Ozzie Zehner

Author of Green Illusions

Category: Solar

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


Huffington Post Reviews Green Illusions

The Huffington Post’s Tom Zeller discussed Green Illusions in a post today:

If his goal was to capture attention by tweaking the nose of clean-energy enthusiasts everywhere, Ozzie Zehner might well have succeeded. His new book, published last month and provocatively titled “Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism,” takes on what Zehner considers the sacred cows of the green movement: solar power, wind power and electric vehicles, among others.

Of course, the book is much more than just this, and Zehner, a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Science, Technology & Society Center, describes himself as being neither for nor against any particular energy source. Indeed, his core objection appears to be with technology fixes in general, or the conviction that any bit of technological derring-do — be it a high-efficiency photovoltaic cell or a low-emissions vehicle — will be sufficient to nudge the planet from unpleasant trajectories like global warming.

Such beliefs, Zehner argues, can blind policymakers and other stakeholders to the attending downsides of any new innovation (there always are downsides); to other, arguably less expensive solutions; and to other pressing global problems.

As the basis for thoughtful discussion, all of this is perfectly reasonable. But Zehner is also clearly playing the provocateur here, and it appears to have been a wise gambit, given the sonorous harrumphing the book has generated in green circles… read the full review of Green Illusions

Green Illusions

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