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Green Illusions

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  694 ratings  ·  87 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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Average rating 3.98  · 
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 ·  694 ratings  ·  87 reviews

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Oct 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sociology
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
May 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 07, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Randall Wallace
Dec 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On December 9th, 1949, our US Air Force deliberately secretly contaminated the civilian area around Hanford with radioactive iodine to dispassionately study it’s tragic effects on the local populace and plant life. Wow… Would it surprise you to know that our government didn’t do this criminal act once to it’s own citizens but “has sponsored at least several hundred secret releases of radiation throughout the United States”? Double wow… This amazing book is filled with energy/sustainability relat ...more
Sonali Daneil
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Henri Hämäläinen
Jul 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Patrick Johnson
Nov 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Frank Berg
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Zehner, albeit with a confronting voice, attacks pillars of the "Green Revolution" bringing needed scrutiny to a movement that has been politicized and undeveloped in the minds of the general public for some time. Most of it surprised me, some didn't. This is a great lens to look at if you're in the Sustainability or Conservation fields. ...more
Julia P.
Nov 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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). ...more
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There are many holy cows in the environmental debate. The imminent dangers of climate change is one. The imperative to completely switch to renewable energy sources as a solution to global warming is another. The debate, however, is highly polarized. In general, if one is politically conservative or to the Right, he develops a confirmation bias against the alarmist prognosis of climate change and the position that renewable energy solutions are a panacea. On the other hand, if one is on the Left ...more
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was surprised by how much I liked this. Just scanning some reviews I was prepared for a very polemical and contentious take on alternative energy, possibly from a conservative-in-disguise standpoint, and while it may arguably have been that (except for the conservative part) I also found myself pretty easily agreeing with everything Zehner wrote.

The subject is too broad to go over every point here, but the main gist of the book is Zehner's assertion that focusing on alternative methods of ener
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: environment
This is a book directed towards Americans about their energy usage and how best to obtain it and use it. As such, it accomplishes its task, but it does so in a very uneven way. The beginning chapters are about the alternatives to fossil fuels. Clearly, it is aimed at the "soft" environmentalists who think that being an environmentalist is as simple as just opposing what the Republicans want. (No diehard Republican would be caught dead reading this book.) In short, the book quite effectively tear ...more
Ravi Warrier
Jan 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: ecology, non-fiction
Before reading the book, I, like many others, was under the impression that alternative energy solutions was the answer to our growing environmental problems. This book is the proverbial other-side-of-the-coin.

As an uneducated (at least in the field of alternative energy) the arguments presented make a lot of sense and plausible, though a sceptic might find it to be an anti-greenwash campaign - my mind just cannot fathom that green technologies are not that green, perhaps in my naivety and optim
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics, urbanism
The alternative energy movement/industry has been co-opted by Big Oil and is a massive ruse to get subsidies. Solar power is inefficient. Wind power suffers from unpredictable supply issues and adverse environmental side effects. The risk of nuclear(fission) power is too high. Fusion is unfeasible. Hybrid cars are a red herring and a PR gimmick by the oil and car industries. So where do we go from here?

The author's basic premise is that technology is not a panacea and we need to completely revis
Brendan Holly
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Brendan by: Emma Anderson
This book is important. For anyone with any interest in the planet, our society, and sustainability, Green Illusions is a must. Anyone lacking an interest in the aforementioned topics should quickly read up on climate change and environmental degradation. These "phenomena" are continually being worsened by our ridiculously excessive consumption.
This book shattered the "alternative energy" dream that most environmentalists are clinging to for the much less sexy strategy of conservation. Zehner m
Mar 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-or-5-stars
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
Jason Smith
Nov 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mark Donovan
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure if it's confirmation bias, but this book echoes many of the concerns I have with going green. The first half was excellent factually describing the shortfalls of existing energy sources. The second half was thought provoking presenting many energy conservation solutions and wins I had never considered.

I would recommend to anyone who thinks they care about the environment.
Greg Allan Holcomb
Jun 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
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." ...more
Oct 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Very informative, should have been a 4 but it took me 2 months to finish it!!!!
Nadeeka Danthanarayana
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My favourite book on environmentalism. I read for a class at University.
Sep 09, 2012 rated it liked it
INteresting evaluation of the pro & cons of green energy
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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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

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