Bill Gates backs grossly misleading ad on clean energy R&D

This is an outright falsehood*:

Chips Final

*Actually, it is still false with or without the asterisk — even if the ad is well-meaning in a far-too-little, far-too-late sort of way.

In fact, the asterisk goes to a statement in the bottom half of the ad (see below) that is also false:  “In 2007, American consumers spent $6 billion on potato chips; U.S. spending on clean energy R&D that year was $1.8 billion.”

Here’s why those statements are both false and misleading:

The ad — sponsored by the American Energy Innovation Council — compares what all of Americans spend on potato chips with what the federal government spent on clean energy R&D (narrowly defined) in 2007.

Now the authors of the ad — big name folks like Bill Gates and John Doerr (of the top venture capital firm in the country) and Norman Augustine and Jeff Immelt — know better than most that the entire country as a whole (aka “America“) spends far more than $1.8 billion on clean energy R&D.  As I reported 2 years ago, Clean Edge calculates, “U.S.-based venture capital investments in energy technologies more than quadrupled from $599 million in 2000 to $2.7 billion in 2007.”  Now VC money is virtually all dedicated to R&D.  And that doesn’t even count what big businesses — like say GE or DuPont (whose former chairman and CEO signed this too) — spend on clean energy R&D, a number that is both large and growing.

I would also note that in 2008, the Cleantech Group estimated that North American clean tech VC spending, the vast majority of which is in the United States and for clean energy innovation, was some $6 billion, a number that did drop to about $3.5 billion in 2009 because of the global economic downturn.

The authors also know that, under Obama, the federal government has sharply increased funding for clean energy innovation (defined in the broad manner that the AEIC does in its own report).  Indeed, the AEIC says on its website:

In order to maintain America’s competitive edge and keep our economy strong, the United States needs sizable, sustained investments in clean energy innovation. We believe that $16 billion per year – an increase of $11 billion over current annual investments of about $5 billion – is the minimum level required

So what is it — $5 billion or $1.8 billion?

The report defines RD&D as “research, development, and deployment” — but the federal government is now spending a staggering amount of money in the stimulus bill on RD&D in clean energy.  McKinsey said in a 2009 new report on the stimulus that it “appropriates $97 billion in energy-related funding,” money mostly spent over a two-year period.  And that doesn’t count the many clean energy tax credits that were funded prior to the stimulus or the funding in the regular federal budget.

It is completely inappropriate that the signatories of the ad would use numbers that they know are triply deceptive:

  1. Using federal spending, rather than actual U.S. or American spending
  2. Using R&D narrowly defined
  3. Using 2007 numbers

Of course, this is what we have come to expect from Bill Gates [see Bill Gates disses energy efficiency, renewables, and near-term climate action while embracing the magical thinking of Bjorn Lomborg (and George Bush) and Bill Gates is wrong about “energy miracles”].  But I confess to be puzzled why the other folks signed such a misleading ad.

UPDATE:  To be clear, I’m not puzzled why they endorse much more federal RD&D spending — who wouldn’t? — just why they’d sign off on this deceptive ad.  I would note that most of the other signatories almost certainly endorse comprehensive climate and energy legislation — aka cap and trade (see John Doerr and Jeff Immelt: To become the green tech leader, “We must put a price on carbon and a cap on carbon emissions”).  In fact, GE and DuPont are members of USCAP, which basically designed the Waxman-Markey bill.

Now I certainly endorse the call for far more federal spending on clean energy R&D&D (deployment).  Indeed, I have been advocating that both inside and outside of government for two decades now.  My 1996 cover story in the Atlantic Monthly — published when I was principal deputy assistant secretary of energy (coauthored with the Deputy Secretary) — “MidEast Oil Forever?” Drifting Toward Disaster was subtitled:

Congressional budget-cutters threaten to end America’s leadership in new energy technologies that could generate hundreds of thousands of high-wage jobs, reduce damage to the environment, and limit our costly, dangerous dependency on oil from the unstable Persian Gulf region.

