Bill Gates: Solar Power Is "Cute"

These days, everybody wants to be green. Everybody, that is, but Bill Gates.

Across the markets, stocks like First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR  ) and Sunpower (Nasdaq: SPWRA  ) are the talk of the town, favorites of momentum investors, and gaining fans even among Big Oil. Giant corporations like General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) and United Technologies (NYSE: UTX  ) are betting big on wind power and "concentrated" solar power, respectively. Why, even the ordinarily practical Warren Buffett recently got sucked into the green movement, when Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B  ) invested mega-millions in a Chinese electric car start-up.

Actually, Gates himself is no slouch in the save-the-world department. A proponent of "creative capitalism," he's doling out his Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) billions on projects to end the AIDS epidemic in Africa, equip developing-nation youths with PCs, and wipe out cholera. It's really only the green energy industry he's got a bone to pick with.

Last week, he damned the industry with faint praise at a NYC conference, calling wind and solar energy "cute," but hardly the solution to our problems. Says the original Mr. Softy, it doesn't matter how efficient wind and solar technology become. Neither tech possesses the necessary oomph to "deal with our climate problem … because the climate problem requires more than 90% reduction of CO2 emitted, and no amount of efficiency improvement is enough." For every one step forward developed nations make in becoming more energy efficient, the billions of energy consumers coming on-line in the developing world will take the globe two steps back -- and they'll use dirtier fuels to do it.

So we're doomed, right?
It sure sounds like it. But remember that Gates is all about creative capitalism. Solar and wind may not pack enough punch to reverse global climate change -- but don't lose heart. "There is an app for that." (Not the precise phrase he used.)

Gates's solution: Nuclear.

Last year, Gates joined other investors in providing a $35 million cash infusion to TerraPower, a start-up that has designed a nuclear reactor capable of running 50 years without refueling. That's assuming the absence of any 9.0 earthquake-cum-tsunami scenarios, I presume. But even admitting the risks, nuclear's advantages seem to outweigh them. Consider that, over in France, nuclear power suffices to provide 80% of that country's electricity. Compare that to "green" boosters here in the U.S., who optimistically argue we might satisfy 10% of our electricity demand with wind … and geothermal and biofuels combined, and I think you'll see what Gates is driving at.

Foolish takeaway
Fukushima Daiichi notwithstanding, nuclear's still the answer.

Disagree? Hey, it's the Fool -- feel free. If you've got a contrary view, scroll down and sound off.

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks named above. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended Berkshire Hathaway, Microsoft, and First Solar. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in Microsoft. Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2011, at 2:39 PM, DownwardlyMobile wrote:

    The answer is to use less energy, not how to get more - stop taking life as we know it for granted. It's only been 100 years. Doesn't mean we're doomed though. Lot of room to improve life whether or not energy and pollution are an issue. Building a culture that values families limited to zero, one, or two kids maximums, getting serious about public transportation where you can do other things while someone else drives, walking/biking while getting useful exercise, being happy with awesome things like indoor plumbing and heat while trying not to be wasteful about how you use them, doing things that don't require electrical or other forms of energy like playing an actual acoustic musical instrument instead of an iPod or CD player for example. What did people do 100 years ago? We don't have to go back to that, because we have efficiencies we didn't have then, but using everything up and/or drowning ourselves with our own waste trying to maintain some illusion is not an option. The emperor is wearing no clothes.

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2011, at 2:45 PM, rummelraider wrote:

    Gates may have been a wiz at creating a software company, but he needs to do his homework on CO2 and global warming. Among the many problems with the anthropogenic climate change theory is that the rise in CO2 FOLLOWS the rise in temperature by some 700 years. Hardly likely to be a cause, therefore.

    The design for nuclear power plants he is promoting is very interesting and would be a great help for our energy needs. Selling it on the basis of junk science gives it the smell of snake oil.

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2011, at 3:16 PM, fppjr wrote:

    Why do people fail to consider recycle when solving problems? If you can't clean up the environment from a solution then it is a bad solution in the long run. You can not find a good solution to problems using the myopic view of one path is the best answer in all cases.

    Nuclear energy has the problem of not everything can be recycled to be safe for when the human is no longer on this planet.

    Laws become antiquated almost as soon as they are written and should have sunset clauses. They certainly only apply to very specific situations that do not exist out side the myopic mentality of those making the laws.

    When we Homo sapiens accept the reality that we have a dangerously myopic view of our existence on this planet then maybe we will make our solutions more compatible with nature and each others living requirements; and quite possibly maybe a new respect for each other creating less government intrusion in our lives.

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2011, at 4:32 PM, Observer310 wrote:

    We can't get our own citizens (U.S.) to conserve,

    lower childbirth numbers, recycle etc. Who is going to convince China/ India and the rest to do it??

    They are too busy trying to catch up with our wasteful ways...

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2011, at 4:57 PM, bluesguy84 wrote:

    As usual we are looking for a single solution, when in fact we have a complex problem that requires a multi-pronged solution:

    1. Reduce the amount of energy being used by being more efficient in our usage.

    2. Nuclear power to provide the back bone of electrical power for the massive grid system we have in the USA.

    3. Solar & Wind solutions that can be deployed to solve/augment local sites. Change the laws to override all local ordinance which might prevent the use of solar and wind. Thereby allowing homeowners to install solar and maybe neighbors/neighborhoods/businesses to install wind systems to generate power locally.

    4. Use fossil fuels in places where electricity really won't work well - air travel comes to mind.

    5. More mass transit

    6. Discourage suburbia by changing the laws so that if a developer wants to build a new homes they have to provide full infrastructure for those homes including roads, utilities, schools, etc.

    7. Encourage infill and redevelopment in the cities by having cities condemn properties, tear them down and then make the property available for home builders.

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2011, at 5:43 PM, kirkydu wrote:

    The newest designs for nuclear reactors burn fuel down so far there is virtually no waste. Because the plants can be small, buried and do not rely on cooling systems that can be knocked out the risk of meltdown is slim and even a meltdown at one of the new generation plants wouldn't be catastrophic. Old nuclear power plants all need to be replaced, but the ones on the drawing board are a core solution to the future of power needs. Contrary to Gates however is the fact that nano-technology is within about a decade of making solar viable not only as an intermittent power source, but a core source due to advancement in battery technology, i.e. ZBB Energy's flow battery.

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2011, at 6:10 PM, RyanRusson wrote:

    @rummelraider: Nice troll. Just a guess, but I think Bill Gates is probably smarter, more successful, and better informed than you. And he's smart enough to not let political bias cloud his judgment by putting politics before facts.

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2011, at 7:34 PM, RegLeCrisp wrote:

    @ buyaluminum: cuckoo ca choo

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2011, at 10:23 PM, rummelraider wrote:

    RyanRusson, perhaps you should do you homework just as Gates need to do his. The "science" behind man made global warming is bunk. Being a brilliant businessman in software does not equate to understanding the chaotic system that is our climate. My guess is that I've read more on this issue in the past 15 years, including many studies, pro and con, reports from the United Nations' IPCC (including commentary by dissenters that was left out of the reports and the rules by which the reports are written, by governmental bureaucrats not scientists).

    Gates has a fine design for a nuclear power plant which actually uses nuclear waste as fuel, but he is all wet on global warming. Anyone who goes beyond the alarmist headlines understands that there are many climate scientists who disagree with the zeitgeist of the AGW movement.

  • Report this Comment On May 14, 2011, at 7:29 PM, chyten wrote:

    like it or not, nuclear power is here to stay.

    The Chinese are ramping up for mega nuclear use, as are many other countries, including India and the U.S.

    While you may be politically or even morally opposed to use of nuclear energy, as an investor, it is best to be agnostic, and invest where money is to be made which, in this case, are companies that pull uranium out of the ground.

