Welcome Ozzie Zehner (OzzieZehner.com) (Twitter) and Host Steve Horn (desmogblog.com) (Twitter)

Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism

Ozzie Zehner’s entrance into the energy and environment debate couldn’t come at a better, more appropriate time and neither could his book Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism. Published in 2012, it comes in the midst of increasing interest in the topic of tackling climate change from people of all walks of life.

The problem, put in the most general of terms: many people – particularly those new to the issue – aren’t really sure what to do about tackling the crisis.

In response, we’ve been given a chorus of “We need to get on green, clean, renewable energy and get off fossil fuels.” Like Chomsky’s Necessary Illusions as it applies to “thought control in a democratic society,” Zehner’s book refutes this mantra head-on in Green Illusions, saying the fantasy of “green energy” is another form of “thought control” that pacifies environmentalists from seeking out real and hard-hitting solutions.

Power shift” is a good slogan, he argues, but not a real solution to the ecological crisis, which at its core is a much deeper problem than what type of energy we produce and consume: it’s how much energy we produce and consume that’s the root of the problem. In other words, it’s a systemic problem and Zehner’s book sets out to explain how and why.

“The seductive tales of wind turbines, solar cells, and biofuels foster the impression that with a few technological upgrades, we might just sustain our current energy trajectories (or close to it) without consequence,” Zehner writes in the book’s opening pages. “Media and political coverage lull us into dreams of a clean energy future juxtaposed against a tumultuous past characterized by evil oil companies and the associated energy woes they propagated. Like most fairy tales, this…parable contains a tiny bit of truth. And a whole lot of fantasy.”

Among the “green illusions” Zehner tackles are wind energy as a saving grace, solar energy as the coming of the messiah and biomass as more akin to what Jeff Gibbs has coined a “biomassacre” than “clean energy.”

“In the sphere of solar, Zehner points out that its manufacturing process includes a potent mix of greenhouse gases that “make C02 seem harmless by comparison,” as he explains in the book. Then there’s the toxic waste issue, as well, with stockpiles building up in China.

“Green? Hardly.

In the sphere of wind, often featured in glitzy and glamorous public relations campaigns, Zehner’s scientific findings were no more promising. More than a fossil fuel alternative, Zehner writes, wind is a fossil “derivative” – that is, it’s derived from fossil fuels – through and through.

“[W]hat about the total carbon footprint of the mining, building, transporting, installing, clearing, maintaining, and decommissioning activities supporting them? Fossil fuels…supply the power behind these operations,” he writes. “Wind is renewable. Turbines are not.”

Nukes, “clean coal” and biofuels are more the same game by a different name, as explained in Green Illusions. The list of problems is long and Zehner picks apart the rhetoric from the reality on all of these energy sources unapologetically.

This comes in the aftermath of President Barack Obama’s “Climate Action Plan” address in which promotion of “clean tech” was seen as the beacon of hope by mainstream environmentalists in a speech that by-and-large was a promotion of fracking, illusory “clean coal,” nukes, et al.

In this sense as well, Zehner’s joining Firedoglake for this Salon couldn’t be better timed. Houston, we have a major problem on our hands. Firedoglake welcomes in Zehner to help us chat about some real solutions and a Cassandra’s call against fantastical “Green Illusions.”

 

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

104 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Ozzie Zehner, Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism”

BevW July 20th, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Ozzie, Welcome to the Lake.

Steve, Welcome back to the Lake, and thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

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Elliott July 20th, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Hi!

Having spent the week praising the gods and goddesses for air conditioning so that it’s only 78 in here, I don’t know how we can make do on less energy use. The biggest parts of our energy bill here at home is air conditioning and refrigeration, and I am dreading the bills to come for this hot hot summer.

I don’t know the numbers, but is personal energy use greater than all the industrial energy use here in the US?

Steve Horn July 20th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Hey there, Bev. Looking forward to the Salon! Ozzie, good to chat again. For those who may not be familiar, Ozzie and I had an interview earlier this year that appeared on TruthOut. We’ll cover some of the topics that appeared in that interview and of course far more today!

Link of interview: http://truth-out.org/news/item/15588-power-shift-away-from-green-illusions

Ozzie, to start off with a macro question, what was your take on Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the mainstream environmental movement’s enthusiasm over his touting of renewable energy? Separate rhetoric from reality for us for a moment and tell us what in that portion of the speech you found problematic and what parts you found promising, if anything.

Again, great to be chatting again and thanks for doing the Salon!

dakine01 July 20th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon Ozzie and welcome to Firedoglake this afternoon. Good afternoon Steve.

Ozzie, I have not had an opportunity to read your book so forgive me if you address this in there but how have the environmental organizations responded to your book? And if all the supposed “green technologies” are in fact as bad or worse than fossil fuels, what are our options?

ThingsComeUndone July 20th, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Zehner’s book refutes this mantra head-on in Green Illusions, saying the fantasy of “green energy” is another form of “thought control” that pacifies environmentalists from seeking out real and hard-hitting solutions.

