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Graduate Defense: Bryant Jones
February 27 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm MST
Title: Untapped Geothermal Energy: How Strategic Action Fields can be used in policy studies to understand nascent, pre-coalition interest group organizing and conflicts
Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy and Administration
Advisor: Dr. Jen Schneider, School of Public Service
Committee Members: Dr. Amanda Ashley, School of Public Service; Dr. Kathy Araujo, Energy Policy Institute, School of Public Service; and Dr. Stephanie Lenhart, Energy Policy Institute, Global Studies
There exists what appears to be an impressive potential for geothermal energy production in the United States, yet it has remained largely untapped. Geothermal power represents just 0.4 percent of the utility-scale electricity generation compared to 37 percent for the clean energy sources of nuclear, hydro, solar, and wind. What explains this gap? Why is it, given the ongoing energy transition in the United States, that geothermal electricity production’s time has not yet come? Existing research points to the economic, geographic, and technical limitations of geothermal. But more needs to be done to understand the sociopolitical hurdles and opportunities for geothermal, particularly in the context of the United States. This dissertation uses Strategic Action Field theory to organize findings from a qualitative study of geothermal policy elites. The study focuses on the roles incumbents, challengers, and intrigued observers of geothermal technologies and applications play in shaping public and private narratives and political organizing around geothermal energy in the United States. How do organizations develop narratives about themselves and about geothermal technologies? How do they establish field rules and boundaries, and deploy socially skilled actors to influence, maintain, or disrupt the incumbent status quo? The dissertation thus contributes to our understanding of geothermal energy development in the United States, how Strategic Action Fields can be used in policy studies to understand nascent, pre-coalition interest group organizing and conflicts, and to a growing body of work on the sociopolitical aspects of the global energy transition.