Renewable energy is neither clean nor a solution to climate change according to a new Truthout interview with Ozzie Zehner , a visiting scholar at the University of California – Berkeley and author of the book Green Illusions.
Instead of "hyping so-called green energy," Zehner advocates redirecting focus to the impacts of a growing human population and consumption. "If we want to address climate change and the many other consequences of energy production," remarks Zehner, "we'll need to greatly reduce both consumption and the number of people consuming over time."
Zehner argues that "there is no such thing as clean energy, but there is such a thing as less energy." He highlights the disadvantages of renewable energy technologies such as solar cells, wind turbines, biomass, and electric cars. For instance, he claims, "we are now learning that the solar cell industry is one of the fastest growing emitters of virulent greenhouse gases such as sulfur hexafluoride, which has a global warming potential 23,000 times higher than CO2, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)."
"There is an impression that we have a choice between fossil fuels and clean energy technologies such as solar cells and wind turbines," Zehner remarks. "That choice is an illusion." He identifies how alternative energy technologies rely on fossil fuels throughout their lifecycles. "Alternative energy technologies rely on fossil fuels for mining operations, fabrication plants, installation, ongoing maintenance and decommissioning. Also, due to the irregular output of wind and solar, these technologies require fossil fuel plants to be running alongside them at all times. Most significantly, alternative energy financing relies on the kind of growth that fossil fuels drive."
This critique comes on the heels of an Op-Ed by economist Paul Krugman , entitled, "Renewable Energy's Not-So-Bright Side," in which he claims to be "skeptical" about the affordability of "running an all- renewable economy." Zehner agrees, "there's a misconception that once alternative energy technologies get off the ground, they can fly on their own. But alternative energy technologies are better understood as a product of fossil fuels."
According to Zehner, if there is a silver bullet to address climate change, it is "to envision a prosperous, yet smaller and less-consuming populace."
Truthout interview: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/15588-power-shift-away-from-green-illusions
Green Illusions book: http://GreenIllusions.org
Krugman Op-Ed: http://truth-out.org/news/item/227