This week I was at the ECO:nomics conference in California to talk about why I think the world needs to invest a lot more in energy R&D to provide the energy breakthroughs that can get down to near zero carbon emissions in the next 75 years. I go to conferences like these because I often learn quite a lot and because I think that energy innovation is very, very important. Now, everybody agrees that energy is important, especially when the price of a tank of gas is rising. But the risk of climate change and its impact on the world’s poorest people really makes finding new, cleaner energy sources incredibly urgent and necessary.
Raising the living standards of the world’s poorest people, which Melinda and I and our foundation are trying to help with, means that they will use more energy. There’s no better way for them to improve their living conditions than through the services that come with access to cheap energy: lights, transportation, refrigeration, improved fertilizers, etc.
The energy consumed by these devices must be cheap and plentiful so that billions of poor people in developing regions can afford them and use them to improve their lives. This energy also must be clean for the climate’s sake and because poor people in developing regions are the most vulnerable to things like drought, flooding and crop failures that can result from climate change.
I believe future needs must be met with energy that is really clean, like zero-carbon emissions. That’s because there are so many poor people in developing countries and they have so much catching up to do. As they do it, anything short of zero carbon will accelerate the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere.
That’s why energy innovation is such an important and interesting challenge.
You can download the transcript of my interview with Alan Murray - WSJ ECOnomics 2012 interview with Bill Gates transcript