Ozzie Zehner

Author of Green Illusions

Category: Economics

Is Renewable Energy Renewable?

Is Renewable Energy Renewable - Ozzie Zehner, Green Illusions

Of the disadvantages of renewable energy, one issue stands out: Can these technologies be renewed without fossil fuels? I recently spoke with Mark Hand about the renewability of renewable energy in an interview. Here’s the first question:

SNL Energy: What is your reaction when you see news headlines that say, “100% renewables could be closer than we think,” or, “European Union could reach 100% renewables by 2050?”

Ozzie Zehner: There are lots of research studies saying we have enough wind energy to supply 100x our needs or we have enough solar in the Mojave Desert to do this and that. The problem is that if we were to actually build that many solar panels, for instance, it would be an ecological disaster. The Mojave Desert might be the Saudi Arabia of solar, but if we were to cover deserts with solar cells, the consequences would destroy civilization as we know it within a single generation just because of heavy metals, greenhouse gases, economic effects and so on.

In my mind, there is a presumption that we have a choice between alternative energy and fossil fuels. But the reason that I wrote the book was to draw out why that choice that we seem to have between the two is an illusion. And that’s because alternative energy technologies rely on fossil fuels through every stage of their life. They rely on fossil fuels for raw material extraction, for fabrication, for insulation and maintenance, and for decommissioning and disposal.

Aside from the physical lifespan, they also rely on fossil fuels for their financing. They rely on an economy whose growth is driven by fossil fuels. The kind of financing that you need for renewables requires that. You need concurrent fossil fuel plants running alongside solar cells and wind turbines at all times.
From ‘Green Illusions’ author dissects ‘overly optimistic expectations’ for wind, solar in SNL Energy, April 1, 2013.

Read more in my recent environmental book:

Green Illusions

Is Obama’s New Energy Security Trust Trustworthy?

Ozzie Zehner Green Illusions White House Energy Security Trust

President Obama’s Energy Security Trust, announced this morning, expands offshore oil drilling operations in order to provide a tax base for alternative energy, which will in turn lead to economic growth.

The irony in the president’s proposal is that it exposes how alternative technologies rely on economic arrangements that are themselves reliant on fossil fuels. And, if they work as advertised, these energy technologies will spur the kind of growth that will increase pressure to extract and burn fossil fuels well into the future.

Read more in this environmental justice book:

Green Illusions

What You Don’t Know about Inequality

 

Inequality in American society is apparently not well understood by the general public. This motion infographic renders:

1) What people think a fair income distribution looks like

2) What people think income distribution really is

3) Actual income distribution in America

Wealth ultimately arises from natural resource extraction, primarily fossil fuels. So, this film offers a launching point to think about how the earth’s resources should be shared among its inhabitants. Also, how does income inequality affect rates and forms of consumption, investment, growth and other stresses on the non-human world?

See more about energy inequality in this environmental book:

Green Illusions

Windy Assumptions

Ozzie Zehner Green Illusions The Hill Congress Blog

The Hill published my article on renewable energy subsidies. Please feel free to comment on The Hill article rather than on this site.

Windy Assumptions

Like the 28 governors and numerous environmental groups currently scrambling to extend wind power subsidies, I long assumed that wind turbines and solar cells offset fossil fuel use. They probably don’t.  >> read the article

See why this environmental book is a Top-20 Nonfiction 2012:

Green Illusions

Green Illusions a Top-20 Pick for 2012

Green Illusions Ozzie Zehner Top-20 Nonfiction 2012 Goodreads

This morning, Goodreads selected Green Illusions as a Top-20 Nonfiction pick for 2012, the first time a book from an academic press has made the annual list. Many thanks for your support!

Green Illusions is an environmental book that pioneers a critique of clean energy.  But it doesn’t stop there. Green Illusions also delivers three dozen first steps around the themes of environmental justice, overpopulation, rebound effects, energy economics, degrowth, taxes, bicycling, livable neighborhoods, and energy conservation.

Though we generally believe we can solve environmental problems with more energy—more solar cells, wind turbines, and biofuels—alternative technologies come with their own side effects and limitations. How, for instance, do solar cells cause harm? Why can’t engineers solve wind power’s biggest obstacle? Why won’t contraception solve the problem of overpopulation, lying at the heart of our concerns about energy, and what will?

Anyone may receive a Free Chapter by sharing GreenIllusions.org on Facebook.

When is “green” technology a bad thing?

I spoke about electric cars, solar cells, population growth, and capitalism with Brian Edwards-Tiekert, a radio journalist who has won multiple awards for his feature reporting and radio documentary work on environmental issues | 30 min | Link: Ozzie Zehner on Berkeley Public Radio

See more about the environmental book John Perkins is endorsing.

