This book and the talk below are definitely worth checking out for anyone interested in renewable energy and a more sustainable future. Ozzie Zehner asks hard questions about our preconceived notions about "clean, renewable energy" in order to best prepare us for the hard choices of the future.
Zehner explains how the energy sources mainstream environmentalists ussually hope will replace fossil fuels, such as wind or solar, might not be the panacea they are made out to be. His main point is that we dont have an energy production problem, but rather an energy consumption one. Zehner points out how current "clean" energy technologies have not reduced energy demands. Meanwhile, their construction and maintenance demand more energy and have their own unique problems, such as emitting other types of powerful greenhouse gases during solar cell manufacturing.
If consumption is the problem, as Ozzie Zehner suggests, then we need to shift our focus from suspect alternative energies to improving social and political fundamentals: walkable communities, improved consumption, enlightened governance, and, most notably, women’s rights. The dozens of first steps he offers are surprisingly straightforward. For instance, he introduces a simple sticker that promises a greater impact than all of the nation’s solar cells. He uncovers why carbon taxes won’t solve our energy challenges (and presents two taxes that could). Finally, he explores how future environmentalists will focus on similarly fresh alternatives that are affordable, clean, and can actually improve our well-being.
A free excerpt of the book can be found on the publisher's site. Also available is the brilliant 30min talk (+ Q&A) below the author gave at Google Headquarters where he discusses some of his main insights. Lots of great points to digest and discuss.