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Green Illusions

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  488 ratings  ·  50 reviews
We don’t have an energy crisis. We have a consumption crisis. And this book, which takes aim at cherished assumptions regarding energy, offers refreshingly straight talk about what’s wrong with the way we think and talk about the problem. Though we generally believe we can solve environmental problems with more energy—more solar cells, wind turbines, and biofuels—alternati ...more
Paperback, 456 pages
Published June 1st 2012 by University of Nebraska Press
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The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
33rd out of 3,113 books — 5,057 voters
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Best Science Books - Non-Fiction Only
13th out of 875 books — 2,036 voters

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Community Reviews

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I picked this book up at the library hoping it would provide an accurate critique of green technologies and was sorely disappointed. It is very weak on the science and economics of each technology and very biased toward the model of everyone living in dense urban areas and using mass transit - complete with personal references to glorious periods of time lived abroad in energy paradise and fear mongering anecdotes to scare everyone away from each technology.

The errors begin no later than page 7
This is a book both devastatingly honest and realistic about the challenges we face, but also full of reasons to be hopeful. Personally, I think it is the only environmental book that really addresses the inter-connectedness of the many challenges we're confronting as a society, and Zehner does so with searing intelligence and quite a bit of humour. His critiques are forceful without being pedantic or accusatory. And his writing is extremely accessible and engaging. What's particularly impressiv ...more
I want to divide this book into two sections - the first section is awesome. He explains the reality of alternative energies extremely well. I appreciated his point of view and the fact that finally someone is putting into print the realities of the situation. I should have stopped reading there because I would have given it a strong 5 star rating.

My love for this book started to wane with the second half of the book where the author connected everything to our piggish use of energy. Everything
Sonali Daneil
Zehner is like us - he does not know the answers, but this book lays out the bigger questions we should be asking and thinking about. The first part of the book exposes a lot of the dirty secrets about clean energy. The latter parts deal with how to move forward. And, the ideas seem a lot more convincing and realistic than a lot of the other ideas floating around out there in green tech la la land.
Cassie Bennett
This has given me insight into how easily we humans are fooled into believing what we want. Going green has become a religion - a notion I have considered but never followed through with research.
This is an amazing book that everyone interested in alternative energies should read. In fact I think ALL of our policy makers should have this book as mandatory reading. The book is easily read, fast paced and full of good anecdotes and straight forward thinking on the 'business' of alternative energy sources. Mr. Zehner offers so many practical solutions to our growing energy crisis. Green Illusions will turn your Alternative Energy thinking on it's head. As I said, Green Illusions is a must r ...more
I won this book through a giveaway. I found it to be very interesting and enjoyed that it included both pro and con sides of different types of green energy. I also enjoyed that it wasn't a bore to read :) Keep up the great work Ozzie Zehner! My 14yr old son has requested to read this next :) When he is done I have a friend I will be mailing it to.
Jane Madison
This book exposes corporate greed and disregard for the planet under the cover of green energy. It's revealing, thought-provoking and it changed my mind about a lot of green initiatives (and others I suspected were good and actually are!). Prof. Zehner does not take sides, but shows what's really going on.
Patrick Johnson
I bet this book will change your opinion of putting solar cells on buildings for environmental and health benefits. I definitely thought solar energy through photovoltaic cells was great for the environment. I had overlooked other possibilities. Highly recommend for other environmentally-minded people.
Julia P.
This isn't a big oil book. It is a Deep Green book. Prof. Zehner tells some great stories and shows the real facts that are hidden by corporate influences (even those you thought were green).
Brigitte Fortin
I found this book to be an interesting, academic and critical evaluation of the current state of environmentalism. It includes a frank discussion on natural gas as an "alternative fuel."
Wow - an eyeopener. A great realistic look at the limitations of renewables, and strong answers - we must simply use less energy! Practical and clear eyed.
Greg Allan Holcomb
I like that the varying sides of arguments for or against a type of energy weren't the same ones that we're beaten over the head with.
Very informative, should have been a 4 but it took me 2 months to finish it!!!!
INteresting evaluation of the pro & cons of green energy
Henri Hämäläinen
Latest book I read was Green Illusions by Ozzie Zehner. For once it was a book I have no preconceptions and I didn't really have a clue what was coming. I don't even know how I actually picked it up and ordered it, but I'm glad I did.