    I persoanlly am long Hathor, HTHFX, which is about to start to become one of the few producers of uranium.

    If you want to be more conservative, Cameco, CCJ, is the big Kahuna of uranium pr

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2011, at 12:06 PM, noduh wrote:

    ..."calling wind and solar energy "incredible," and absolutely the solution to our problems. Says the original Mr. Softy, it matters how efficient wind and solar technology become. Solar tech possesses the necessary oomph to 'deal with our climate problem'"

    Hey look, I just said something with as much factual support as Bill Gates! So the two cancel each other out, and now Motley Fool will run an article about me!

    Bill, if you want to knock solar power, just try reference the facts - because they're aren't any. Solar Power is THE solution - the only solution - to our energy problems.

    The fact is that for the same portion of GDP that we currently spend on energy (15%), we can build a complete solar infrastructure and provide for all of our energy needs (not just transportation). Do your own research people.

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2011, at 1:22 PM, atrophik wrote:

    @noduh

    You're kidding right?

    "Solar Power is THE solution - the only solution - to our energy problems."

    Really, guy?

    Anybody that claims any ONE thing is the ONLY solution, clearly doesn't grasp the situation. I'm glad you see some benefit in using solar energy, but it's blatantly obvious that you don't know enough about it, or the "big picture" on the whole.

    Do yourself a favor, look into a lot more than one topic before spouting off on the internet. I know you're trying to sound really smart (as a lot of people seem to be doing on here), but simply ranting about the first thing that makes a little sense to you is pretty narrow.

    And to the rest of the people posting here:

    Throwing out a bunch of fancy buzz words doesn't make you sound smarter than the guy who posted before you. That's half our problem. People would rather argue and try to make each other look stupid, than to simply work together for a common solution.

    Just my point-zero-two, though.

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2011, at 1:23 PM, oneye1i wrote:

    The same Bill Gates that once declared that "64K ought to be enough for anyone"? The same Bill Gates that never innovated anything in his life? This is a visionary I trust.

    As proof, I offer that Gates, using his trust, could have solved the malaria problem in Africa years ago. Build ten thousand factories - in AFRICA -making mosquito nets. A billion mosquito nets at $1 each is only a billion dollars.

    What's the problem Bill, don't have a billion dollars? Or don't have the foresight? Or don't have the vision? Or can't do the math? I think the problem is that Bill Gates wants a sexy, complicated, heroic solution, like a GMO mosquito.

    And of course, the king NEVER stoops so low as to actually ask Africans to design the solution. He, the King, surrounds himself with important award-winning scientists, brilliant like himself, priests in the money religion.

    I am scientist enough that I could be swayed that nuclear is the way to go. I am a skeptic, so you do have persuade me. So far, NOT SWAYED.

    And I am persuaded that a mix of solar, geothermal, hydro and wind is the way to go, with high-tech batteries for storage.

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2011, at 1:34 PM, louchios50 wrote:

    Nuclear power is a white elephant. The start up cost for a reactor is astronomical and even if a plant lasted 100 years it wouldnt cover the cost. And afterwards you have to bury them under concrete and hope your grandchildren can fiqure out how to survive the waste. Another burden for the tax payer.

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2011, at 3:42 PM, saenoamericano wrote:

    I read about an Idea using off shore oil rig drilling platforms re fitted with bouys that would use the motion of the waves to generate power. We got the platform tech, we got the oceans with rough enough wave motion year round and we already have the equipment to deliver it to the user. Unfortunately, we also have people who think wher do I hook the meter up to charge people outrageous and ever rising fees, and if they cant pay up, cut them off. Another group that says that this can not be allowed for it will cut into our profits. Finally the group that goes around scaring little kids with movies about the world ending because of the very stuff he made his fortune from. They are one and the same.

    Victor Schauberger said if you want to learn something watch the way nature does it. Ever here of Nikola Tesla. Research them and some of the stuff they developed. The answers to these problems have been around for many years but there is no profit in solving a problem. There are huge profits in developing 'new' technology like hybrid cars that use both electricity and fuel double bonus for them.

    Solar Wind Nuclear and Fossil Fuel all have their problems and none will provide the final solutionn to the energy problem alone. The problem is the people who put profit above all. We are on a sinking ship like the Titanic with out enough lifeboats. the funny thing is with all the wealth or material things the above have acquired do you think they could buy a seat on a life boat. I dont think so, not even if you throw in a handfull of carbon credits.

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2011, at 1:58 AM, nythingspossible wrote:

    There's a piece of critical thinking often overlooked here. Whether coal or nuclear, the electricity itself comes from a giant alternator within the power plant, just like the alternator under the hood of most cars, but on a massive scale. Alternators use magnetic fields to generate electricity. But when the electricity actually flows, it generates its own magnetic field that pushes against the motion. Get it? It acts as a brake. A brake on a giant scale. That is why so much fuel -- of whatever type -- is required, it is to overcome the brake action of the magnetic fields used to generate the electric power. There is ample room for a disruptive technology to occur where alternators of 21st century design simply no longer act like giant brakes. This removes the requirement for such huge amounts of fuel, and the cost of electric power falls to about 1/3 its present average rate around 10c/kWh. Establishment physicists love to say this is against the laws of thermodynamics, so you can bet the technology will disrupt more than just the financial markets!

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2011, at 12:09 PM, DeathMercury wrote:

    Mr. Gates, the Australians are building magnetic generators that allow for the use of free energy. How are Americans supposed to compete in a global economy when our commodities are increasing in price, when in other places such as our friends in Australia, magnetic generators are going to put "free energy/electricity" at the hands of millions. Why not invest in this technology?

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2011, at 1:28 PM, Howard1ii wrote:

    Wind and Solar are only the answer if we can figure out how to store it. Washington state is requiring the wind turbines in eastern Washington to be shut down, because the increased snow melt this year is overwhelming our hydroelectric systems and the transmission lines. We will have excess clean energy but no way to send it anywhere and no way to store it up.

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2011, at 1:36 PM, hanthony1123 wrote:

    Global warming is a giant lie. CO2 isn't causing climate change...There's a direct correlation between the global climate and the sun. High sun spot activity = higher temperature.

    If CO2 is such a problem, then soda should be banned. We should kill off the entire population as well, since we produce CO2 each time we breathe.

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2011, at 2:04 PM, RyanRusson wrote:

    @rummelraider: We will figure out a solution to climate change --I have no doubt. And I'm with Bill Gates's assessment that reduction of carbon emissions alone can't solve the problem. I'm also with Gates (and nearly everyone qualified to have an opinion) in acknowledging that the problem is real. I suppose if you want to dispute it--or the moon landing--that's your prerogative.

    For anyone reading this that isn't bent on forcing reality to fit their opinion, here's a good educational resource for debunking politically motivated trolls:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

    Now, back to talking about investing...

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2011, at 4:41 PM, pastreet wrote:

    Something has to give eventually. Hybrid technology and burning food instead of oil can only get us so far. Increased use of renewable resources coupled with reduced demand are what is required. Indeed, the country that gets it right first will be the one to invest in. Sadly, the United States is falling far behind, and I fear that we will lose a great deal of economic strength without an increased push for energy independence and R+D.

    Politics aside, we've got to keep our economy strong, and depending on our enemies to supply us with fuel is not the way to do it.

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2011, at 6:23 PM, Darwood11 wrote:

    My comment: some of the commenters make good points. Some are clueless.

    My take? Most of "us" couldn't plan our own retirement, figure out how to LBYM (that's "Live Below Your Means," not "Live Beyond Your Means), figure out how to save 20% and then purchase an adequate one so we can purchase a home and not go underwater in 10 years, or lose our shirts in the process of "getting rich." My suggestion? Get an education at RYR or one of the other MF services.

