Profile: Bill Gates

Profile: Bill Gates

Global business leader & Microsoft founder Bill Gates calls for the development of a form of energy, environmentally designed so that it’s not emitting carbon and helps address the climate change problem. “We can develop the low-cost clean-energy technologies so critically needed by the world’s poor and so essential to ensuring a sustainable planet for all of humanity”. The American Energy Innovation Council, on which Gates plays a critical role, immediately asks the US government to increase its annual expenditure on energy research and development by US$11bn to US$16bn a year.

By Jeff Bater in Wall Street Journal (14 June 2010):

Microsoft chief Bill Gates on Sunday called for the U.S. to become less dependent on foreign oil. But he conceded that it wouldn’t be easy.

Last week, the American Energy Innovation Council, a group of business leaders to which Gates belongs, released a report that argued that overhauling U.S. investment in energy innovation was the most critical element to securing America’s future. It recommended that the U.S. government increase annual investments in clean energy research and development by $11 billion.

Asked on ABC News’s “This Week” how receptive lawmakers have been to the pitch, Gates said: “Well, there is obviously a tight budget. And it would be tough to say that this money should come from existing categories.

“The question is, ‘Can the energy sector finance its own revolution and create these great R&D jobs here in America?’”

” He didn’t elaborate.


Bill Gates statement on the American Energy Innovation Council website:

The world faces many challenges, but none more important than taking immediate and decisive action to develop new, inexpensive clean-energy sources that avoid the negative effects of climate change. Low-cost clean energy is the single most important way to lift poor countries out of poverty and create more stable societies. The whole world would benefit from this, and the United States can and should lead the way.

Decreasing our dependence on coal, oil, and natural gas also will reduce the greenhouse gas pollution that is causing the earth to warm. If we do not dramatically reduce CO2 pollution associated with the use of high-carbon fuels, the earth will continue to get hotter, causing the sea to rise and creating unpredictable weather patterns with potentially catastrophic consequences.

While none of us will be immune from these adverse effects, they will be particularly devastating for the world’s poorest people. Increased droughts and floods, for example, could mean the difference between a harvest that sustains life and a crop failure that ends it.

I’m optimistic about our ability to meet this challenge, but the longer we delay, the more difficult it will be. Delay locks in expensive investments that have huge environmental consequences. Around the world, new coal-fired energy plants that will each emit 300 million tons of CO2 over their 50-year lifetime are being built to meet the world’s growing energy demand. At the same time, developing large amounts of low-cost and reliable clean energy will require time: 10 to 20 years of research and discovery, and, at the very least, another 20 years to build our new energy infrastructure. If we are to meet 2050 targets of reducing CO2 emissions by 80 percent, we must begin now.

With innovation and determination, we can develop the low- cost clean-energy technologies so critically needed by the world’s poor and so essential to ensuring a sustainable planet for all of humanity. Increased federal investment in energy R&D is an essential first step. The time for action is now.


Danny Bradbury in BusinessGreen (14 June 2010):

A group of industry leaders, including Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and General Electric boss Jeff Immelt, stepped up calls for a Manhattan project for low carbon energy last week urging the US government to significantly increase investment in energy research and development.

The group of business leaders formally launched a new group, the American Energy Innovation Council, which immmediately called on the government to increase its annual expenditure on energy research and development by $11bn to $16bn (£10bn) a year.

“Innovations in energy technology can generate significant, quantifiable public benefits that are not reflected in the market price of energy,” said the council in a statement, adding that government funding is essential as the level of risk associated with energy R&D makes it difficult to raise the necessary financing from the private sector.

The Council is formed of a number of high-profile executives with Norman Augustine, former chair of Lockheed Martin and John Doerr, partner at cleantech venture capital company Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, joining Gates and Immelt in the group.

“The government investment unlocks a huge amount of private sector activity, ” said Gates. “But the government has to prime the pump here. Basic ideas start with government investment.”

He added that without greater investment in energy R&D the US would struggle to reduce its reliance on oil. “American dependence on oil has only gone up as we’ve gone through various crises, and not invested in R&D,” he said. “We’ll be depending on oil for decades, but only if we start now will we see things like cars run by breakthrough batteries that change things in a dramatic way.”

The Council, which met with President Obama last Thursday, has set out a series of recommendations designed to reinvigorate US energy policy.

First, it has called for the formation of a non-partisan Energy Strategy Board that could co-ordinate a national energy strategy for the US.

Second, the group recommended that the amount spent on energy R&D should almost triple with immediate effect. “If recommendation two is not adopted, our other recommendations will not matter much. Reliance on incrementalism will not do the job,” the Council said.

The third recommendation calls for the creation of centres of excellence in various areas of energy research, backed by adequate funding. Costing between $150m and $250m per year, the group said that the new R&D hubs should be located in close proximity to each other, share operational objectives and be accountable to each other for results.

The Council also wants the government to commit $1bn in annual funding to the ARPA-E initiative, a Department of Energy programme which received $400m in stimulus funding last year. Modelled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program, it was designed to stimulate new thinking in energy research.

Finally, the group said that $20bn should be committed over ten years to fund an energy challenge program, which would be tasked with creating innovative energy pilot projects such as carbon capture and sequestration facilities, and fourth generation nuclear power plants.

The executives behind the new council all have a degree of vested interest in the low carbon energy sector. Gates recently announced that he is working on the development of a new form of nuclear reactor, while both GE and Lockheed Martin have targeted the renewable energy sector for growth in recent years. Meanwhile, John Doerr’s venture capital firm has emerged as one of the world’s top investors in clean tech start-ups.

However, the group is also representative of the growing number of business leaders calling for the accelerated transition towards a low carbon economy, and the American Energy Innovation Council will now join other increasingly vocal green business groups in campaigning for increased investment in low carbon technology.


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