Just what are your hard-hitting solutions?

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:03 pm
In response to Elliott @ 2

Hello Elliot,

Well, the two are difficult to separate since industry creates the means by which we live. But for nominal energy use, here’s how the DOE breaks down the numbers. About 1/4 goes to transportation, 1/4 to industrial, 10% to residential and 10% to commercial. Here’s a link: http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/er/early_consumption.cfm

Elliott July 20th, 2013 at 2:06 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 6

oh thank you

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:07 pm
In response to Steve Horn @ 3

Hello Steve and Bev,

Well, it ultimately breaks down to this: alternative energy technologies are just another way to burn fossil fuels. So, when the president is talking about expanding renewables, that should not be expected to reduce fossil fuel use

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:09 pm

A recent paper by Dr. Richard York published in Nature Climate Change draws upon 50 years of energy data to reveal that solar and wind power have not offset a single fossil fuel plant. “The common assumption that the expansion of production of alternative energy will suppress fossil-fuel energy production in equal proportion is clearly wrong,” he concludes.

greenwarrior July 20th, 2013 at 2:09 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 8

Wasn’t he also touting “natural” gas, clean coal and nuclear? As far as I can tell, none of those have the remotest connection to clean energy. On the contrary.

Steve Horn July 20th, 2013 at 2:10 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 8

Which gets into the next question: is it more responsible to call these fossil fuel-derived fuels than “alternative energy”? If so, can you break down why? Let’s use the example of almost everyone’s favorite source of “clean technology,” to use industry lingo: wind. Why and how is wind a fossil fuel derivative and not a fossil fuel alternative?

Elliott July 20th, 2013 at 2:11 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 10

was a very disappointing speech imo

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:11 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 4

Hello dakine01,

The real challenge, in my mind, will be finding ways to reduce the overall energy footprint that we have. For that, we will need strategies for energy reduction, rather than additional energy production.

ThingsComeUndone July 20th, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Zehner writes in the book’s opening pages. “Media and political coverage lull us into dreams of a clean energy future juxtaposed against a tumultuous past characterized by evil oil companies and the associated energy woes they propagated.

Charts: Bush Lowballed Us on Iraq by $6 Trillion
—By Tasneem Raja| Tue Mar. 19, 2013

http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/03/charts-cost-iraq-war

As shown below, the total, global amount of fossil fuel subsidies provided in 2012 is likely to be at least ¾ of a trillion dollars annually – $775 Billion


http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/international/

Your figures on the cost of the world going 100% Green Power?

BearCountry July 20th, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Hello, Ozzie, thanks for dropping by. Steve, thanks for hosting.

I haven’t had a chance to read your book, Ozzie. In fact, I am just now hearing about it. That means that I will be a little slow to understand your points. Besides, I like to think things over.

This is the first time I’ve seen the graphs you link to. I’m a little lost there. Where did the remaining 30% or so go?

Steve Horn July 20th, 2013 at 2:14 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 9

As a point of reference, here’s a piece Ozzie wrote about that paper for The Hill and another one in Climate and Capitalism summarizing York’s findings.

Hadn’t heard of that paper myself, but sounds vitally important. An “inconvenient truth,” if you will.

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/energy-a-environment/272303-windy-assumptions

http://climateandcapitalism.com/2012/03/21/green-energy-alone-wont-save-the-earth/

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:14 pm
In response to Steve Horn @ 11

Yes Steve, I would agree that alternative energy technologies are better understood as alternative fossil fuel. It costs more money to build a wind turbine today than it did a decade ago. That’s principally due to the increase in fossil fuel costs over that time.

greenwarrior July 20th, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Your book is a real eye opener for me. I had no idea that we weren’t going to get there with alternative energy.

You talk about reducing CO2 by converting from coal to natural gas power plants. I was horrified to read that given the problems that fracking for natural gas is causing around the control – poisoning of the air, soil and water as well as causing earthquakes. Can you tell me why you are considering this a better alternative?

On edit: “control” should be “country”

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:18 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 15

Sorry – my mistake – that’s due to my very rough rounding! I’d refer to the chart rather than my rougher estimations

BearCountry July 20th, 2013 at 2:18 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 13

I agree that we have to reduce energy consumption but the exigencies of the seasons tend to encourage people to use energy to offset the climate. Also, when, and if, people in Bangladesh or most of India or some other less than developed area of the world get the opportunity to use energy to offset the climate, I think that they will.

ThingsComeUndone July 20th, 2013 at 2:18 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 8

Well, it ultimately breaks down to this: alternative energy technologies are just another way to burn fossil fuels. So, when the president is talking about expanding renewables, that should not be expected to reduce fossil fuel use

Hmm the materials needed to make solar cells and wind turbines are so polluting that they out weigh the much bigger amount of materials needed to make a Natural Gas Plant, never mind the pollution from fracking or the extra materials needed for a Nuclear Plant is your argument?
What about the fact that Natural Gas, Nuclear power also need constant fuel the extraction of which also increases pollution and the producing of power also causes pollution whether its green house gas or radioactive waste which will last thousands of years and we have no place to store?

eCAHNomics July 20th, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Energy conservation is austerity of the lefties.

hackworth1 July 20th, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Wouldn’t home-based rooftop solar heating systems for water heating be a good idea?