    My thanks to Rich Smith for stirring up the bottom and revealing just how clueless we really are!

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2011, at 6:24 PM, Darwood11 wrote:

    PS; I'm no fan of Bill Gates. But that's beside the point.

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2011, at 6:54 PM, stan8331 wrote:

    Wow, it's a little scary to see what's trolling around out there in the Internet.

    I agree with Gates that nuclear has to be a major part of the solution, but it can't do us much good for transportation in the near term and in this case the near term matters. We need to pursue anything that has major potential to reduce greenhouse emissions, but we can't afford to wait around for an extensive build-out of solar or wind or other alternative infrastructure.

    That's where natural gas comes in. It's not exactly green, but it already has a good infrastructure, it's a lot cleaner than oil or coal and the U.S. is its Saudi Arabia. NG won't require any foreign wars over possible supply disruptions.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 12:23 AM, sweedld wrote:

    There several new nculear reactor designs with fail safe feaures sorely lacking in the boiling water reactors designed in the 1950's and '60's. It is frightening to realize how many pumps and control systems are required to keep these second generation reactors working. The soliton wave reactor that has Bill's fancy has almost no moving parts and works through an ingenious design that needs to be scaled up and tested in a US government facility to see how it functions. The mathematics behind the concept are very sophisticated and that may be the appeal to Gates highly analytical mind. My 80 year old Mum schooled me on an alternative reactor vased on Thorium that doesn't make new Plutonium or U235 but can consume them. These Thorium reactors can burn a lot of radioactive waste being generated by existing U235 boiling water reactors and she understands the concepts better than I. Clearly, new designs need to be launched with US Gov assistence. The stake are high. Wind and solar also need to be a part of our grid. But coal is a huge problem even when scrubbed for mercury emissions. China knows it must move away from coal and is exploring Thorium reactor technology with vigor.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 1:35 AM, hkhenson wrote:

    There is an energy project that scales to at least ten times current human energy use, solar power satellites.

    The idea has been around since the late 1960s, but didn't make economic sense because of the high cost to get parts out to geosynchronous orbit.

    For 5 kg/kW and 2 cent per kWh power (ten year payback of capital) the magic number is $100/kg--which is a reduction of 200 times from the current cost of getting parts to GEO. It's still way more than the limit energy cost of around a dollar a kg.

    The method is beamed energy, which is used to heat the rocket exhaust much hotter than is possible from chemical reactions. Recent advances in high power lasers and microwave generators have made this possible.

    It's a big project, but probably not more than $40 each from a billion people. For that, we would get low cost power and synthetic gasoline for around a dollar a gallon--from the same oil companies we have known so long.

    The nice thing about it is the fast energy payback. Ground solar and wind take 1-4 years, this pays back the energy to build it and put it in place in less than two months.

    More if you Google for dollar a gallon or ask by email.

    Keith Henson

    hkeithhenson(at) gmail (dot) com

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 4:47 AM, ClellandMorin wrote:

    I sent an e-message to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation some time ago. As for Education, if the world doesn't come to grips with human population pollution, I don't see how we can ever catch up with cleaning up the planet or providing for it's inhabitants. // Jean Clelland-Morin

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 5:40 AM, remunovee1977 wrote:

    Stop using so much energy. Switch it all off. Now. Are you still reading this? It's all your fault now. What a waste. These words are worthless. A complete waste of energy. Causing the spillage of more CO2 into the atmosphere. Though maybe the electricity your currently using is the green stuff, from the wind turbine, the hydro dam, or the solar panel. All could be ok then. Or maybe not - what about the energy used to make the computer, or even the energy used to make the turbine, the dam, or the solar panel, plus the vehicles used to transport them. And then there is the electric power cables to transport the energy from the hillside to the house or factory. Have I missed anything. Most likely. The lesson? Buy energy companies. We can't stop using and buying energy, so we may as well gain from it.

    (P.S. If Bill Gates is being so nice as to supply computers to those who don't have is he simply contributing to the problem?)

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 7:05 AM, cardiodude1 wrote:

    I love nuclear energy but global warming is a myth designed to control peoples economic activity, nothing more. One thing I never hear discussed, suppose we were successful in getting enough energy from wind and solar to run out lives, what effect would that have on climate. Solar and wind energy are the primary contributors of weather. Just thinking for myself here.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 9:06 AM, OneLegged wrote:

    Nuclear is the answer, but probably not using Uranium derived fuels. Thorium has many advantages.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 9:14 AM, technorodent wrote:

    Gates is right.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 11:22 AM, MontyPitts wrote:

    I want to be frank about this: I think that we should strive to make all energy-consuming devices, vehicles, etc., as energy efficient as possible. That's just good, common sense. However, I don't want to take my life back to the stone age, by trying to lower the quality of my life by being deprived of energy. Burning fossil fuels is inherently bad- whether it's coal or gas. Solar and wind CANNOT provide anywhere near enough power, but should be considered a viable supplement. The ONLY solution we have, like it or not, is by using the immense potential of atomic energy. We simply MUST spend our efforts on developing and enhancing clean, safe, reliable, and natural-disaster-proof nuclear power plants. Face it: we're going to use MORE energy in the future, not less. We must get off of our collective butts, and get started.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 11:25 AM, fwupow wrote:

    The pro-Nuke ppl are like shifty roofers who don't wanna tell you what they're gonna do, what materials they're gonna use and how long it's gonna last but just want you to cut 'em a check. "What are you? Ronny roof expert? Shuddup and write the check!"

    If you can't show us your nuke plant design and how it's gonna be multiple-simultaneous mega-disaster proof, then Shuddup & come back when you're serious.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 11:49 AM, lightninrod wrote:

    YO!

    Everybody take up the AMISH ways.

    Besides, they DON'T believe that the world will end this Saturday, May 21st. anyway!

    They "survive" nicely without:

    Computers

    Cars

    Nukes

    and electricity.

    Imagine this!

    Bring back the ole horse-n-bugy days.

    - - -

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 11:59 AM, hs77 wrote:

    I watched the interview and this article has misinterpreted Bill Gate's comments. He was talking about small scale renewable energy projects for e.g. residential installations like solar panels on rooftops. His contention was that these small scale projects will never make economic sense hence cannot be the solution. But he also said that renewable energy alone cannot solve the global warming or sustainability challenges. So the answer is somewhere in the middle.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 12:15 PM, foolsarule wrote:

    Give me a break! For a Billionaire to be preaching anything is totally self-serving. When will people stop being led around like sheep with a ring in their nose? Of course corporations are going to blame the little guy for using too much electricity, gas and resources. Sure why not take the stairs up 20 flights of stairs? So the Billionaire can fire up his corporate jet to where ever for a "conference". It's the old adage....if we could land a man on the Moon with the paltry technical resources available in the 1960's.... then somebody can figure out how big business can reduce their own global footprint. But you know what? It will never happen as long as corporation's CEO's carry 30 million dollar compensation packages and golden parachute buyouts. Why? It takes money reinvested into companies to find energy resources. So who wants to give up their share of the profit-pie to do this! You know what public? Grow up, and start thinking for yourself for a change! Doomed? Yes!

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 12:17 PM, Venestates wrote:

    Ebay HQ in San Jose, CA uses this Bloom Box, and the CEO states this box produces enough energy to power his building and more energy than his entire roof of solar panels. why aren't we exploring and investing in this technology? Read on...

    Sridhar said he began developing the technology as part of an effort to make Mars habitable for humans. But Sridhar now sees the Bloom Box as important technology in global development - an equalizer for poorer countries with nothing like the energy infrastructures of the United States and Western Europe.