Sound familiar?

Where the heck were all of these CEOs when Newt Gingrich and company were blocking President Clinton’s efforts to increase clean energy R&D?  Where were these guys when Bush was cutting funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy  deployment?

The problem with the AEIC ad and report is that while more R&D is certainly needed now, what they propose is simply too little, too late for the climate crisis we now face.  We need total U.S. spending on clean energy RD&D of at least $100 billion a year — and most of that is needs to come from the private sector and that requires passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation with a shrinking cap and rising price for carbon (see “The only way to win the clean energy race is to pass the clean energy bill“).

The report barely mentions climate change and simply can’t bring itself to endorse strong legislation with a specific carbon target.  And it offers no obvious way to pay for this new $11 billion a year federal spending in a time when conservatives demagogue against spending far less money on the most obvious things like efforts to create jobs in the midst of the biggest economic downturn since the great Depression.

So from a political perspective, it is a non-starter.  For CP readers, it is just another missed opportunity for credible mainstream business leaders to spell out the true nature of the challenge we face and the true scope of the solution we need.


No, guys, it’s time to get off the damn couch, put a shrinking cap and rising price on carbon, deploy the low-carbon technologies we have now at a massive scale, while, sure doing some more federal R&D, but mostly deployment (see “The breakthrough technology illusion“).

UPDATE:  To repeat and expand on all that is wrong with this ad:

  1. It is factually wrong and I think, given who wrote it, intentionally misleading.
  2. The ad never explains that Democrats and the Obama administration in particular are aggressively working to “get off the couch and invent our future” — and the main obstacle to doing even more isn’t American laziness but conservative obstructionism.
  3. The potato chip analogy trivializes the issue.  OK, once you learn about Americans actually spend more on clean energy R&D than we do on potato chips — and considerably more on RD&D — should you lose interest?  No, because the correct comparison is to, say, the nation’s entire energy bill, which is several hundred billion dollars a year, or the likely consequences of failing to take action on climate change, which is a lot, lot more:  Scientists find “net present value of climate change impacts” of $1240 TRILLION on current emissions path, making mitigation to under 450 ppm a must.
  4. The ad talks about a “once-in-a-generation opportunity.”  Huh?  We’ve had three decades of opportunity to dramatically increase clean energy R&D, thwarted time and time again by conservatives.  Indeed, Pres. Reagan by himself cut clean energy RD&D from levels these guys wanted.  Where have they — and big business — been for those three decades?  Answer:  Mainly either doing nothing politically on energy or supporting conservatives.
  5. The “solution” they propose would certainly be very useful, but ultimately far too little and far too late for the problem at hand — global warming, a problem that you may notice never gets mentioned at all directly in this ad.  Moreover, the solution they propose is not “paid for,” to use DC lingo and thus will be squashed by, yes, you guessed it, conservatives in Congress.   We need leaders like this stepping up to explain bluntly to the public what really needs to be done to solve our energy problems, not half one-tenth measures.
  6. And yes, Bill Gates has been pushing dubious messages on clean energy for a while:

51 Responses to Bill Gates backs grossly misleading ad on clean energy R&D

  1. prokaryote says:

    “The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Owns Over 7 Million Shares of BP”

  2. prokaryote says:

    Btw. the article includes a very good video on climate change sceptics.

  3. Doug Bostrom says:

    Perhaps I’m weird (no, definitely I’m weird) but if the intention of that ad is to somehow shame the government it’s ineffective for me.

    For me the ad suggests that we consumers and taxpayers have a very incoherent set of goals and motivations. The ad headline crisply highlights how much money is washing around in the economy doing little good, how thoughtless we are in our daily habits and how a relatively small redirection of spending would pay off in a huge way.