For example, if a significant (very large) federal tax credit was made available for homeowners and commercial building owners, there would be economic stimulus and decreased electrical and gas consumption.

That this was not in the offing from Obama, was indicative of a lack of seriousness wrt energy consumption.

As an aside, it may be true that the government does not want its citizens to gain any autonomy (from the grid).

Another great idea, IMHO, would be the resurgence of home based stills to manufacture alcohol.

Fuel could be produced thru the week and alcohol for consumption could be made on weekends.

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:22 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 18

Hello greenwarrior,

You’ll be relieved to know that in Green Illusions, I don’t consider natural gas to be superior to other options, nor do I rank favorites. Every form of energy has a unique portfolio of side effects and limitations. It is, of course, difficult to compare those. For instance, natural gas produces fracking risks. Nuclear produces fallout and proliferation risks, and so on

gordonot July 20th, 2013 at 2:23 pm

We have a new natural gas plant here in the Coachella Valley: The Sentinel. It’s a disaster for our air, but it means the kids in Orange County can burn their toast to their heart’s content.

BearCountry July 20th, 2013 at 2:23 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 20

I went back to the graph. Your estimations were good; it’s the graph that is confusing. The %s they show only add up to about 70% so there is energy that seems to be in hiding. I’ll try to check once more.

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Yes, and the process to make solar cells, for instance, is not only polluting, but also entirely dependent on fossil fuels. So, we don’t have a situation where solar cells offset fossil fuel use. Rather we have a situation where the side effects of solar cells accrue in addition to the side effects of the fossil fuels they are based upon.

Elliott July 20th, 2013 at 2:26 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 23

what does this even mean?

BearCountry July 20th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Ozzie, do you discuss water power and the problems there considering the drought conditions in the west. It may turn out to be worse than the Great Depression.

Steve Horn July 20th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Ozzie, what do you see as the main problem of the U.S. environmental movement and are there any good examples or at least better examples of “how to do” environmentalism within the U.S. and abroad?

eCAHNomics July 20th, 2013 at 2:27 pm

How would conservation be accomplished?

gordonot July 20th, 2013 at 2:27 pm

I don’t suppose the Hyperloop is any sort of answer to our transpo problems?

greenwarrior July 20th, 2013 at 2:28 pm

What makes solar water heating a proven strategy? I used solar water heating for all my hot water heating needs more than 95% of the time when I lived out of the country. For the other 5% there was a switch on the wall. What makes solar water heating a good option compared to solar arrays?

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:28 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 24

hackworth,

Your biofuels example might be one of the more sound examples out there! As for rooftop solar water heating, which becomes more of a passive solar strategy, I agree with you. These are fundamentally different than using solar cells to create electricity, a cycle which is ultimately reliant on fossil fuels

eCAHNomics July 20th, 2013 at 2:28 pm
In response to Elliott @ 29

It means that to conserve energy you have to lower your standard of living, aka austerity. It is analogous to reducing SS payments, for example.

gordonot July 20th, 2013 at 2:30 pm

What part of our consumption is phantom power…what can be done about it?

ThingsComeUndone July 20th, 2013 at 2:30 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 28

Your telling me that Solar Cells are polluting but do they make more pollution and or worse pollution than the oil, natural gas, nuclear energy they replace over what they make both in manufacturing and their lifetimes making power?
Solar Cells are produced using non green sources yes until we get enough green energy to make them with green energy.
That leaves you with the materials to manufacture them being polluting.

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:31 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 30

I do not discuss water issues of this nature in green illusions. There are many excellent books on the subject, however. Much of the agriculture system is reliant on fossil fuels, not just for pumping but also for fertilization, tilling and so forth

hackworth1 July 20th, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Solar panels for heating water are vastly different from solar panels which make electricity.

Solar panels for water heating are made from coiled copper pipes, metal boxes and glass lids.

Last I checked, a typical solar hot water system costs around $7K.

Takes 10 years or more to recover the expense.

If the government provided a tax credit of $6K, millions of people would jump on it.

gordonot July 20th, 2013 at 2:33 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 40

Right on.

Steve Horn July 20th, 2013 at 2:34 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 36

Just to rebut a bit, how about imposing some austerity on some of the biggest consumers of them all, the Pentagon and the driver of consumption itself, Wall Street? That’s the first place you go to impose restrictions on consumption.

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:35 pm
In response to Steve Horn @ 31

I feel that one of the main downfalls of the current environmental movement is that we have stopped asking the difficult questions about productivism and growth. As far as better examples are concerned, I suspect we would have to look back to our roots in the 1960s when environmental leaders practiced much of the conservation strategies that they investigated

greenwarrior July 20th, 2013 at 2:37 pm

You talk about smart meters. What are they? And how do they work? What do they do?