    The technology is based on solid oxide fuel cells, which works like a battery but has a persistent source of fuel, such as natural gas, to keep the electricity flowing. However, at this juncture the Bloom Box is still pricey compared to cost per kilowatt for wind and solar power. The question is if and when Bloom Energy can drive down the costs to about $3,000 for a shoebox-sized fuel cell to power a house in the United States.

    Ebay uses this Bloom Box, and the CEO states this box produces more energy than both his entire roof of

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 12:55 PM, GMJnNYC wrote:

    Our current energy policy is not dependent on just one thing so why would the solution be? It will come from a synthesis of new energy sources and reduced energy consumption. It will be about how we build, maintain and demolish buildings; how we travel; how our cities are designed, etc. It will be so many things and it will have to be a deliberate and conscientious effort.

    The continued denying of the connection between CO2 and global warming won't help this situation. I am sure none of the deniers have a scientific background or have even opened a science book. The same thing happened with the acid rain and asbestos debate. Remember, don't feed the trolls.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 1:13 PM, n0thing wrote:

    Why do so many people bash solar and wind, while all evidence suggests they both hold loads of promise? It is possible for us to get the majority of our energy from these sources. Also, nuclear fuel will run out just like oil will. Once we run out of stuff to dig out of the ground and burn, we'll have no choice but to do things in a sustainable way.

    The future is in solar, wind, and biofuel. So why not put our efforts there now? Is a cleaner planet not worth a premium?

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 2:12 PM, caltex1nomad wrote:

    Gate's is spot on. As i have said before the Reactors in Japan were/are first generation. Nuclear technology is improving. The technology Gate's is investing in is still a few years off but, it is viable. We will have small neighborhood reactors.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 2:20 PM, Duke5343 wrote:

    Gates said 12 years ago when he went crusading in the world he could Feed Afrcia in 10 years- Failed at that onem, he never figured how bad the corruption was in Afcrica , stick to computers or maybe real help to real people. Should leave natural diseases alone, too many in the World

    Still have 300 years of LNG, Coal and Oil let technology catch up

    NUKE is not as cheap as most believe

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 3:06 PM, jonezen1 wrote:

    Tsunamis and mega-earthquakes aside (almost old news, right?), when considering just how clean, efficient and safe nuclear energy is, let's remember to factor in a small handful of unpleasant realities that we'll be contending with over the next 50 years: severe shifts in climatatic patterns and the inevitable mass migration of peoples seeking arable land, wars over borders, diminishing resources, and religious intolerence, unsustainable disparities between the richest and poorest, and international terrorists' plans to continue exploiting the security weakness of existing infrastructures to wreak the maximum amount of havoc by any means necessary.

    After reading this, would anyone who posted in favor of building more nuclear power plants, buried or not, put your money where your mouth is, and make plans to move your family within a mile or two of an existing installation. Someone less fortunate than you may very well have a home for sale within your price range, and you could always sweeten your offer with your uranium stocks.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 4:43 PM, cjyoung2 wrote:

    Solar is useless in large utility-scale facilities. It simply doesn't have the density. The only way to have solar make a dent is with consumer-level deployment. Using a little math, 100 million installations of 10 square meters each (about one on every house in the US) will provide 10% of the US electricity budget. With current technology, that would cost half a trillion dollars.

    But take 10% from solar, 10% from wind, and 20% from the current nuclear fleet , you have 40% from zero-carbon sources. Double each, that's 80%.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 5:09 PM, buzz63 wrote:

    Gates opinion should matter in this case as he is investing for a sustainable future and not short term greed, ( 8% return).

    Nuclear energy (thorium) would be better than oil and hydro by a reduction in environmental impact.

    Reduce the cost of gasoline by getting rid of ICE, (gasoline is not a commodity, oil is).

    Realise that every time we connect to the Internet its like a refrigerator being turned on in energy usage..... we need to curb it.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 5:43 PM, MarkGoldes wrote:

    Black Swans are being born that produce cheap green energy.

    An Energy Catalyst is in production and the inventor claims it will produce electricity for a penny per kilowatt hour.

    A biofuel breakthrough promises diesel at $20/barrel.

    See Energy Catalyst, Moving Beyond Oil and Black Swans on the Aesop Institute website.

    Gates is so far backing the wrong horses.

    Cheap green energy can supersede fossil and radioactive fuels.

    See Green Light on that same website for a serious threat that will accelerate the process.

    Black Swans are highly improbable events with huge potential that are quietly transforming the energy arena.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2011, at 8:02 PM, meinbendir wrote:

    Use less energy and find more applications for existing energy tech. Think wind turbine, then instead of a propeller, think paddle wheel. Think Mississippi River and 1 million cu ft of water a second moving 24-7 by 365. Row wheels up for a thousand miles. Then do the other shoreline. Water under a paddel wheel is inefficient, but a river is nonstop and keeps on rollin. Moving the EQ up and down with the river stage is just an engineering problem.

    Gates could one a weekend. Anybody could. I can't be the first one to think of such a thing.

  • Report this Comment On May 18, 2011, at 12:07 AM, marc5477 wrote:

    This site is full of nut jobs.... So billy has an opinion on global warming. I like his nuclear idea regardless of what his other views are. I much prefer dealing with nuclear waste, which can be dealt with, rather than pushing tons of gas into the air that cant be dealt with. I also like solar but it is not a ready for prime time yet. The cost remains too high and the batteries are a big problem. Wind is very limited. Magnet generators... you cant be serious this thing has been around for 50 years there is a reason we don't use it... it sucks lol.

  • Report this Comment On May 18, 2011, at 7:24 AM, PeakOilBill wrote:

    According to the International Energy Agency, the world's forty major oil fields that supply about half the oil we use, are being depleted at a rate of 6% per year. Most of these fields were found 40 years ago. Oil supplies roughly 95% of the energy used in transportation today, and 35% of all the energy used by mankind.

    Guess what is coming.

  • Report this Comment On May 18, 2011, at 4:22 PM, aldousworp wrote:

    It's great to hear from Keith Henson again. Satelite Solar Power has become so politically incorect that it's hard to find anyone who listen to the concept for 5 minutes. It seems we've raised a generation or two of Luddites. They all "know" that space transportation will always be WAY TOO EXPENSIVE to alow SSP to be economical. They're also afraid of microwave beams and that we'll pollute space.

  • Report this Comment On May 18, 2011, at 6:50 PM, mrsanders2 wrote:

    If we had been researching and developing solar and wind since the 1970s like Jimmy Carter wanted( He installed panels on the White House, which Reagan destroyed ) We would probably be nearly oil independant by now.

    There are recent developments involving believe it or not viruses that can assemble carbon nanotubes to increase solar panel output by 30%, and even spray painted photovoltaic coating.

    Collecting energy at point of use reduces the need for transmission lines.

    The Sun has powered all life on Earth for millenia, if we want to we can do it. It is only greed that has stopped us so far.

  • Report this Comment On May 19, 2011, at 11:58 AM, ikkyu2 wrote:

    Great post, but I like the comments best - climate change deniers, peak-oilers, a guy who calls for development of a perpetual motion machine, another one who calls for ten thousand mosquito net factories to be built in Africa at the same time as he yells that the Africans ought to be made to solve their own malaria problem. And the guy who wants to dam up the Mississippi for hydro power - hey genius, ever hear of upstream flooding? Go check out a beaver sometime.

    It takes a real man, posting a real post, to bring this many disparate nutbars together in cacophony, Rich. Kudoes.

