Ozzie Zehner

Author of Green Illusions

Category: Energy

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

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Challenges Envisioning a Nuclear-Free Germany

Challenges Envisioning a Nuclear-Free Germany
Ozzie Zehner

Can Germany go Nuc Free? That’s the plan for 2022. But due to a phenomenon economists call “leakage,” a nuclear-free Germany may remain an illusion.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that even though Germany plans to shut down its reactors, the country now pays $139 million monthly to import electricity, some of it from Czech nuclear plants:

With the remaining nine German reactors scheduled to go offline by 2022, no one seems more eager to step into the breach than the Czechs. They’re in talks with vendors to build two more reactors at Temelín, while planning new reactors at the aging Dukovany nuclear station and at least two other sites… “Nuclear is the answer,” says Roman Portužák, who is involved in drawing up the country’s energy strategy at the Czech Industry and Trade Ministry. “How fast, how many reactors we’ll build—that’s still under discussion, but we’re definitely moving in this direction.”

Germany also imports stored nuclear power via Austria. Indeed, building luxury cars is energy intensive.

Many Germans expect renewables such as solar and wind energy to take up the slack, but taxpayers are less keen about paying for them. Germany is in the process of slashing subsidies that have spurred renewable energy growth throughout the country.

Germany has also exported energy-intensive smelting and heavy industrial operations to China and other countries, which has gotten those energy inputs off Germany’s tally. But the resulting raw materials and components are then shipped back to Germany.

Germany’s awkward energy contortions point to the complex global challenges and fuzzy accounting that we face when developing energy policy in an interconnected world. Perhaps Germany can go low-energy only if others do not.

— Ozzie Zehner is the author of the renewable energy book, Green Illusions

See more about the environmental book John Perkins is endorsing:

Are Electric Cars Carbon Free? Some Perspective on Plugging In

Chevy Volt, Ozzie Zehner

According to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the carbon impacts of fueling your electric car depend on where you plug it in. The study, entitled “State of Charge: Electric Vehicles’ Global Warming Emissions and Fuel Cost Savings Across the United States,” points out that charging an electric vehicle with coal-based electricity yields the same carbon impact as at conventional car that gets 30 miles per gallon (mpg). If the charging power comes from hydroelectric and natural gas, prevalent in the pacific northwest, the carbon impacts of fueling an electric car equate to over 50mpg, according to the study.

These figures do not account for electric car fabrication footprints, which can have a much larger impact than the fueling cycle according to research from the National Academies of Science. In my recent piece in Christian Science Monitor, I argue:

Electric vehicles don’t eliminate the negative side effects of vehicular travel. They simply move the problems elsewhere – often to contexts where they become more opaque and difficult to address. When we start to exchange one set of side effects for another, the exchange rates become confusing. This opens a space for public relations firms, news pundits, environmentalists, and others to step in and define the terms of exchange to their liking.. The Union of Concerned Scientists report also doesn’t account for the methane released during natural gas fracking, the side effects of hydroelectric dams, and other externalities from energy production.

When the full environmental costs of electric car batteries and hardware are figured in, their green charm begins to appear suspect. Perhaps environmentalists should take a step back and reconsider whether they’d like to become spokespeople for the next round of ecological disaster machines.

See more about the book John Perkins is endorsing here.

Green Illusions

Eco Porn: Revenge of the Electric Car

“Environmentalists generally object to battery-powered devices and for good reason: batteries require mined minerals, employ manufacturing processes that leak toxins into local ecosystems and leave behind an even-worse trail of side effects upon disposal. Though when it comes to the largest mass-produced batterypowered gadget ever created—the electric car—environmentalists cannot jump from their seats fast enough to applaud it.”

–Ozzie Zehner (as quoted in The Economist)

See images from my upcoming book at GreenIllusions.org

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