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:37 pm
In response to gordonot @ 37

According to the department of energy, over half of the energy generated in United States is wasted through various inefficiencies. Shifting taxes toward energy consumption could be one first step toward reducing those leakages

hackworth1 July 20th, 2013 at 2:39 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 32

Relentless overpopulation and conservation are counterintuitive. There is no hope. The Bilderberg Group is working on strategies to combat these problems (the 99%). We are the 99%. We are Soylent Green.

Ozzie, Glad you liked my biofuels plan.

It is unfortunate that home-based stills are illegal.

ThingsComeUndone July 20th, 2013 at 2:40 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 9

9
A recent paper by Dr. Richard York published in Nature Climate Change draws upon 50 years of energy data to reveal that solar and wind power have not offset a single fossil fuel plant. “The common assumption that the expansion of production of alternative energy will suppress fossil-fuel energy production in equal proportion is clearly wrong,” he concludes.

The anti-wind people are at it again, saturating the media with claims that wind energy is “worthless” because wind doesn’t blow all the time. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Such scholars love to remind us how wind is just 2% of the US Energy pie today, neglecting to mention that 35% of the new-build for the past three years has been wind power.

The fact is that there are already states and countries that have 20% or more wind power over the course of a full year — Iowa for one; Denmark and Northern Germany for another. And, in some of these places, wind accounts for 50% or even 100% of electricity demand for certain periods.


http://cleantechnica.com/world-wind-power/6/

Has Iowa, Denmark or Northern Germany had a 20% increase in population in the last few years? If not then the idea that Wind has not displaced a regular power plant is shaky at best.
Since its hard to believe that all those places have not shut down an old power plant in all that time.

Steve Horn July 20th, 2013 at 2:40 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 43

So, you’re saying flying on airplanes powered by fossil jet fuel – mostly tar sands in origin – and going around from city to city on to talk about saving the planet probably is bad form compared to eco-fighters of the 1960s? No way! :-)

More seriously, is it true tar sands area a main fuel source for public aviation? If so, what do you make of environmental leaders – thought leaders, as the powers that be like to name them – who fly around from city to city and country to country and talk about saving the planet to youth groups, church groups, environmental groups, et al? is this basically what you’re getting at by “environmental leaders practicing much of the conservation strategies that they investigate”?

gordonot July 20th, 2013 at 2:40 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 45

An efficient battery technology would be nice…what’s taking so long?

cmaukonen July 20th, 2013 at 2:42 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 43

HA….the leftist environmentalists want the EV and SUV too, it seems. As well as their large screen TVs etc.

gordonot July 20th, 2013 at 2:42 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 46

Do you follow Blume’s work with Alcohol Can Be a Gas?

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Thank you. I should clarify, that the issue here is that we have no evidence, or reason to believe, that solar electricity offsets any fossil fuel use at all. In addition to that we currently need fossil fuels to create the solar cells which are currently not yielding as much energy as the fossil fuel inputs. in order for solar or wind too we create their own networks, that would require massive technological advancements, a complete we working of storage mechanisms, and probably changing some laws of thermodynamics

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I certainly appreciate your concern! Actually you point to precisely the problem. Iowa has not shut down any fossil fuel plants. Unfortunately, over the past years, despite their increase in solar and wind power, the carbon footprint of Iowa actually increased.

ThingsComeUndone July 20th, 2013 at 2:50 pm

A penny saved is a penny earned we can insulate McMansions, stop driving Humvees and SUV’s and save money

To reach 15 percent of total electricity-generating capacity nationwide by 2020 would require ramping up the industry to build in the neighborhood of 210,000 additional megawatts of wind capacity. It would mean building at twice the pace of the best year wind installations have ever been built in the United States – which was 10,000 megawatts in 2009. Too big a reach? Depends on how can-do we’re really willing to be. The Chinese installed more than 15,000 megawatts in 2010, a 62 percent increase over the previous year. They’re planning to do it again this year.

http://www.dailykos.com/

t

he best (rough) estimate of annual cost to the U.S. economy due to power outages: $100 billion or nearly 1 percent of the economy (pdf: page 4). For a fraction of that cost, investment in modernization of the grid (smartgrid and otherwise) would nearly eliminate that cost and provide other benefits (such as more efficient use of energy) that would boost the economy.

http://www.dailykos.com/

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/07/941772/-Rare-Earth-Minerals-China-8217-s-Undeclared-Trade-War

I think ECHAN has a point the 1% would rather that the 99% get used to a lower standard of living rather than cut back themselves or practice energy conservation.
They want their hot tubs and Mitt wants his car elevator if my 80 year old Mom has to take the stairs they are ok with that.
If kids have to walk to school in winter well thats a great way to save school funds that are being cut.
Look at how the states balanced their budgets taxes on booze and smokes for the little people did any state tax the rich more instead?

