SAN FRANCISCO – Bill Gates, the tech entrepreneur turned global philanthropist, says it’s not enough to use “lots of crazy-seeming ideas” to solve climate change. The cost of such clean energy must be lower than today’s options.
“If we just got energy that costs what it does today but doesn’t emit greenhouse gases, that’s a very good thing but it’s not nearly as exciting as getting energy that’s even cheaper,” Gates tells USA TODAY, whose annual Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation letter is out Monday. “Because for poor people, things like fertilizer, lighting, materials to build their housing, their budgets are in the physical world. So cutting the price of energy is very progressive and increasing it is very regressive.”
Gates is also adamant that scientific solutions to our warming planet must come from a partnership between government agencies and the private sector, a plan that he feels would have bipartisan support given that in the past such collaborations landed humans on the moon and created the Internet.
“I think government research is probably the least controversial of all government spending programs, which is saying a lot nowadays,” says the Microsoft co-founder. “If you look at the Department of Energy’s research and development budget, you’re asking to increase by a doubling, which would be an additional $6 billion, it’s not a huge thing, and if that really is letting America have cheaper energy and be the lead in these breakthroughs, I don’t think you’d be much of a partisan divide on that.”