    Sloughing the problem off on the Fed is simply pointing in the mirror; we -are- “The Fed.” So if there’s a big problem with the message it’s the corrosive and wrong alienation it promotes between ourselves and our collective consciousness known as “government.” Mentally unhealthy.

    [JR: Indeed. Why not show how much Americans are spending on … oil?]

  4. Jeff says:

    Wait, it could still be true. Exactly how much does the federal government spend on potato chips?

  5. sheila says:

    Actually, the main travesty is that the guy who made PERSONAL computers ubiquitous has not stood up and demanded PERSONAL power production in lieu of these horrible, deadly, polluting Big Solar boondoggles that BP, Chevron, Shell, Total and Goldman Sachs are trying to get built.

    Big Solar is like running entire regions on a single mainframe computer – BACKWARDS! We need a totally DECENTRALIZED AND DEMOCRATIZED energy generation model, where WE own the production and WE are fairly paid for producing and feeding clean NON DEADLY power into the grid! All of YOU should want the same thing unless you are willing to slaughter millions of acres of healthy ecosystems so you can be grossly overcharged for their greenwashed power!

    Let’s get it together, America – fight for ENERGY INDEPENDENCE, which means no lateral moves from BP Oil to BP Wind, or Chevron Oil to Chevron Solar – these guys kill the planet for money, then manipulate supplies and prices, all while externalizing their costs and privatizing their profits. This will not change because they are able to convince a bunch of mouth breathers that they are a necessary part of a renewable energy revolution. They are not necessary, they will NOT produce more power, and they will cost us a LOT more money while seriously hurting the planet and INCREASING GHGS.

    You would be INSANE to repeat the same activity (Big Energy giveaways) and expect a different result (clean, affordable power). Think globally – Install locally!!!

  6. Richard L says:


    Well said – I couldn’t agree more!

  7. robhon says:

    You know, I’ve never been a big Bill Gates fan but I think it’s important to not shoot one of the good guys in this fight. Bill Gates is actually very interested, from what I’ve seen, in finding solutions to our CO2 crisis. There’s a very good TED Talk where Gates talks about needing big miracles in order to get to zero CO2 by 2050. I think he’s genuinely trying to fund many of those efforts.

    Let’s spend our time defeating the Lord Monckton’s and the Senator Inhofe’s regarding this issue and not try to tear down people who are ultimately fighting for the same thing we are.

    [JR: Yeah, well, Gates is a work in progress, and he says and prints a lot of nonsense. Sadly, by the time he gets anywhere, it’ll be way too late.]

  8. robhon says:

    prokaryote… Regarding the Gates Foundation owning 7 million shares of BP. When someone has that much money it’s hard NOT to own large chunks of a very wide range of major corporations. The shares they own of BP represents less than 1% of their $53B in holdings… when BP shares were $75/share. With the precipitous drop in BP’s share price that is now much less.

  9. prokaryote says:

    robhon, i believe the investment into dirty fossil energy is no longer an option. Especially if your main intend is officially helping people in needs.

    They could easily invest into clean energy and make a real difference.

    US: Dark cloud over good works of Gates Foundation
    Ebocha, Nigeria — Justice Eta, 14 months old, held out his tiny thumb.

    An ink spot certified that he had been immunized against polio and measles, thanks to a vaccination drive supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

    But polio is not the only threat Justice faces. Almost since birth, he has had respiratory trouble. His neighbors call it “the cough.” People blame fumes and soot spewing from flames that tower 300 feet into the air over a nearby oil plant. It is owned by the Italian petroleum giant Eni, whose investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

  10. mike roddy says:

    The last part of this section is very interesting. Mentioning doing something about climate change appears to have become more difficult, even as the evidence becomes more stark and the need to address it becomes more urgent.

    My own take is that this represents a partial victory for the fossil fuel denier machine, with all of their nonsense about Climategate etc. Just as progressive politicians have become wary of proposing increased regulation and taxing of the fossil fuel industries, out of fear of being labeled a socialist or tree hugger. This explains the recent success of concern trolls, who accomplish the same thing as deniers, but with better grammar and more elusive logic.