BearCountry July 20th, 2013 at 2:50 pm

So far my take away is that even if all population growth ended today, we will continue to increase the total world carbon emissions as the less developed countries come on line and use energy to offset the ambient climate hot or cold.

greenwarrior July 20th, 2013 at 2:50 pm

In your discussion of nuclear, you mention nuclear reactors that have been dumped off the coasts of Norway, Russia, China and Japan. Is there information on the radioactivity of the area around them? The sea life? Is anyone doing testing that’s being publicized?

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:52 pm
In response to gordonot @ 49

Battery technology has been inching along for decades. However, even with large breakthroughs they would still be tethered to the energy sources used to make them and the other limitations of technologies such as solar and wind energy

cmaukonen July 20th, 2013 at 2:53 pm

We do use far too much energy to do far too little. Most of the houses in my area were built during the 1920s-1970s. Badly insulated with inefficient heating systems. Not to mention the hot water systems.

The use of clothes dryers – biggest energy wasters I know of – even in climates where you can dry you clothes outside.

Insisting on living in areas where if you do not have central air, you swelter.

Going 2 blocks to the store in a car.

Here is something else. Starting and stopping electric motors and lights and heating draws the most electricity.

I could go on and on.

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:55 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 55

Yes, you bring up a good point about population momentum as well as the momentum of consumption and increasing standards of living. The challenge will be forging a path forward wherein we can have a declining population over the long-term and still take care of people’s basic needs. That’s the kind of question I would like to see the environmental groups working on.

gordonot July 20th, 2013 at 2:58 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 58

Yeah, my drier went on the fritz a year ago and since then I’ve just gone to hanging on the line. Some of the fam complains about rough towels…

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 2:58 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 58

Yes, all good points. Thank you. In the second half of green allusions, I suggest about three dozen first steps to spur some thinking as to how we might get to a system where these energy reduction strategies are built in an automatic.

ThingsComeUndone July 20th, 2013 at 2:59 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 52

a complete we working of storage mechanisms, and probably changing some laws of thermodynamics

When the wind blows near one of GE’s Brilliant turbines, the “industrial internet” has already done a lot of work to let the power producers and the grid operators know when that energy can be expected. It is able to micromanage the most efficient way to position the turbines for optimal rotation. Still, turbines will produce energy at times that the grid is unable to use it. The battery system attached to the turbine allows it to feed excess electricity into the batteries, converting it to electrochemical energy that the grid can use upon request, with nearly immediate turnaround time.
This also allows the wind turbine operator to get into the frequency regulation business. Frequency regulation is the complex part of grid operation, where second-to-second peaks and valleys in demand obliterate any smoothness in the demand curve. This is ordinarily very difficult and expensive, because entire coal and gas power plants have to be operating full bore on “reserve” capacity to cover for this. But using battery-powered sources to smooth frequency regulation demand is much more efficient — it also allows the grid to dump extra electricity into the battery systems. This is worth more to the grid, and so such systems command nearly twice the price for frequency regulation as thermal (fossil fuel) systems.


http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/07/14/2297591/gamechanger-next-generation-of-wind-turbines-storage-are-cheap-reliable-brilliant/

I don’t know what battery tech they use but it apparently works.

NREL, in partnership with Xcel Energy, launched a wind-to-hydrogen (Wind2H2) demonstration project at the National Wind Technology Center in Boulder, Colorado. The Wind2H2 project links wind turbines to electrolyzers, which pass the wind-generated electricity through water to split it into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can then be stored and used later to generate electricity from an internal combustion engine or a fuel cell.


http://www.nrel.gov/hydrogen/proj_wind_hydrogen.html

We have ways to store wind energy. Heck solar hot water heaters do the same thing with solar power and regular people can buy them.

cmaukonen July 20th, 2013 at 3:00 pm
In response to gordonot @ 60

I live in NE Ohio and do not have a clothes dryer. In the summer out doors and in the winter in the basement. Works just fine.

gordonot July 20th, 2013 at 3:01 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 63

That’s impressive. I live in the desert, so…everything’s dry in a jiffy.

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Yes, we do have ways to store the intermittent power from wind turbines. However when the fossil fuel footprint of those storage mechanisms is added to the fossil fuel footprint of the wind turbines themselves, the whole calculation starts to look even worse, unfortunately. And, it’s important to keep in mind that increasing wind power does not appear to decrease the use of fossil fuels anywhere else in the economy. When we add wind turbines, we don’t automatically get to turn off the coal plant.

ThingsComeUndone July 20th, 2013 at 3:03 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 55

as the less developed countries come on line and use energy to offset the ambient climate hot or cold.

Cheap Solar ovens low tech low cost would reduce much CO2 used in cooking food or boiling clean water I wish I had exact numbers but its a very low cost easy thing to do think super insulated beer coolers with a few reflective panels and a clear glass sheet over the cooler to keep heat in then add a temperature gauge so people cooking can know the temperature they are cooking at.

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 3:05 pm
In response to Steve Horn @ 48

Perhaps I’d be more tolerant if the mainstream environmental movement we’re focusing on issues such as human rights, and strategies to greatly reduce energy consumption. These would have the potential to create the kind of radical change that so many of us in the environmental movement are hoping to achieve

cmaukonen July 20th, 2013 at 3:05 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 65

The more we have, the more we use. Kind of like getting a bigger desk. It just accumulates more stuff.