  • Report this Comment On May 19, 2011, at 1:18 PM, ramon123 wrote:

    It's astounding for someone (especially from California) to actually provide a voice of reality

    in the area of green energy. This country os so energy ignorant, we have comments like those of Rich Smith who obviously has no concept of the

    nuclear power technology advanced by Gates. his version is AIR cooled , Rick. Do you know what that means? Rick simply has a knee jerk reaction (emphasis on "jerk") in which he lies that Gates'

    nuclear power plant poses some risk. By the way, Rick, few were injured by the Japanese nuclear "disaster", while over 20,000 were killed by that "renewable" tsunami from Mother Nature.

  • Report this Comment On May 19, 2011, at 11:46 PM, liveoilfree wrote:

    Gates is wrong, not to say stupid. ASES estimated solar alone can provide 160,000 tW (our current power draw is 18 tW); nuclear power requires massive use of electric to enrich the fuel -- why nuke weapons plants are located near TVA and WHOOPs.

    Solar and wind provide more power than we need -- and the unused 10,000 square miles of sunny rooftops should be covered by prismatic solar panels, which protect the roof and cool it (there's a 6" gap between the panel and roof).

    Why not use every bit of unused rooftop space? It's cheaper than grid electric, much cheaper than nuclear, and the best thing, heck, it would ADD to our present plant twice its current capacity.

    Wind works at night, and giant existing pumper-generator stations (like Castaic) store the energy cheaply.

  • Report this Comment On May 20, 2011, at 11:13 AM, mhy729 wrote:

    Heh...one of the more popular solar ETFs on the market is "KWT"

  • Report this Comment On May 20, 2011, at 11:41 AM, CluckChicken wrote:

    "Bill, if you want to knock solar power, just try reference the facts - because they're aren't any. Solar Power is THE solution - the only solution - to our energy problems." - noduh

    The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, which is in the works in the Mojave will cover 3,200 acres of land and produce enough electricity to power 140,000 average american homes (avg home uses 31.2 kw per day, 936 per month). New York City in 2003 estimated that it would require 11,020 Mw to meet single day peeks, that is equal to 355,484 avg homes.

    Somebody else can do the math to figure out how much space is needed to make solar power THE answer and feel free to ignore the avg daily sun values for that calculation.

  • Report this Comment On May 20, 2011, at 12:33 PM, matban wrote:

    The last research done into solar energy brouight a dark secret to light. Solar energy derives all of its strength from a thermonuclear reaction. It is, indeed, a nuke. The upside is that it is at a safe distance from us and all significant radioactive wastes are self contained and don't have to be stored in somebody's backyard.

  • Report this Comment On May 20, 2011, at 12:37 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    640 acres per square mile means Ivanpah is about 5 square miles. If we filled Texas' 268,000 square miles up with solar power plants operating at the same levels as Ivanpah, that would be 53,600 plants of an equivalent power. Since 1,000 such plants could power 140,000,000 homes - which I would estimate to be not too far off from the number of households in America - we'd have enough excess energy left over to power the rest of the planet, a bitchin' space program, and endless re-runs of "Cheers."

    I'm not specifically advocating that we do this, but you challenged me to do the math, so there it is. Filling up Texas would give us about 50 times as much energy as we need for the entire country (or, more realistically, we could power the country by building plants equivalent to 1/50 the area of Texas, or about 5,000 square miles).

    In other words, whoever submitted Solar as the solution isn't the wild and crazy guy you tried to paint him as.

    Suggestion: in the future, if you are going to make an assertion and then challenge somebody to do the math, you may wish to do the math yourself first and ensure that it actually backs up your assertion. You'll find yourself in a much stronger position, rhetorically speaking.

  • Report this Comment On May 20, 2011, at 1:49 PM, CluckChicken wrote:

    DJDynamicNC - Thanks for the math but you are wrong about the power needed. Homes use less power then office buildings and other sites.

    Per the DoE the US needs to generate 29 PWh or 29,000,000,000,000 Kw of power in a year.

    If we filled Texas we would generate 82,979,261,561,546.90 Kw.

    So we would need to fill up ~1/3 of Texas or ~3.3% of the lower 48. However the Mojave has an avg of ~86% sunshine for the year while the avg for Texas is 54% and the US as a whole is ~51%. So then we are probably talking more like ~6% (about the size of new Mexico) of lower 48 needed to meet demand. For comparision ~18% of the US is used for farming.

    In most of the country farm land would be the optimal location for large scale solar plants. These plants would also destroy the land for farming use after the plant is gone. But then we have the issue that some areas are too far from areas what could be used as areas for solar plants.

    Solar is nice for small things and supliment power source but just takes up too much space and less dependable then other sources to be THE solution. Just think, the days people need the most power, during blizzards, solar would be the lest reliable power source.

  • Report this Comment On May 20, 2011, at 4:53 PM, crouchinggeezer wrote:

    TThere was an article in Mother Jones back in the 80's that looked at the effluent from coal fired power plants and found that owing to trace amounts of uranium in coal and the vast amounts burned to make power, megawatt for megawatt: coal fired power plants emitted twice the uranium per year that nukes contained. So the question was would you rather worry about it or breathe it?

    The reason that France is doing so well is that they operate a closed fuel cycle - the fuel rods are removed from the core after extracting 10% of the energy and sent to regional breeder reactors to be recycled.

    Concerned about issues involved with transportation safety and theft, the US industry has elected to remove the rods after extracting 10% of the energy and throw them away! Given that orientation, the sealed core plant that lasts 50 years makes a lot of sense. Add high capacity gravity-fed emergency cooling back-up and you've got a winner ready to package up and deploy extravagantly.

    By the way, in the world of where is all this gas coming from, switching to nukes is still in the cute category. Worldwatch Institute published a paper identifying farm animals raised for food as the overwhelming source of greenhouse gas emissions. By the time you take into account CO2 emissions involved in the support and processing infrastructure, the CO2 and methane emitted by livestock respiration and digestion accounts for 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions. E.G. switching to a vegetarian diet would save as much as eliminating the use of 100% of the fossil fuel burned for energy and transportation.

    The major third world impact on greenhouse emissions isn’t from smokestack power generation, it’s from MdDonalds. The advent of a middle class in the Pacific Rim countries has fueled a frenzy of expansion by US chain restaurants. The pressure on corn prices isn't due to requirements for producing corn based ethanol, it is from the demand for cattle food to meet the exploding demand for US style fast food in emerging economies. Thomas Jefferson got it right when he recommended that meat be used in one’s diet more as a condiment or flavoring than a staple.

    Compared to the Declaration of Independence, conversion to a mainly vegetarian diet will be a real revolution. That’s a concern because, like effective population control, it can only happen in countries governed like China using unpopular methods. Or we can use nukes for all power and transportation. So the question has evolved, would you rather worry about is and eat meat or breath it and go veg?

  • Report this Comment On May 21, 2011, at 12:37 PM, RHO1953 wrote:

    I still don't believe in AGW. It is like much of the "green" agenda, faddish, driven by people who are just aching to be part of a cause. CO2 isn't destroying the planet, it is just a really handy device to allow government to take a lot more taxes and control.

  • Report this Comment On May 21, 2011, at 2:23 PM, zone213 wrote:

    BEWARE of Deconstructionism

    the way forward integrates and grows on the past mistakes and successes both

    anyone saying we will need less energy to sustain the overall system undermines humanity striving towards an integral apex for itself

    the dialectic of progress will always exist

    but we in time will come to meet all challenges

    do not look back to the past as an answer to the present yet do not overlook the positive aspects of any time in our history that could benefit us today

    use create evolve flourish

    dont underestimate gates' insight into the dilemma but dont overlook any possible ego driven agendas

    nobodys perfect

    drink a giant glass of higgs bosons

    get out there and rock and roll

    the perpetual motion machine is like a shrodingers cat it exists and doesnt exist simulataneously

    tap the flow

    peace

  • Report this Comment On May 22, 2011, at 11:51 AM, Motley1008 wrote:

    Gates seems has a history of picking the most dangerous choices—GMOs, vaccines, nuclear. Just another example of a super specialized mind, failing to understand anything outside of his field.