    The people are way ahead of our leaders, as you have shown lately with new and more scientific polling data. It appears that Democrats- some of whom have fossil fuel ties- have themselves become cowed. They have a huge winner here, and don’t even know it. If they just knew how to lead, we will follow.

  11. Mark Shapiro says:

    Perhaps Gates’ (and others) magical thinking indirectly acknowledges America’s aversion to taxes. From Joe’s previous “energy news” post:

    QUOTE (from MSNBC):
    A new poll out of Stanford University, surveying 1,000 Americans between June 1 and June 7, found that while about three-fourths oppose new taxes on gas or electricity to force conservation, 84 percent favor the federal government offering tax breaks to encourage more wind, solar and water power.

    Even after the spill, 3/4 oppose higher taxes on fossil fuels. That aversion to taxes is a real enemy — a tough one that is reenforced happily in the mainstream media.

    Media folks (especially on the right) oppose taxes for fun and profit.

  12. robhon says:

    prokaryote… I think you have differentiate types of investments. The Gates’ are not “investing,” per se, in dirty fossil fuel by owning stock in BP. That would be just an ownership position. It doesn’t put extra money into the hands of anyone at BP unless it’s purchased as a stock issuance. I don’t believe BP has done any stock issuance in quite a long while.

    This is vastly different from real investing in clean energy. What Bill Gates mentions in his TED Talk is that he is a major capital investor in a company working on Traveling Wave Reactor technology. That is putting real dollar money into the hands of people developing CO2 free energy. Now, I’m also not a big fan of nuclear but TWR sounds like an interesting concept if it can work. Anything that is CO2 free is okay in my book.

    I think it’s too easy to take pot shots at Bill Gates without fully understanding the enormity of what’s required to manage such a large amount of capital. Gates can’t just give it all away tomorrow. That would actually do far less to improve the world. He can’t invest all of it in the development of new energy sources. He can’t even put half in energy and half in medical development. The idea would be to manage a large portfolio in a way that funds the greatest number of good and needed projects for the longest time possible.

    Think about The Rockefeller Foundation or the Howard Hughes Medical Foundation. These are foundations, similar to the Gates Foundation, that were established many decades ago for the purpose of funding good causes in perpetuity. That means these foundations own a very broad portfolio of stocks (I bet they both have stakes in BP that they’d like to be rid of right now) out of which they fund important research and other causes for the betterment of humanity.

    I would add to this that, you have to remember that dollars spend (or invested) do not necessarily scale with the technology that gets created. Throwing TOO much money at a problem doesn’t fix it faster. But you can very much optimize wealth in order to do the most good for humanity over the longest term.

    And to go back to your first statement… Investment in dirty fossil energy, I agree, will become less of an option. I believe the days of oil are numbered. These are going to be very poor performing stocks to purchase for long term gains. I honestly hope this spill completely bankrupts BP and puts the fear of god into all oil companies. The positive outcome here can be that this shock to the oil industry can have the effect of making clean energy investments look more valuable over the long term. At some point investment in clean energy becomes, not just a “do good” investment, but becomes a place people put their money in order to maximize their returns.

  13. David Smith says:

    Robhon #11 – The Gates foundation invested in BP to make money. They and all other investors are profiting in part from the treacherous environmental practices of the company which have been forced into the limelight because of events in the Gulf. The corners cut, the laws broken, the lives lost. This is all part of the mix. Apparently the predecessors of BP even managed to get British and American Intelligence agencies to pull of a coup in the 1950s in Iran,… all part of the mix.

    You cant have it both ways. You cant be a good guy and invest in this type of operation. We know of the connection now, between big energy and AGW. Game over.

  14. “Lomborg” type of thinking about global warming and clean energy crops up everywhere. I attended the World Energy Technologies Summit sponsored by Time and Shell in NYC in March. Lomborg was the luncheon speaker and he managed to con most of the audience who were thrilled to hear we “needed” hundreds of billions for R&D before attacking global warming.

