Geothermal Cheese, Please, Louise

When people talk about renewable energy they are usually thinking about the sun or wind, not many people know that the temperature of the earth increases by 3 degrees for every hundred meters of depth. The subsoil is a source of heat and therefore energy. But for cost and technology reasons it isn’t easy to exploit unless the depth to temperature relationship is much more favorable—as in Iceland, where geothermal energy can provide the nation’s entire requirements.
But even in Italy we have an area of 1200 km2 in the provinces of Siena, Pisa and Grosseto, where we use the steam emitted from the earth to drive turbines, heat houses and produce electricity. ENEL, Italy’s largest electric power utility, obtains 28% of all the electricity consumed in Tuscany from this area. The nine small municipalities which are located there decided to make more rational use of the resource.
In 1988, with financial support from Tuscan institutions, particularly the Tuscany Regional Authority, COSVIG (Consortium for the Development of Geothermal Areas) was set up to coordinate efforts and promote a wider focus on geothermal energy.
The first District of Renewable Energy was formed as a result of COSVIG’s work: research into renewable energy is promoted, sustainable forms of agriculture are supported, starting with geothermal sources, and traditional products using clean energy are being revived.
There is already an excellent “geothermal” cheese: other producers could follow suit and develop clean food production chains based on renewable energy. Slow Food has drawn up a protocol of understanding with COSVIG, which recognizes the district as the First World Food Community Using Renewable Energy.
It is something that should be widely known and commended: they have the good fortune to be located on a heat source, but we all have tides, air and sun. It is the only alternative to collapse. But when we speak about clean food, can we only refer to particular types of agricultural practice, “organic” certification or the natural state of certain traditional local products? Shouldn’t we also be concerned about the type of energy that has been used to produce the product? Is it clean? Is it renewable?
Here is another challenge for Slow Food. You’re overdoing it, people will say, we can’t expect all that information! I’m sorry, but we’re talking here about the fate of our planet and our lives. Don’t you think the issue is worth just a little extra effort?

First printed in La Stampa on May 27, 2007
Piero Sardo is president of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity

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