the sort that will have chained myself to a tree”)—was determined to not screw up the fragile plans she’d been orchestrating for the previous six years. They’re large. Too large, and she or he knew it. However she was sure that if she may put in all the times and hours and minutes she may presumably spare, and if she may get the suitable folks speaking to one another and assist increase the cash for a bunch of startups and higher tech, she would possibly, simply would possibly, simply possibly assist harness all these folks to truly, fabulously, pretty cleanly clear up the world’s vitality wants. Yeah.
So Jamie talked quick. She didn’t waste time. As we walked to dinner close to the Woodlands Waterway Marriott, her sentences piled up: “We will’t sit round and twiddle thumbs and attempt to have working teams and retreats with environmental organizations and oil and fuel. There’s simply no time for that shit. It’s going to need to get on an exponential curve now. Now.” The phrase got here out as if shot from a cannon: Now!
I met Jamie at a TED convention in August 2021, the place she gave a chat known as “The Untapped Vitality Supply That Might Energy the Planet.” As she paced the stage, her sentences, tinged with a mild Southern drawl, rose up, then softened, then lifted once more with enthusiasm: “What we’re speaking about here’s a pivot from hydrocarbons to warmth,” she mentioned. She talked about this superior ample inexperienced useful resource, and the way we (proper now!) have this mighty trade that is aware of methods to get it. She was additionally, for certain, making some folks within the room squirm on the considered sleeping with the enemy. She appeared undaunted: “If we wish to flip the ship, we recruit the sailors.”
After the convention, we talked, then began emailing, her vitality ricocheting out of my inbox. Ping! She invited me to fulfill her in Texas. Come see! I used to be tempted. “I want, however my life is simply too sophisticated,” I informed her. Husband, most cancers, medical appointments. He and I have been on 12 months 4 of what we’d been informed would possibly simply be two.
Inside minutes she responded, “My life is sophisticated too.” She hooked up an image of herself mendacity on a ground, studying a e-book to her younger son. He regarded like he was in a hospital robe. “I hear you,” she wrote.
So there I used to be in Texas—whereas my husband was at dwelling sorting his morning and nighttime meds. And Jamie was racing via the world with the relentless depth of an individual whose life, the minute they decelerate, might be consumed with private trauma, and the one viable factor to do was to run quick at one thing that issues sufficient to boring the existential ache inside. For Jamie, that meant harnessing the warmth from under the Earth’s floor within the type of geothermal vitality. And she or he was hell-bent to start out within the coronary heart of the hydrocarbon trade, the dominion of crude, Texas.
For those who’re not one of many half million folks on an airplane or 10 astronauts in area at this very second, you’re standing on an enormous nuclear ball. There’s a really monstrous supply of warmth under our ft. For a very long time, folks have been gathering that warmth and utilizing it to heat close by buildings or flip generators that generate electrical energy. Iceland will get about two-thirds of its vitality—and almost one hundred pc of its warmth—from geothermal sources. The town of Boise, Idaho, makes use of geothermal to heat some downtown buildings, and it has for greater than a century. The primary geothermal energy vegetation in-built the US, put on-line in 1960, can ship about 835 megawatts of electrical energy onto the California grid in a spot known as the Geysers. That type of geothermal energy—which lots of engineers name hydrothermal, and which the oldsters in Texas name “your grandma’s geothermal”—is harvested in locations the place tectonic plates have left fissures. These fissures provide simple pathways for steam to rise to the Earth’s floor. This simple vitality, grandma’s, is barely a tiny fraction of what’s attainable.