    JR, your post is an excellent one. I have just come back from MIT and found their faculty very gloomy about preventing GW in time.

  15. SecularAnimist says:

    Gates has invested heavily in nuclear power and that’s what he is pushing.

    If you read the Executive Summary of the AEIC report, you will find that it mentions two and only two specific technologies that should receive Federal R&D investment: nuclear power and “clean coal”.

    Gates is out to use the global warming crisis to enrich himself even more, at the public expense. Same old, same old, from the Robber Baron of the IT world.

  16. Russell says:

    Malcolm Gladwell and Frank Luntz combined couldn’t keep this one from going viral on talk radio

    Reftracted through the prism of folk epistemology , this ad campaign signifies an unholy elitist desire to siphon one of the nation’s vital bodily fluids, its potato chip frying oil, into the biofuel tanks of the Prius driving classes.

  17. prokaryote says:

    Robhon, “Anything that is CO2 free is okay in my book.”
    I agree.

    Robhon, “He can’t invest all of it in the development of new energy sources.”

    Robhon, “Throwing TOO much money at a problem doesn’t fix it faster.”
    This is not a rule – just look at the apollo mission. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

    On a side note

    BP Stock Falls AGAIN On Dividend News – British Pension Funds Could Be Hit Hard

    City investors said the president was jeopardising the pensions of millions with his “excessive” criticism of the energy company following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

    So when BP is bankrupt the pension funds of many britains are lost. But actually it is the fault of the britains when they trust big oil polluters with their funds. Actually the UK is part of the problem.

    So the USA wants action on those to blame and what some britains do is saying – do not criticize BP. This is pure hypocrisy. And that is the same hypocrisy the Gates Melinda Foundation does when investing into fossil energy or for the matter backing misleading ads. The time to sing kumbaya chords for oil is over. But people got used to it and didn’t thought about consequences or better regulation.

    We are now on day 53 of the OIL-METHANE VOLCANO unleash and it will just get worse with the hurricane season. All the stuff in the water will poison for decades the entire US gulf and atlantic ocean/coast.

    And the BP management just makes things worse, with the most toxic cocktail you can find – corexit. And with tempering with the data, specially the flow rate measurement.

    The oil could be collected with pumping pipes from day one – still they work with tiny margins because BP’s masterplan is the hope that the most oil settles in the deep sea. Because they got used to this procedure – just look at the corexit industry.

    Oil is not save, not for pension funds nor it is longer save for investments – fossil energy is not reliable. Fossil fuel combustion is not efficient enough to met the requirements for today’s civilization.

    So i hope that this OIL – METHANE VOLCANO is a wake up call which creates momentum enough to start right away with updating human energy technologies. This will create the next (clean) economy.

  18. robhon says:

    I think I might just have an aneurism here defending Bill Gates (I’ve been a Mac guy since 1986 and have never owned a PC), but hasn’t Gates called for a complete phase out of coal by 2050?

    And, of course you’d expect Gates to do whatever he can to promote the technologies he’s invested in (TWR being a big one). T. Boone Pickens is going to promote wind how ever he can. Al Gore is going to promote the projects that he’s invested in.

    Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees here folks. If Bill Gates is putting money into CO2 free research pin a metal on him! Ask him to do more. Implore that he do more. But don’t attack him for doing the right thing.

  19. robhon says:

    prokaryote… Why can’t he invest all his money in new energy sources? Would you? I would say, though, that he has made statements to the effect that solving the climate crisis is more important than world health. But the two are not completely unrelated.

    An Apollo scale program is well beyond the scope of even Bill Gates. I just looked it up and the Apollo program cost $170B in 2005 dollars. Gates is worth $53B. These are the kinds of projects that can only be taken on by government.

  20. christopher yaun says:


    Grass roots revolution….we have hosted about a dozen open houses this past year to introduce people to our net zero energy home.