ThingsComeUndone July 20th, 2013 at 3:07 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 65

Yes, we do have ways to store the intermittent power from wind turbines. However when the fossil fuel footprint of those storage mechanisms is added to the fossil fuel footprint of the wind turbines themselves, the whole calculation starts to look even worse,

Is it really worse than just keeping on using Oil, Natural Gas, Nuclear?

unfortunately. And, it’s important to keep in mind that increasing wind power does not appear to decrease the use of fossil fuels anywhere else in the economy. When we add wind turbines, we don’t automatically get to turn off the coal plant.

Thats because we are not building enough wind, solar plants yet. Thats assuming that the rise in Wind Power in Denmark, Northern Germany etc has not shut down non green power plants. Last I heard Germany was shutting down all their nuclear power plants and Denmark was exporting wind power to other countries.

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

And, I should mention that there is a chapter in green illusions where I discuss what I call the hydrogen zombie. Students generally like that chapter. Probably because it is short.

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 3:10 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 68

Yes, it seems like that is one of our big challenges. We fill the space we’re given and if the space we are allowed increases, we fill it further. On a societal level we see this in terms of population and consumption. Therefore, I feel like it’s necessary to grapple with both at the same time.

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Unfortunately, Germany has simply been importing more nuclear power from the Czech Republic and Austria. In fact, there is a nuclear industry boom in the Czech Republic due to demand for nuclear power from Germany. And, I should note that according to the most recent numbers from 2012, that came from the German government, carbon dioxide levels have not decreased with the increased ramp-up of solar cells and wind turbines. So, in this case, we are seeing what we would expect to see based on Richard Yorks analysis.

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

I know this issue can be a little confusing. It is a real stumper. However, I did write an article about this in The Hill, which explains in more detail:

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/energy-a-environment/272303-windy-assumptions

Solar and wind power advocates are fighting to renew clean energy subsidies, which expires at year’s end. They argue that these technologies are worth the investment because they offset fossil fuel dependence and carbon emissions. Indeed, that’s the conventional assumption of most energy researchers, government labs, and think tanks. However, there is an emerging problem with that assumption – there’s no evidence to back it up.

In fact, experience and field data point to the opposite: wind turbines and solar cells might not offset fossil fuel use in the United States at all.

Steve Horn July 20th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

What inspired you to write this book, which runs against the grain? What made you start questioning the dominant paradigm of environmentalism?

Phoenix Woman July 20th, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Ozzie, what do you make of ThingsComeUndone’s cites showing that the dirty-energy industries get $775 billion (with a “b”) each year worldwide? What if that money were put into something like concentrated solar power, which requires no rare earths?

And have you heard about the battery made of wood and sodium (as opposed to lithium)?

Frank33 July 20th, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I totally disagree with your thoughtless premise, that we greedy consumers are to blame. You should be lecturing the Department of War, I mean Defense. They are the biggest user of energy in the world.

There is no dirtier energy than from Fossil Fuels. If Solar received the subsidies that Exxon does, we would have FREE ENERGY from the sun.

I am also amused that you believe after Fukushima, the future of Nuclear Energy is “unsettled”. How many meltdowns do you need to settle its future?

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 3:23 pm
In response to Steve Horn @ 74

My own exploration began when I had my architectural firm and was forced to deal with the realities of these technologies. The expectations of my clients were wildly different than what was actually possible in terms of residential solar or wind production. That was 10 years ago.

Steve Horn July 20th, 2013 at 3:23 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 72

Given what you just stated about Germany, would it be safe to say this series isn’t totally accurate?

http://insideclimatenews.org/slideshow/germany-energiewende-solar-wind-renewable-energy-biodiesel

normanb July 20th, 2013 at 3:24 pm

What Biofuels did you look at? Derived from what sources?

Steve Horn July 20th, 2013 at 3:24 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 77

And what’s the reception been from the dominant environmental movement? Something akin to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence”? :-)

ThingsComeUndone July 20th, 2013 at 3:25 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 70

And, I should mention that there is a chapter in green illusions where I discuss what I call the hydrogen zombie. Students generally like that chapter. Probably because it is short.

Generating hydrogen by steam methane reforming is relatively inexpensive. One kilogram of hydrogen currently costs $1.20. The same 1 kg of H2 is equivalent to 1 gallon of gasoline. The cost to store and transport hydrogen more than triples its cost. Using HYDRNOL™ Fuel, 1 kg of hydrogen can be delivered for $2.50; comparable to gasoline (Figure 5).


http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/technical-documents/articles/material-matters/introducing-hydrnol.html

I tried finding a post or 3 I did about Hydrnol and fuel cell cars but Blekko and google were making them very hard to find. if my battery were not almost dead I would look for the cost of wind to make hydrogen from water.

Phoenix Woman July 20th, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Yes. The various Occupy sites made lots of use of homemade solar collectors and bicycle power generators.

