By Suzie Romig for YVSC

What’s better for the environment, everyone in Steamboat Springs who can afford one buying an electric car or more people in town taking advantage of the bike path? Or, is it all of the above?

Author and university visiting scholar Ozzie Zehner, whose parents and brother live in Steamboat, will be in town to delve into those types of questions during the next Yampa Valley Sustainability Council Talking Green public event on Thursday.

Zehner will discuss his new book “Green Illusions,” which was published in June and is listed as a Top 20 Nonfiction recommended read for 2012 by

The inspiration for the book came while Zehner was working as an architect and realized, “There was a gap sometimes in what we think of as being green and what actually makes a difference or what could have an impact.”

As an example, Zehner said electric cars receive support from auto companies who seek a profit as well as from national-level lobbying, policy-making and research. On the other hand, the cause for creating more bike paths and lanes receives limited national support.

“Looking at pedestrian infrastructure has a strong greening impact but doesn’t get as much attention on the local and national stage and doesn’t create profit in the economy in the same way,” noted Zehner, whose articles on energy have appeared in national magazines. “I’m trying to find out how the facts are created and what interests are asking the questions that lead us to believe the environmental facts.”

The writer earned a master’s degree is the sociology of science at the University of Amsterdam and currently is a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. He lives in San Francisco but has visited Steamboat Springs often through the years and includes the positive environmental example of the Yampa River Core Trail in his book. He said the bike path is a good model for other cities to follow of a “real greening impact” compared to green washing.

For the talk in Steamboat, Zehner said he will “go through several green illusions and talk about ways that people can have an impact and not be green illusions.” He is an advocate for energy efficiency measures noting that on a national scale the U.S. wastes half of the energy used through inefficiencies in transportation systems, power grids and buildings. He said the Netherlands, for example, uses half the electricity of the U.S. per capita but has an equal standard of living.

The Sunday Times in London called Zehner “an academic who is causing shockwaves.” He has appeared on PBS, BBC, CNN and MSNBC and regularly guest lectures at universities.

Talking Green is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Steamboat Smokehouse in downtown.