    I can tell them about the R40 wall, R70 attic, air tightness/blower door test, triple pane passive solar window, 3.4KW PV array, solar hot water heather, induction stove top, air-to-air heat exchanger, how warm a comfortable and clean the house stays in winter…..and the only thing that gets a reaction…..our heating bill for this past 12 months was $300.

    The time for jawboneing has pased. If 100,000 people read this blog every month and 1/10th of 1% build a new home (that’s a hundred new homes) built by people that read this blog…..

    How do we use the forum that we have to generate a grass roots movement,,,,,the movement has already started,,,,,Joe we don’t need more lessons in political futility,,,,,we need to spread the message and implement the soultions we have now.


  21. Somehow the Gates Foundation stopped publishing financial statements in 2008…

    However the SEC filings are for March 2010 show lots of carbon fuel investments:

  22. robhon says:

    Richard Pauli… Again, I would distinguish between stock holdings and capital investments. The stock holdings that you list are the mechanism by which the Gates Foundation makes money that they in turn invest in various projects.

    There’s more than a little irony in the likely fact that the Gates Foundation has made a heck of a lot of money on energy stocks over the past 10 years and is in turn using that income to fund projects that may help lead to the demise of those companies (hopefully).

  23. Scott says:

    BP’s carbon cap is not even on straight, but it still seems to have reduced the escaping carbon somewhat.

  24. Rick Covert says:


    What is your perspective on decentralized distributed solar on the model of the Internet? My personal take is that distributed roof top solar panels should be considered peak load power where they are sited but not up to the task of providing power across a municipal service area the way that concentrated solar generated power would be brought in from the desert where the sun shines far more often carried in on high voltage DC transmission lines within a smart grid.

  25. PurpleOzone says:

    I often buy a sandwich to go for lunch. It comes with chips or pretzels or, maybe if you pay more, fruit. I just want the sandwich. The clerk will say “but it’s free” or even act like I’m UnAmerica if I refuse the potato chips.

    I don’t want them. I don’t want to pay for them. They are unhealthy, full of more salt than my body will tolerate, have no nutrition but fat, are too fatty, usually and are stale and taste like cardboard, except for the salt.

    Today I had a takeout sandwich. When I got home there it was a packet of potato chips, which I didn’t want. I gave them to my vacuuming lady, who ate them up.

    If I could give up even my share of potato chips and donate the money to stop global warming, I would. Even better I would like NOT to have an invisible charge for them. Isn’t that freedom?

    By the way, I enjoy real fresh-made potato chips, even if they are to salty and needlessly fattening. But it’s not having a choice. If industry would stop wasteful packaging, that would put down the 1st section of gloablin

  26. PurpleOzone says:

    Meant to finish with global warming, not “gloabin”. Fingers got ahead of keys.

  27. Dan B says:

    Gates and company are a bizarre amalgam of nerds to the third power squared (not math, I know, but it’s what my brain keeps saying every time I think of him), old-school business managers, and lawyers. Their worldview is: “we’re superior brained and sainted by our relentless work habits”.

    Everything in this worldview falls into old-school thinking – make money and you can do great stuff. It’s a long ways from Google’s “Do no evil.”

    It’s also a long ways from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 – interactive, wikipedia like, rapidly evolving because people become engaged and motivated to act offline.

    There’s a battle brewing between big centralized top-down business and broadly engaged decentralized businesses. The ideology is different. One extracts money from every individual transaction. The other, call it Googling, determines what a community would utilize to their collective betterment, then determines how to extract income from the growth that occurs.

    It’s at the heart of “distributed / networked / smart solar” vs. “giant concentrated solar”.

    Whether or not advocates of each viewpoint engage in battle or in cooperative benefit will determine whether or not scientists at MIT feel optimistic or deeply pessimistic.

    I’m in the latter camp. It seems too much of a challenge to overcome the status quo.