Green Illusions is a book explaining what current green initiatives there are ongoing in the world and why many of those will never solve the actual problem of us ruining the globe. It goes through in very detail solar power, wind power and all other electricity bas
Mac Gray
If this were just some conservative oil loving blowhard's diatribe about how alternative energy sucks I would have never bothered picking up the book. It isn't though. Instead this book demonstrates how we fail to see the amount of production and consumption of energy as the problem and we instead fantasize about a future with all the energy we need powered by wind turbines, solar panels, and hydrogen fuel cells.
If you are a liberal who loves solar cells you may hate the first seven chapters wh
This is a much needed slap in the face to our mainstream environmental movement. The central premise of the book argues that we are focusing far too much on clean energy production to the exclusion of a reduction in energy consumption. For example, we should be promoting more walkable and bikeable urban communities instead of fantasizing about furnishing our suburban McMansion with the latest and greatest electric car, the latter of which is still incredibly resource-intensive and wasteful in it ...more
His critique of the commonly-held belief that we will be able to innovate our way out of the environmental crises we face with gadgets like wind mills and solar panels is spot on. He documents in undeniable detail how the so-called "renewable" technologies are themselves deeply dependent on fossil fuel energy, and largely work only to shift the pollution and carbon emissions onto the third world where Western consumers no longer have to see them. He then mysteriously follows this critique with a ...more
Smart and fun to read survey of technological shortcomings and how our questions about the future will have to change. This is one of my favs this year.

We think of clean energy as clean - that's the name right? But there is much in the background that we don't see. My new electric car might not have fumes but it does produce pollution, CO2 impacts, heavy metals elsewhere - often in areas with poor records for human rights and so on. That's just one example.

This book also looks at why everyone is
Kristina Rocks
This book gives a stunning indictment not only of renewable energy, but of our entire social, economic and political system. A way of life that has many superior qualities, but that also encourages exploitation of our natural and human resources for short-term profit. What really disgusted me--even more than the expose on mis-information about so-called green energy or how industries target children in their ads--was the realization that the US government not only allows corporations to do this, ...more
Let me summarize this book for you and save you a great deal of time.

The beginning of the book (7 chapters) is about how alternative sources of energy won't produce much energy and how all sources of energy create pollution of one kind or another.

The second half of the book is about how we can reduce energy usage, both through using less energy without significantly reducing quality of life and reducing the population. He does offer clear specific (and ethical) examples of how to do these things
Jhone Chris
If this book were just an ax-grinding diatribe against green energy or a climate change denialist, I would not be bothering rating the book. Instead this book offers a lengthy (sometimes too lengthy) analysis of the history, ideology, religion, culture, etc, etc, etc of green identity and the present state of affairs. While he makes no secrets of where his sympathies lie with regard to corporate influence, his more practical ideas are more pro-community than outright socialist manifesto. He ends ...more
Jason Smith
We had to read this for class and write a response paper. I wrote about the section on carbon taxes vs energy taxes. The author argues that carbon taxes allow other side effects of energy production like radiation, groundwater pollution, and deforestation to go ahead without the same tax penalty. So, energy production would shift to those technologies and leave us with different problems. He argues for ENERGY tax instead, which brings down all energy consumption, not just the carbon based types.
A very real picture of what is needed to change our approach to reducing the carbon footprint. I recommend this to all.
Nadeeka Danthanarayana
My favourite book on environmentalism. I read for a class at University.
Everyone should read this book. At first, it seems to have been written by some oil company, as it points out the shortcomings of green alternative sources of energy. It does present some real eye-opening revelations. The second half of the book covers the social engineering that would help to alleviate our over-consumption of energy. Many of those changes, though admittedly something I would like to see implemented, are too pie-in-the-sky grand to accomplish. It's a book that is very provocativ ...more
Eric Li
Fascinating way to look at environmentalism. Zehner starts off by giving the middle finger to all the so called environmentalists by going through each alternative energy source and saying why it sucks. For example, solar cells are wayyyy too expensive and not feasible to build on any large scale and prices have been flattening out. Also the area would have to be huge and people would come and steal it so there would need to be fences, guards, maintenance issues (need to scrub off the dust or el ...more
Feb 07, 2015 Janet rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who want to be happier and who want to make a better world
Recommended to Janet by: Pat
I had assumed that options such as solar and wind power were great alternatives to oil and coal. This books sheds light on the fact that all options have downsides (whether it's having to anchor wind turbines 80 feet down into huge concrete slabs (1,700 cubic yards) or how unrecyclable solar panels are at the end of their relatively short lives).

Really this is about our learning to do more, with less [energy].Not only did he evaluate these popular green energy alternatives, but he discusses step
The truths that Ozzie Zehner lays bare about alternative energy sources in this book are a slap in the face for the mainstream environmental movement. I consider myself pretty in the know about the environment and what actions are most effective, but I can’t deny that I have swallowed the mass media’s version of our energy future, thinking that at any time there would be a huge breakthrough which will lower costs for solar or wind or electric batteries and that within a decade or two oil and coa ...more
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Ozzie Zehner is a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley STSC and author of Green Illusions (

He has spoken about energy and environmental issues on CNN, MSNBC, PBS, Science News Radio, New York Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Radio, and numerous college campuses. He has written for a variety of academic texts and magazines including Christian Science Monitor
More about Ozzie Zehner...

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“Wind is renewable. Turbines are not.” 10 likes
“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 battery-powered gadget ever created—the electric car—environmentalists cannot jump from their seats fast enough to applaud it.” 9 likes
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