  • Report this Comment On May 23, 2011, at 11:26 AM, Jkirk3279 wrote:

    "Solar is useless in large utility-scale facilities. It simply doesn't have the density. The only way to have solar make a dent is with consumer-level deployment"

    ASTOUNDING.

    Kramer's Junction Solar Plant has been making 2% of the power used in California for decades, using Concentrating Solar Power.

    The previous quote has it exactly backwards.

    Home solar cells are indeed "cute". But few people can afford to have enough panels to meet all their needs during the day, much less afford a battery bank for nights.

    Commercial Solar works by concentrating solar power with mirrors. It's practical, clean, efficient, and unlike nuclear plants, doesn't wear out.

    It's amazing that even Bill Gates doesn't know about Concentrating Solar.

  • Report this Comment On May 25, 2011, at 11:18 AM, carltown wrote:

    Whatever happened to the pbubble nuclear reactor? No meltdown, little radioactive waste. Chine uses them.

  • Report this Comment On May 25, 2011, at 11:20 AM, carltown wrote:

    Whatever happened to the pebble nuclear reactor? No meltdown, little radioactive waste. China uses them.

  • Report this Comment On May 25, 2011, at 12:04 PM, kruelhunter1 wrote:

    So the general thrust here is that we should, no, must manage our decline into some future version of the European Dark Ages.

    Be realistic people. Gates is right whether you like him or not. We will require more energy in the future not less and our need is to find the best ways, note the plural, to supply and use that energy.

    For the moment, perhaps a century or so, coal and nuclear are clearly the primary choices. As to solar and wind sources, each costs several multiples of current sources and are supported by taxpayer funding by governments. Look into the results of green energy programs on the economies of nations like Spain.

  • Report this Comment On May 26, 2011, at 10:32 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @CluckChicken - that's a fair point, but I would add the important caveat that your math assumes no further advances in solar efficiency.

    Further, there are great efficiences to be gleaned from smart grid technologies which can substantially reduce energy demand in the aggregate, making solar more effective relative to demand.

    High-density batteries, flywheels, and reservoir storage systems also greatly increase the viability of solar energy.

    Finally, we can certainly not ignore the potential for solar generation in space, where real-estate is easy to come by - beaming the power down via microwaves, or even running cables up a space elevator, are not that far off even from current technologies.

    I think we can reach agreement that solar is not, at this time, the single solution, but could certainly represent a much larger portion of the US energy portfolio, which would be a net gain for the world.

  • Report this Comment On May 26, 2011, at 11:12 AM, TheTrue2 wrote:

    Folks,

    President Obama's plan for Energy Independence from foreign oil is a good plan...we only have one nuclear plant license to build issued and there will be no others for a while...using natural gas to generate electricity is where our short term capacity expansion is going to come from until better nuclear plant designs are possible. Nuclear is our future for electricity generation. Our 300 years supply of coal that a lot of people are talking about will probably not last that long because 40% of the World electricity requires coal and we already are exporting coal to meet demand (besides no amount of "clean" coal burning is enough to stop the pollution from this source of energy). Bill is right, solar and wind power are "cute" but, not the answer. Both sources will help supply electricity to the grid during peak cycles, but, by themselves will not provide the horsepower required to meet demand.

  • Report this Comment On May 26, 2011, at 12:24 PM, WALKINGLASS wrote:

    3/4th of the surface of earth is covered with water.

    The water has STRONG CURRENTS and can easily be tapped into but it is to cheap for billionaires to make a lot of money from water currents once it begins to produce energy.

    The currents replenishes it's self so fuels are not needed to reactivate them, thus they go out of business.

    The pollution companies would no longer be needed in about 40 years after the free water begins to generate electricity. The reserviour dams would no longer be needed so the fishing industry would be damaged in throwing away big bucks on boats and fishing gear so they can RELEASE fish instead of feeding the dying, starving children of the world with their catches.

    The wealthy has no intention in saving the population as long as they can get richer.

  • Report this Comment On May 28, 2011, at 1:34 PM, tribeofone wrote:

    BILL Gates IS WRONG, and for some it will be dead wrong. As a proponent of nukes in an age of cataclysm he is apparently unaware that the living earth is already reacting to our multi-level mess- making. That's right I'm one of those kooks who understands that the whole biosphere is a living organism.

    If we are to survive here we need to go on a "war footing". That war is to take the greatest minds and refuse to rest until we have affordable zero-point energy. We have the ability to take this leap. I wish I could say we but there is no chance. Control of energy is people control. No chance of zero point because our masters won't allow it.

  • Report this Comment On May 29, 2011, at 6:08 PM, GtownRJ wrote:

    @Jkirk3279

    I think Bill has heard of Kramer's Junction Solar Plant , but he was talking about solar cells, not solar in general.

    I am starting to think that the better solution is solar chimney design, which does not need to biol water and produces even if the sun goes behind a cloud.

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2011, at 8:18 AM, frediano wrote:

    We should be thinking in terms not of technologies as replacements, but as bridges to the coming fusion technologies. Research the ITER project and goals and timescales and payoff. The fusion economies, when they arrive, will with some irony power our civilization to the stars.

    So our energy policy should be based on making sure we have a vibrant economic bridge from the current fossil fuel economies to the coming fusion economies. That bridge must be decades, not centuries long.

    In that light, nuclear is a more realistic bridge than either solar or wind. Gates is more than capable of doing the math.

    The view of nuclear as a short term bridge, as opposed to a long term energy plan(the long term plan is fusion)could reduce objections to nuclear as a technology.

    As well, the recognition that our energy economies will soon (mid century) be in transition to fusion could also reduce objections to our remaining use of fossil fuels as a bridge to the future.

    We are not turning off a tap on fossil fuels. They will phase out only as they are replaced by a nuclear on the way to fission. Solar and wind will be minor components through this period of transition, but they will be components.

    However, if they largely exist through subsidy only, then to the extent that is true they make no economic sense, and can actually be detrimental to the overall goal of transitioning to future economies where fusion is the backbone.

    At some point during this transition to fusion, it makes economic sense to build plants that are designed for transition(of, primarily, the source of heat to generate steam for the same physical plant.) Given the life of plants and the present schedule of development, that might not be today, but today could be the time to begin to consider what such dual-heat source transition plants might look like.

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2011, at 8:34 AM, frediano wrote:

    Profit is to commerce as efficiency is to process. The knee-jerk hatred of profit that we've been inculcated with since birth is about as irrational as it comes.

    Harnessing sea currents? Bouncing bouys? OTEC(based on free thermal gradient in the ocean, and low delta-T cycles like the ammonia cycle)?

    It's not like folks have not long fought the battle of industry at sea, in a corrosive, hostile marine environment. But the payoff to do so, relative to the size of the plant required to fight that battle, has to be greater than the alternatives for the same plant used elsewhere, or else it makes no economic sense. So oil rigs at sea? Yes. Massive 800 foot OTEC towers with tiny payout in generated energy for the size of the plants? Not so much. The battles with the corrosive, hostile marine envoronment are the same, but the return is not.

    Just because it can be done does not mean it should be done.

    As we speak, thousands of bbls of oil are seeping from the floor of the Gulf-- just as they have everyday for millions of years. Megatonnes of CO2 are bubbling from our CO2 saturated oceans. All without our help. None of that is an excuse to ignore effieciencies in commerce.

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2011, at 8:46 AM, frediano wrote:

    SSP was considered decades ago and quickly ruled out. The concern then -- long before the MMGW debate -- was that it would directly, by 100% of the power generated, rasie the earth's solar loading, by the amount of additional solar energy that it intercepted.