  28. John Hollenberg says:

    Our own Joe Romm wrote an article about Bill Gates interest in investing in the tar sands:

    So yeah, Gates is really interested in cleaning up the environment–NOT.

  29. Edward says:

    I wouldn’t put too much weight on the inaccuracies in an advertisement because advertisement writers are not scientists or engineers or the kind of people who do anything carefully. They are creative in their own way, and their own way doesn’t include fact checking. I would chalk it up to the clown aspect of their personalities and let it go. I have known one of them rather well.

  30. Marion Delgado says:


    I might not have phrased any of this as Joe did. That said, Gates and the Gates Foundation are a mixed bag. Microsoft’s guru, patent troll Nathan Myrhvold, is a huge, and completely idiotic and dishonest, science denialist, especially on climate change and clean energy. There’s some evidence he’s influenced how people like Gates Jr. see the big picture.

    That said, I wouldn’t call the ad a lie, just incoherent. The goal should be to prize as many businesses and notables as possible away from the business-as-usual nonsense. A little gentle mockery of the more incoherent parts of this is in order there.

  31. Marion Delgado says:

    Sorry … I mean I wouldn’t have started with “outright falsehood,” even if it’s apt.

  32. pete best says:

    Presently in South Africa (SA) there is a soccer tournament lasting one month featuring 32 teams from around the world with the USA included and hundreds of thousands of fans who have travelled to SA to watch the games and see the sights etc. Now just how many KW/h of energy is this all going to use up and if the tournament did not exists then we would not use it all, all then 2 million barrels of oil equivilent.

    Half this battle is cultural surely?

  33. Pete Best #33

    You are spot on with the cultural aspect of the battle. I groaned inwardly last evening as a local newsreader mentioned a forthcomming floodlight cricket match. How the heck out-fielders manage to adequately track a skied ball under such conditions is a mystery, to me anyway.

    Floodlight games of any type are anathema under current conditions.

    Also can the earth afford such carbuncles as Dubai and Las Vegas? The former surely threatened by rising sea levels and the latter by drought.

    prokaryote #17:

    ‘So when BP is bankrupt the pension funds of many britains are lost. But actually it is the fault of the britains when they trust big oil polluters with their funds. Actually the UK is part of the problem.

    So the USA wants action on those to blame and what some britains do is saying – do not criticize BP. This is pure hypocrisy.’

    Now I normally follow your comments with approbation but wowa on this one! Just because BP happens to have British in the name don’t pin this mess on we average Brits. The underlying cause of this disaster is the greed of the big investors and the rigging of the economic and regulatory systems to maximise profit – and that is largely a US lead problem as was the financial meltdown that is going to have such an impact on our lives.

    I don’t chose the funds that help provide the meagre retirement pension that I exist on, notice exist not live for there are few frills in my life due to work related injuries and poor health.

  34. prokaryote says:

    “Just because BP happens to have British in the name don’t pin this mess on we average Brits. ”
    The point i tried to make is the same you doing. My intend wasn’t to blame all Brits.

    “The underlying cause of this disaster is the greed of the big investors and the rigging of the economic and regulatory systems to maximise profit ”
    Yes. And we need to change this to preserve the environment. Britain is investing in large scale offshore wind and it is very likely that into the future these will generate and provide the basis for pension funds.

  35. robhon says:

    David Smith… I’m sorry but I see it differently. When I buy a stock position that has little to no affect the financial position of the company whose stock I purchase. It’s a bet in the marketplace on whether that company’s perceived value will go up or down. (I don’t own any BP stock BTW.) If I don’t like the way a company operates then my bet is they are not going to prosper in the long term. I’m not going to buy that stock. But the “investment” is an investment in the marketplace, not the actual company. I would not, on the other hand, purchase any stock issuances from BP. That would be an actual investment in the company.