Green Illusions

Updated: New Images and Updates from UC Davis Ongoing Protest

UC Davis protest in the university’s main quad on Monday November 21st (photo by Aaron Norton)

Davis, CA – Thousands of students are overflowing the Quad, a central square on the University of California Davis campus today, to ask Chancellor Linda Katehi to resign following a teargassing of students by police last week.  Over 60,000 people have signed a petition for her resignation.

Fighting back tears, Katehi spoke to the crowd, which was jeering, hissing, and shouting for her to resign.  She apologized, made a brief reference to the 1973 protests that ripped through her Alma mater campus in Greece, and then left after being swamped by reporters.

The UC Davis English department has issued a recommendation to ban city police activity on campus and disband the campus police force. Protesters are also calling for a federal investigation into the teargassing, arguing that prosecutions should be made.

Students are currently deliberating on a general strike which would take place on the Monday following Thanksgiving.

– Ozzie Zehner

GreenIllusions.org.

Green Illusions

Harvard Students Walk Out on Economics Professor

Photograph by Jacob Rus

Harvard students attending an introductory economics course recently walked out to protest a “bias inherent” in the lectures.  The course, Economics 10, is taught by Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw.  The course is required for several concentrations including Economics as well as Environmental Science and Public Policy.

Below is an excerpt from the students’ open letter:

“Today, we are walking out of your class, Economics 10, in order to express our discontent with the bias inherent in this introductory economics course. We are deeply concerned about the way that this bias affects students, the University, and our greater society…

…Harvard graduates play major roles in the financial institutions and in shaping public policy around the world. If Harvard fails to equip its students with a broad and critical understanding of economics, their actions are likely to harm the global financial system. The last five years of economic turmoil have been proof enough of this.

We are walking out today to join a Boston-wide march protesting the corporatization of higher education as part of the global Occupy movement. Since the biased nature of Economics 10 contributes to and symbolizes the increasing economic inequality in America, we are walking out of your class today both to protest your inadequate discussion of basic economic theory and to lend our support to a movement that is changing American discourse on economic injustice.”

See more about the book John Perkins is endorsing here.

Green Illusions

The 7 Biggest Economic Myths

Robert Reich here at UC Berkeley recently spoke at Occupy SF and it got me to wondering what he’s up to these days.  Here’s the answer. This is a video of some economic myths he’s identified and turned into a 3-minute film.

Journalist Sam Smith commented on the MoveOn.org-produced video – “Demagogues through history have known that big lies, repeated often enough, start being believed ­unless they’re rebutted. These seven economic whoppers are just plain wrong. Make sure you know the truth – and spread it on.”

So, I guess I’m taking his lead. But as always, I’m interested in critiques of these talking points as well. I’ve included the transcript:

1. Tax cuts for the rich trickle down to everyone else. Baloney. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both sliced taxes on the rich and what happened? Most Americans’ wages (measured by the real median wage) began flattening under Reagan and have dropped since George W. Bush. Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke.

2. Higher taxes on the rich would hurt the economy and slow job growth. False. From the end of World War II until 1981, the richest Americans faced a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent or above. Under Dwight Eisenhower it was 91 percent. Even after all deductions and credits, the top taxes on the very rich were far higher than they’ve been since. Yet the economy grew faster during those years than it has since. (Don’t believe small businesses would be hurt by a higher marginal tax; fewer than 2 percent of small business owners are in the highest tax bracket.)

3. Shrinking government generates more jobs. Wrong again. It means fewer government workers – everyone from teachers, fire fighters, police officers, and social workers at the state and local levels to safety inspectors and military personnel at the federal. And fewer government contractors, who would employ fewer private-sector workers. According to Moody’s economist Mark Zandi (a campaign advisor to John McCain), the $61 billion in spending cuts proposed by the House GOP will cost the economy 700,000 jobs this year and next.

4. Cutting the budget deficit now is more important than boosting the economy. Untrue. With so many Americans out of work, budget cuts now will shrink the economy. They’ll increase unemployment and reduce tax revenues. That will worsen the ratio of the debt to the total economy. The first priority must be getting jobs and growth back by boosting the economy. Only then, when jobs and growth are returning vigorously, should we turn to cutting the deficit.

5. Medicare and Medicaid are the major drivers of budget deficits. Wrong. Medicare and Medicaid spending is rising quickly, to be sure. But that’s because the nation’s health-care costs are rising so fast. One of the best ways of slowing these costs is to use Medicare and Medicaid’s bargaining power over drug companies and hospitals to reduce costs, and to move from a fee-for-service system to a fee-for-healthy outcomes system. And since Medicare has far lower administrative costs than private health insurers, we should make Medicare available to everyone.

6. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. Don’t believe it. Social Security is solvent for the next 26 years. It could be solvent for the next century if we raised the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security payroll tax. That ceiling is now $106,800.

7. It’s unfair that lower-income Americans don’t pay income tax. Wrong. There’s nothing unfair about it. Lower-income Americans pay out a larger share of their paychecks in payroll taxes, sales taxes, user fees, and tolls than everyone else.

See images from my upcoming book at GreenIllusions.org

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