There are a lot of solar (and wind) technologies out there that don’t require anything more than recycled non-toxic metals and other common and easily accessed materials. Concentrated solar power, for instance, uses insulated vats of molten salt to store energy.

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 3:27 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 75

Phoenix,
Thank you for your question. Of course, I do not support subsidizing fossil fuel production. However, subsidizing alternative energy production ends up being a subsidy to fossil fuel companies by other means. Concentrated solar power does seem to produce a higher yield than solar photovoltaics, however there is not a large difference. And, the side effects and limitations are just an alternate set. For instance, water use and physical displacement from energy consumers.

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 3:31 pm
In response to Frank33 @ 76

Frank, I suspect you and I would agree on quite a bit. I discuss shifting away from military spending in green allusions as one of the first steps. And, my concerns with nuclear power are probably in line with yours. The reason I feel the future of nuclear power is unsettled is due to the massive ramp up in investment in the industry. I don’t support that, but rather observed that phenomenon.

In my mind, a country that wastes half of the energy produces, does not need more energy.

Steve Horn July 20th, 2013 at 3:34 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 84

Speaking of waste, are you familiar with “The Ecological Rift” by John Bellamy-Foster? That book tackles the waste inherent in how the current economic system utilizes energy. If you’ve read it, is that in line with what you argue in your book, more or less? His tackled the system head-on, whereas yours made more subtle hints, so just was wondering what you thought of his work.

BearCountry July 20th, 2013 at 3:35 pm

In case I don’t get to be here for the end of the discussion, I want to thank you, Ozzie, for opening up new ways to look at the environmental mantras. This discussion has not made me happy, but it is a call for better analysis and understanding of what alternate energy means.

Steve, thank you for hosting and participating in this valuable discussion.

CTuttle July 20th, 2013 at 3:36 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 83

Aloha, Ozzie…! Yet, we do have the technology to make cleaner PV panels…! For instance: How 3D printing could revolutionise the solar energy industry

The Aussies are already printing out carbon-based PV panels on paper…!

We need to decentralise our Power sources, produce it locally(Home and/or Plant)…! Too much of our Power is lost in the transmission…!

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 3:37 pm
In response to Steve Horn @ 80

Regarding the response of environmental groups, I’m not really sure they know what to do with me. Some of the energy industries that I critique in green solutions has put up a little bit of a fuss. However, they have not directly refuted claims in Green Illusions.

Beyond that, when I critiqued automotive companies in the Christian science Monitor, NRDC came out to defend the corporations. One of their directors wrote an opposing piece supporting subsidies to car culture.

Steve Horn July 20th, 2013 at 3:39 pm
In response to Steve Horn @ 85

For the room on the whole and for sake of context, John Bellamy-Foster’s co-wrote a book with Bob McChesney, a guest in the Salon last week with John Nichols.

See here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Endless-Crisis-Monopoly-Finance-Stagnation/dp/158367313X

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 3:39 pm
In response to normanb @ 79

Norman,
For biofuels, in Green Illusions, I primarily critique the liquid biofuels being used as replacements for petroleum.

Steve Horn July 20th, 2013 at 3:40 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 88
Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 3:42 pm
In response to BearCountry @ 86

Thank you bear country. I should say that I am not particularly excited about the findings either! I don’t claim to have the solutions. I am just another member of the search party, like all of you. However, I do feel that there are many unanswered questions. In fact, there are many unasked questions.

Steve Horn July 20th, 2013 at 3:42 pm

My two last questions for you:

1.) What do you make of the 350.org divestment campaign? Does divesting in fossils basically imply investing in fossil derivatives?

2.) What’s next on the docket for you in terms of projects, books, career plans, etc.?

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 3:46 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 87

Aloha CTuttle,

I fear that the printable solar cells fall into the category of “press releases for half-baked science projects”. I should note, that many of the newer solar cell technologies do not last very long. So, while they might seem cheaper upfront, the industry does not deploy them because the replacement costs are so high. The main cost of a solar array is not the technical componentry but all of the low-tech costs such as installation, maintenance, insurance etc.

BevW July 20th, 2013 at 3:51 pm

As we come to the last few minutes of this great Book Salon discussion,

Ozzie, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the truth about clean energy.

Steve, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Ozzie’s website and book

Steve’s website (desmogblog)

Thanks all, Have a great weekend.

Tomorrow: Keith Stroup / It’s NORML to Smoke Pot: The 40 Year Fight for Marijuana Smokers’ Rights; Hosted by Pete Guither, (Drug War Rant)

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

FDL Book Salon has a Facebook page too

cmaukonen July 20th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Well I like solar and wind on a personal level. That is for my own use as I really, really HATE power companies.

:-)

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 3:55 pm
In response to Steve Horn @ 93

Thank you Steve!

As for the divestment campaign, nobody has explained to me how this project would decrease fossil fuel use. If we want to divest from fossil fuels, we will have to shift our environmental focus to issues of human rights and decreasing consumption. Those are not as exciting as a protest against oil companies (for which there is certainly plenty to protest) but I suspect that’s the direction we’ll have to head.

