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A high-profile mishap involving an experimental electricity project near one of Chile's top tourist attractions has exposed serious shortcomings in the country's laissez-faire approach to energy production. Last year environmental authorities in Region II, an area of northern Chile that contains the high-plains Atacama desert, gave energy company Geotermica del Norte (GDN) permission to conduct exploratory drilling on what promised to be the country's first geothermal electricity plant. Geothermal facilities harness energy from underground hot springs (steam) to push conventional turbines. Considered a renewable and environmentally friendly energy source, the technique is used in more than 20 countries worldwide but accounts for just a tiny fraction (0.3%) of the planet's total electricity production. But in early September something went horribly awry. One of the wells sprang a leak that breached the surface in the form of a 60-meter plume of boiling water, steam, and subterranean gasses. The artificial geyser raged for nearly a month before GDN was finally able to cap it.