BERKELEY, Calif. -- Renewable energy technologies do not offset fossil fuel use in the United States, according to a new environmental book, Green Illusions (June 2012, University of Nebraska Press), by University of California – Berkeley visiting scholar Ozzie Zehner. In fact, building more solar cells and wind turbines could actually accelerate fossil fuel use unless nations take other steps to avoid a rebound effect.
Many renewable energy researchers assume that building solar cells and wind farms will displace coal use and lower carbon dioxide levels.
However, Zehner explains that subsidizing renewable energy merely expands energy supplies, which exerts a downward pressure on prices.
Energy demand subsequently increases. "This brings us right back to where we started: high demand and so-called insufficient supply," says Zehner. "Historically, we've filled that added demand by building more coal-fired power plants, not fewer."
"We create an energy boomerang," Zehner remarked during a recent PBS interview. "The harder we throw energy into the grid, the harder demand comes back to hit us on the head. More efficient solar cells, taller wind turbines, and advanced biofuels are all just ways of throwing harder."