As for future plans, I am currently working on a follow-up piece to this month’s cover feature that I wrote: Unclean at Any Speed – Available at no cost online:

http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/renewables/unclean-at-any-speed

I have also been working on a second book, but it’s too early to know when or in what form that will manifest. Finally, I will be helping to establish a a research and media nonprofit that will launch in San Francisco in 2015. So, if anyone is interested in supporting that, please get in touch through http://www.greenillusions.org

Ozzie Zehner July 20th, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Many thanks Bev, Steve, and to all of the people who tuned in! Please feel free to send me other questions through the website: http://www.greenillusions.org/

Steve Horn July 20th, 2013 at 3:57 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 97

Ozzie,

Great to have you here. It was an honor to chat with you again and hope everyone enjoyed the Salon!

Phoenix Woman July 20th, 2013 at 4:04 pm
In response to Ozzie Zehner @ 72

Germany also exports energy to Austria and elsewhere.

In fact, per year, Germany exports over 22 terawatt hours more than it imports:

For the past six years, Germany has been a net exporter of electricity. The Federal Statistical Office reports that Germany exported 66.6 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2012, while only importing 43.8 TWh via the European electricity grids. This surplus, 22.8TWh, has almost quadrupled the surplus in 2011.

And Austria is planning to stop all imports of nuclear-generated energy by 2015. Of course, the pro-nuke forces at the WSJ don’t think they can do it, but they didn’t think Germany would ever turn away from nukes.

Elliott July 20th, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Thank you both

(and you too Bev!)

stratocruiser July 20th, 2013 at 4:43 pm

The chart that was referred to in the very early part of the book salon, the one with the missing 30 % of energy usage, was not calibrated in percent terms. The Y axis was quadrillion BTUs.

I really hate to be harsh to an invited guest, but that is pretty bad. It makes me doubt all the rest of his statements, and his thesis, that renewables are fossil fuel based.

A few years ago, I gave serious thought to the question of construction costs for a wind turbine. To take a very high level view, I realized that if the financial budget worked out favorably, so did the energy budget.

At every step from extraction, refining manufacture, installation, all the way to the foreman’s hot coffee and cold beer and the accountant’s computer usage, the energy costs are aggregated and passed through to the final delivered price. If the wind turbine can be cash flow positive, it must also be energy positive.*

* not considering the effect of subsidies (too complex and unnecessary (IMO))

wundermaus July 20th, 2013 at 5:47 pm

I’m just an amateur technology buff. Been studying alternative energy among many other things and tend to look at our problems in a simple way. Consider the bushman in a loin cloth with is hunting spear by his side sitting out in the middle of a vast expanse with a little camp fire burning to keep him warm and to cook his food. Now consider the typical urban dweller sitting in his leather reclining chair in a fully furnished 4 bedroom, 3 bath house with 2 cars in the garage, a huge refrigerator, a 50 inch plasma screen television, stereo system, clothes washer and drier, dishwasher, gas fireplace, and lights on throughout and around the house. The proportional size of the urban dweller’s camp fire would be a small forest fire. We as a modern civilization consume and waste so much energy it is absolutely obscene. By burning fossil resources for the last few hundred years, we have consumed precious reserves that took millions of years to create. Do we need a huge house? Do we need a huge refrigerator? Do we need multiple cars? Do we need to consume our selves right into extinction? I think we do because we as a civilization are manic in our obsession to consume and waste. When our civilization finally implodes like a black star I only hope this poor planet will still be habitable for the likes of that bushman and his little campfire. I think being in balance with nature beats trying to conquer it. Good luck, everybody. We are going to need it.

Phoenix Woman July 20th, 2013 at 9:17 pm
In response to stratocruiser @ 102

The chart that was referred to in the very early part of the book salon, the one with the missing 30 % of energy usage, was not calibrated in percent terms. The Y axis was quadrillion BTUs.

I really hate to be harsh to an invited guest, but that is pretty bad. It makes me doubt all the rest of his statements, and his thesis, that renewables are fossil fuel based.

My problem is with cherry-picking. He stated that Germany’s importing energy from Austria and the Czech Republic (the latter of which uses nuclear energy), as if to imply that this importing of energy meant that Germany wasn’t really cutting back on nuclear energy usage, and that wind power and solar power weren’t picking up the slack. But what he doesn’t say is that Germany exports 22 terawatts more energy than it imports, and much of that is to Austria, which in 2011 passed a law requiring it to import only nuclear-free energy by 2015.

I can understand wanting to reduce waste. I can understand wanting to empower women as a way to ensure smaller (and more resource-stingy) families worldwide. But there are a lot of people who are (or talk as if they are) jonesing to see people suffer, particularly scientists and suburbanites, and for decades they have been constantly saying that nothing we can do will save our current technological civilization because they themselves figure that they’re better equipped than the McMansioned suburbanites they mock to ride out the collapse of civilization — ignoring the likelihood that many of these suburbanites have stocked up on muzzleloaders and the ingredients for black powder.

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