I subscribe to Wired Magazine. Every issue contains something that is thought-provoking, imagination stretching, or just plain cool...
Imagine my surprise when I opened up the July issue several weeks ago to find an interview with Bill Gates on the subject of energy. The article was based, in part on Gates' speech to the Wired Business Conference: Disruptive By Design.
Some rather direct statements by one of the world's most powerful and innovative men...
"If you gave me the choice between picking the next 10 presidents or ensuring that energy is environmentally friendly and a quarter as costly, I'd pick the energy thing."
Question: How has Fukushima changed your perspective on nuclear power?
Answer: "...The environmental and human damage is clearly very negative, but if you compare that to the number of people that coal or natural gas have killed per kilowatt-hour generated, it's way, way less. The nuclear industry has this amazing record, even equipment from generations one and two. But nuclear mishaps tend to come in these big events – Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and now Fukushima – so it's more visible. Coal and natural gas have much lower capital costs, and the tend to kill only a few at a time, which is highly preferred by politicians."
Question: ...When you look at the big picture, where should we be focusing besides nuclear?"
Answer: "If you're going for cuteness, the stuff in the home is the place to go. It's really kind of cool to have solar panels on your roof. But if you're really interested in the energy problem, it's those big things in the desert." (He's talking here about large central-generating solar plants, I presume.)
Question: What about the usage side? What do you think of the technologies that are increasing efficiency, cutting down on the amount of energy consumed?
Answer: "There's certainly lots of room for increasing efficiency. But can we, by increasing efficiency, deal with our climate problem? The answer is basically no."
Question: "So suffice to say we will find no solar cells on the roof of the Gates residence?
Answer: "Oh, we like to be cute like everyone. For rich people, this is OK. Rich people can do whatever they want."
Other quotes: "Ethanol has nothing to do with reducing carbon dioxide; it's just a form of farm subsidy.
So... checkout the Bill Gates Interview on the Wired Magazine website – and think about the over four billion people in this world who have little or no access to useful energy sources...