    It hardly makes sense as a technology to alleviate MMGW. Solar loading is a direct -- 1:1 contributor-- to earth thermal load. Not a fringe contributor, like CO2.

    If we want to deliberately raise earth thermal loading, then there are few better ways to do it then via expensive SSP stations generating significant power.

    It is one thing to harvest solar energy that is going to hit the earth anyway(which was ultimately the source of all fossil fuels.) It is another thing to expensively go harvest more.

    A big selling point of these things is that 'they could be operating 99% of the time." Which means they are so high that they outside of the earth's shadow most of the time. Which means they are intercepting solar energy that was not going to hit the earth. Which means, they increase the earth's solar thermal loading directly, by 100% of their energy production.

    God save us from those intent on saving us.

  • Report this Comment On June 14, 2011, at 9:17 AM, daveinboca wrote:

    Gates is a sad little freak nowadays, playing plutocrat-turned-philanthropist while his Microsoft lurches and stumbles---occasionally hitting with an x-box, but essentially out of the game. Always was a marketing whiz, but Ballmer is an eff-up.

    So now we have a second-rate software programmer telling us we're doomed? In my Almanack, that means great weather for the next century....!

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2011, at 1:47 AM, joefotch wrote:

    Too bad "downwardly mobile's" parents didn't do what he proposes - limit the family to no children.

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2011, at 9:42 AM, ramon123 wrote:

    Nuclear is a lot greener than either wind or solar, both of which demand vast amounts of fossil fuel to be ready (and which drives up the cost of fossil fuel generated power). The earthquake actually didn't bother Fukeshima, and I'm still wondering why people are concerned about the very few affected by the worst nuclear meltdowns in history, when over 10,000 got wiped out by the tsunami and quake. A nuclear power generator such as Gates is referring to is air cooled, not water cooled. It cannot possibly experience a meltdown. Perhaps you all should learn more about nuclear before commenting on same. And fast breeder reactors will use "nuclear waste" to generate enough electricty to last 1000 years without needing any more unranium. After going thru a fast reactor, the resulting nuclear waste is pretty harmless. Gates is right about the dire need for nuclear - we cannot allow the brianless green movement folks to scotch the only technology available that can significantly reduce carbon emisssions. The green movement is a severe danger to the future of the planet. It must be exposed.

  • Report this Comment On June 16, 2011, at 6:09 AM, elfraed wrote:

    Nuclear energy itself is clean, but what sort of carbon footprint does it leave in the extraction, processing, and other labors associated with safe utilization of nuclear material ?

  • Report this Comment On June 18, 2011, at 9:37 AM, CloudslyShovel wrote:

    Some observations and queries:

    1. Great-and extensive-thread! I learned lots.

    2. Does we use the term "troll" to describe anyone who posts a contrary view?

    3. If Gates had no money but was, say, a champion figure skater instead, would we weave a thread about his opinions on energy?

    4. Does the fact that any human action taken in the area of energy comes with drawbacks and problems mean we can do nothing?

    5. The Amish way is TOO successful for them (and us!): Land division among large families (Amish way) creates smaller and smaller holdings that cannot support each new holdee's family. Younger off-spring working "English" crafts with the support of designated "English" drivers of regular cars and trucks. Passive convection heating systems for houses a big attraction for such trades.

    6. Islam truly is evil, IMO, but carries no discernible energy impact outside of controlling oil fields and using funds to support conservative clerical ventures (aka: suicide bombers). Look for Israel to nuke Mecca in the near future in a desperate, last-minute attempt to survive a new holocaust. No Mecca = No Islam.

    7. The die is cast for US. Given the corrosive and crippling anti-capitalist policies of the current administration, our short and mid-term future as a country is all but written in stone: third-world slough of despond, Balkanized into irrelevance, riot-ridden and ruined. Yet, there is one small hope: knots of survivors with a memory of what we once were as a nation politically, economically, socially and spiritually. These torn and disparate threads of traditional faith weave themselves together once more into a new and fragile tapestry of purposefulness and hard work.

    8. Until liberalism in its triumph destroys itself and ruins its entitled adherents, this energy argument spins out endlessly in piled abstract argument and meaningless bursts of carefully collected data and spun statistics.

    9. I'm going to Yorktown battleground for the weekend. Packing a lunch. Looking over my shoulder for the sounds of collapse and rising clouds of ash.

    SIncerely, AdmiralSirCloudslyShovel

  • Report this Comment On June 19, 2011, at 12:20 PM, r0m3416 wrote:

    A reasonable person would agree that the key to fulfill the energy requirements of the world is not to depend on either Nuclear or any other single energy source. It is Diversification. In the Mid-west and California you have abundant wind energy, while you have abundant solar energy in South West. There you power the local economy with those respective resources. But, in the North-east or places like West Virginia, you go Nuclear, effectively decommissioning dirty fuels like Coal. This model is applicable to other regions in the world too. For example, in India - a fast developing country- you get excellent sunlight for 300 days in a year and good sunlight for 30 days in a year. There Solar energy option coupled with energy storage technologies or Nuclear option to power the communities for another 35 days would suffice. But what is not acceptable is going Nuclear way simply because irrespective of how much safety measure you take, you cannot prevail a 9.0 earthquake or a hurricane or a Tsunami. A diversification would be the solution to the world's energy needs and not one source, such as Nuclear or other.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2011, at 2:28 PM, neighbornextdoor wrote:

    Mr. Gates is projecting his own demise.

    Nuclear reactors will not longer be the number one export of the United States.

    Conservation is the key. And, it works.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2011, at 10:36 PM, jasonhad wrote:

    As civilisation advances, it will need more energy per person than ever. True it may be that the sun bathes the earth with more energy in five minutes than Mankind uses in a year - but harnessing it has too many drawbacks, too many costs (and not just monetary). Nuclear plants are the only solution we currently have available to replace the belching plants of today - whether they be coal, oil, natural gas or biomass, they all have the disadvantage of producing huge quantities of CO2, dissipated heat, and waste products. Nuclear is a must for now and for the foreseeable future, and as soon as we can make the crazies understand that it is the best option for reducing our carbon contamination, we must start a world-wide program to convert to nuclear. Or we die . . .

  • Report this Comment On June 24, 2011, at 11:42 PM, JCoeur wrote:

    It's a deal with the devil, but I agree nuclear is the only potential green option. Hope the thorium reactor works out, because apparently uranium supply is not unlimited.

    France uses more nuke per capita than anyone and has not had any foul-ups. If they can do it, who can say the US can't? And if we don't you can bet the Chinese will. One more way for them to eat our lunch.

  • Report this Comment On June 28, 2011, at 1:02 AM, AbzluteZero wrote:

    It amazes me how short-sited everyone really is.

    Conserving is NOT a solution. It delays the inevitable, nothing more, nothing less.

    I absolutely agree we need to become reliant on nuclear asap because it is our only viable option right now. I'm not so concerned with global warming, though...I am concerned with what happens when we run out of oil (and the day will come). Oil is good for more than just energy, petroleum is incredibly useful for many things, and I could sit here and list them but I would get honestly get bored. Just for example, imagine no longer being able to produce plastic.

    In my opinion, the biggest problem with nuclear is that we will run out of uranium some day as well. It may not be within any of our lifetimes, or the lifetimes of our children, but it will happen. The solution to this as well as to the waste and risk of meltdowns is to use nuclear for the next century or more, all the while continuing to innovate solar and wind power as well as other renewable and inexhaustible sources so that we can someday rely on them.

    If the world can just do this, do it for our posterity, the world's many problems will be a major step closer to being solved. Also, we won't have to do without.

