Microsoft founder Bill Gates thinks we need to drive energy down to zero carbon emissions. Personally, I’m suspicious about the motivations and claims made by proponents of human-caused climate change theories. However, as a Christian I believe that we are called to be good stewards of God’s creation and, therefore, we should use wisely the resources that God has given us. In this talk, Mr. Gates introduces the idea of “terrapower” which would use nuclear “waste” to provide power for whole nations.
Mr. Gates’ challenge is inspiring. First of all, with Terrapower he is proposing a free market solution meaning that it empowers people to flourish in freedom to create and solve problems which will help their neighbors. Second, it speaks to the visionary, forward looking part of the enterprising spirit which enables us to simultaneously wonder at creation and dream about how we could better put it to use in a way that is both valuable to humanity and in greater harmony with God’s elaborately designed cosmos.
That being said, I have two criticisms of the talk.
My first criticism is that Mr. Gates seems to be operating under the assumption that energy should primarily come from a centralized source. Why not de-centralize energy production and use technology to allocate unused energy to sources where it is needed? What if 75% of homes and businesses provided 90% of their own energy?
For example, in California, every home owner should seriously consider adding solar panels to their homes. We have sun almost year round and the technology today allows panels to power homes while making it affordable enough for homeowners to install. One individual in the comments section of the video (at TED.com) suggested geothermal energy – another method of decentralizing energy production. The idea of decentralizing energy has the added benefit of naturally appealing to a demographic not often persuaded by “lefty” environmentalism: conservatives. After all, what good conservative isn’t interested in decentralizing power! Mr. Gates and his fellow innovators are missing opportunity for grassroots involvement and reform when they only consider highly centralized solutions.
My second criticism of the talk is pertaining to the remarks made against the climate skeptics. In no way is innovation such as Terrapower necessarily connected to belief in climate change theory. For his part, I thought Mr. Gates gave a reasonable response to a rather annoying question and he is to be commended. If Mr. Gates, and his allies of a more eccentric variety like Al Gore, wish to bring on board “climate skeptics” of an evangelical persuasion, such as myself, all they need to do is cease the demagoguery and point us in a direction of technologies that will help us reduce our carbon footprint without destroying our economy or relinquishing individual liberty to state control. Mr. Gates claimed that they needed hundreds of people/groups working on solutions to the energy problem – they are missing real opportunity for collaboration when they exclude climate skeptics.