  • Report this Comment On June 29, 2011, at 11:02 PM, jwmount wrote:

    Gates is right, again. I hate it when that happens.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2011, at 12:09 AM, broofsquid wrote:

    I'm sorry, but I have to strongly disagree with Gates. I don't use his OS or products as they are poorly thought out and designed just like his cockle-brained idea of using nuclear fission to power the nation. The sun produces 380 billion billion watts continuously, far more than anyone can imagine. If we could capture even a miniscule fraction of that, there would be no energy shortage. Nuclear power from the sun is many orders of magnitude safer than terrestrially based fission as we have learned from the 3 mile island, Chernobyl and Fukushima incidents.

    We need to put a large solar array in space and send the power down, using it to split water into hydrogen, using hydrogen as the ultimate green fuel source that gives no carbon emissions. The newest solar technology is hitting 20% conversion efficiency and double the efficiency of agriculture produced ethanol. There is a lot of desert in West Texas and Nevada that could be used for power generation if the space idea doesn't work out. Solar panels are made up of silicon which is hugely abundant in the earth's crust.

    The only problem is that the fossil fuel industry has too much to lose to a solar power based economy. Besides, fossil fuels were originally derived from solar power in the first place.

    Nuclear fission is a stupid plan. Actually worse than stupid. Even more so than staying on fossil fuels. BP created an environmental disaster like the Exxon Valdez spill. The GE reactors at Fukushima will likely be far worse. When profit is concerned, business executives make stupid decisions like the one that lead to the gulf spill. Or poorly designed GE reactors whose cores melted from the Tsunami leading to explosions of the reactors and large releases of radioactive material, creating an environmental disaster that may take several generations of Japanese descendants to clean up.

    Granted, fission power plants may be less expensive than solar panels initially, but if they fail, the potential costs are catastrophic as Tokyo Electric Power Company has learned.

    Nuclear fusion reactors may offer a decent alternative, but we already have a massive fusion reactor in the sun. We just need to be smart about harnessing its energy. To say that the sun isn't the best answer to our energy needs is pretty ignorant. 380 billion billion potential watts only providing 10% of our energy needs is quite short sighted.

    Gates seems quite uneducated in this regard and for a man gaining entrance to Harvard university, I would have expected better.

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2011, at 11:14 AM, liongkok wrote:

    I'm not a Geo physicist, but it's seemed to me, the global warming people is the same people believe that you can put automobile parts in a big box, shake them for billion years and it can produce a ferrari (well.. may be Honda Civic),

  • Report this Comment On July 04, 2011, at 11:18 PM, mrwizardhts wrote:

    Global warming is of course a ruse being perpetrated by the Illuminati to get all nations to sign on to the global climate agreements which if you read the fine print, everyone gives up their sovereignty( whatever they have left anyway) to the UN. Yes , the New World Order. So is ISO 9000, another ruse created by the UN to give them a foot-in-the-door to all private companies so that they can eventually control all economic activity on Planet Earth. I could go on and on, but ......I won't :)

  • Report this Comment On July 05, 2011, at 2:11 PM, PeterRTalbot wrote:

    CO2 is largely a transport fuel problem and nuclear is only a partial answer. Nuclear is more dependable than air and solar because it is not weather dependent and does not require us to lick the storage problem attendant on wind and solar generation (high creation moments not matching demand requirements). But transport fuel issues require us to either (a) create lighter batteries using fewer exotic resource components with better charge life or (b) hydrogen cell use and hydrogen fueling stations ubiquitously to keep the family Hindenburgs flying. Nuclear combined with one of these two will be a good step in the right direction, but this will require us to re-tool our lives to the use of hydrogen or some sci-fi level breakthrough in creating batteries from organic material. I vote for hydrogen: the waste product is water and the range problem for transport vehicles is licked in present technology. The only thing in the way is the will on the part of the government to insist on hydrogen cars being 10% of all car fleets sold in the USA by 2014. If you regulate it, they will come.

  • Report this Comment On July 05, 2011, at 3:38 PM, baruchatta wrote:

    Executive summary: When robots become common and free, and the world population declines 90%, then the energy/climate issue will be resolved.

    IBM Watson and the Future of Robots

    Watson did well in the things that computers do well. That is, to pattern match.

    Here is the future in computer development, as I see it now.

    2011 - Watson wins Jeopardy

    2015 - IBM Watsons are installed in medical and customer service applications

    2016 - Watsons installed in robots. Robots can now perform menial household and factory tasks, and programmed by just being told.

    2020 - Watsons installed in cars. Driverless cars introduced, first high end (Caddilac, Lexus) then all cars.

    2021 - Most trucks driver-less on interstates.

    2025 - Most mining operations now use robots.

    2030 - A Manufacturing operation uses robots exclusively from mining raw materials, smelting, and production, and delivery.

    2035 - Robots manufacture and install solar cells, 95% of all energy now solar. Cheaper than oil.

    2041 - First factory that reproduces itself, completely automated, producing robots that build another factory.

    2048 - Reproduce-able robot factories now on Moon and Mars.

    2050 - Reproduce-able robots now number more than human population.

    2066 - Human population falling as people see less need for children to support them in old age due to robot availability.

    2070 - Robot population limited by available energy.

    2090 - Economics and Money abandoned as population declines and all products are free anyway.

    2240 - Messianic age arrives. No more war.

    Oh, and one more thing. There is never a "singularity". Watsons never gain consciousness. It is just not what computers can do.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2011, at 2:00 PM, pattersonsm wrote:

    Put the reactors in unpopulated areas where the risk of contamination is less. Keep them away from drinking water and people. Clear out Arizona and make it an energy producing state.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2011, at 4:17 PM, wex2175 wrote:

    Solar power can fuel our future; not by catching it but making it. At this point in the climate change issue, we need to consider going in on a massive and serious attempt to bring commercial fusion power to the world. I know, I know, blah blah, dreamer, blah, blah, you're crazy, blah blah, it's too expensive, blah blah blah, 50 years away. Fine. But it's not impossible. First, we've done the impossible before. The Manhattan Project, the Nautilus, and Apollo to name a few. That kind of intensity of purpose would be needed to accomplish fusion power within a reasonable time which I think can be 15-25 years actually. How do you afford it? If we are serious the project, some tax dollars, private investment, and revenue bonds could pay for the project. I see the bonds something like war bonds heck if you want pitch in a little extra investment maybe the bonds are convertible to a share of some eventual company. Depending on the countries involved, perhaps licensing of the technology to developing countries at reasonable rates could help offset the investment in the project and allow them to participate in a clean energy without using fossil fuels in the meantime. blah blah blah, right?

  • Report this Comment On July 09, 2011, at 9:19 AM, omalleydp wrote:

    Two words come to mind: Fukushima and Chernobyl

  • Report this Comment On July 11, 2011, at 8:11 PM, tryanythingagain wrote:

    My first reaction to the oneword assertion in this article ("nuclear") was, "Well, he's probably right, unfortunately." Then I realized that he was talking about nuclear power to support an increasing population; not nuclear weaponry to decrease the population of the "underprivileged" and privileged world.

    Perhaps I sensed the submerged message behind Bill Gate's statement, but I doubt he conciously intended to endorse the involuntary limitation of human population which will inevitably result either by accident or wilfull corruption of a widespread proliferation for-profit of nuclear material accross the globe.

    Its time to begin an approach to the energy problem by limiting demand instead of increasing supply. This revision in thinking will probably require the remainder of this century, unless catastrophic reduction in population takes place.

    This new approach may sound contrarian now, but reason and logic suggests that limits on population and per capita energy consumption will be obvious in less than a generation.

    By the second half of this century I suspect that the current mantra will include social engineering aimed at population reduction coupled with how to acheive more individual fulfillment from a reduced energy technology.

    Anyone else think this is inevitable and will be seen as progress?

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