    For a group like the Gates Foundation, they are SO large that it becomes very difficult to locate investments that are large enough that they DON’T have to purchase the entire company. They don’t want to buy entire entities because that IS an investment such where you’d have to take an active role in management. In how many companies can you invest half a billion dollars and NOT have a controlling interest? It ain’t easy.

  36. Leif says:

    robhon, @36: Gates could invest “half a billion dollars” in a host of green companies as opposed to one BP.

  37. robhon says:

    Leif… Not without having to take a major stake in the company and having to participate in the management of those companies.

  38. robhon says:

    Or having to divide it up between a dozen or so companies, which then again becomes problematic because you have to track and evaluate each of those companies on a quarterly basis.

  39. robhon says:

    Remember, it’s not just the half a billion. It’s the $53billion. He can’t divide the $53B into 1200 chunks and expect to be able to manage that in an effective manner that would create returns. That’s just not how you do it. He’s doing exactly what he should be doing. Investing for maximum return and then taking those returns and using it for ostensibly humanitarian purposes.

  40. Leif says:

    robhon @ 39: I was referring to a host of small companies and to save book-keeping expenses , as if that were a big problem, he could just let it float like all us small investors do. “After all the very thing that makes folks like him rich makes folks like us poor.” Paraphrase, Ry Cooder
    What is the value of money in a dead world?

  41. Leif says:

    robhon, @40: Just what could be more humanitarian than significant help in the transition of the American economy to GREEN?
    “Ostensibly” or otherwise.

    On the other hand it was reported that the Gates Foundation had upwards of 7 million shares in BP that currently are worth half or less than a couple of months ago. Most green investments can better that even on a bad day.

  42. johna says:

    18. robhon – Al Gore is going to promote the projects that he’s invested in.
    Yes he does. And he isn’t perfect. But he invests in projects he thinks are needed, or will work. All profits from his energy investments all go to the Alliance for Climate Protection nonprofit rather than his pockets.

    Gates Foundation investments aren’t going to his pocket. Gate’s problem is his inability to realize deployment is more important now than technical wizardry.

  43. David Levy says:

    and the comparison does not mention the energy content of potato chips (crisps for the Brits), oil and carbohydrates which could be used to co-fire coal plants.
    and is it a coincidence that Prof. Beard, the solar power entrepreneur at the center of Ian McEwan’s new novel Solar, is a potato chip addict?
    (an excellent summer read, see my review:

  44. prokaryote says:

    Thanks David Levy for pointing this out (the speech).
    I cannot say i 100% agree here about what is written about artificial photosynthesis (needs more study) but great read.

  45. David Smith says:

    robhon #36 – If you buy a companies stock and you recieve a return, dollars, because of an increase in the value of the stock, where do you think that money comes from? In the case of BP, they increase their profits, in part, by cutting corners on safety, by fighting fines, reducing damage payments and regulatory expenses, and generally increasing the risk of major blowouts like the one in the Gulf. I dont know how much of their profits come from these practices, but that profit goes into the pockets of all share holders. If BP and other oil companies did not do these practices, their payout would be less.

    You are playing mental games to ease your conscience, plain and simple.

  46. SecularAnimist says:

    johna wrote: “Gate’s problem is his inability to realize deployment is more important now than technical wizardry.”

    I don’t think that Gates is “inable” to realize that. I think he fully realizes that rapid deployment of today’s mature, powerful, cost-effective wind and solar technologies will eliminate any need for the technologies that he has invested in, particularly nuclear power.

    That’s exactly why he ignores the potential of existing technologies and pretends that what is needed is massive R&D into nuclear and “clean coal”.

    Gates is not interested in promoting solutions that work, he is interested in enriching himself by seeking monopolistic dominance for the technologies that he has invested in, by hook or by crook. That’s certainly the history of Microsoft in a nutshell.

  47. mike roddy says:

    Dan B,

    Rooftop distributed solar or wind are great in principle- no transmission lines or utility payments, etc. The trouble is that the cost is too high. It’s much more efficient to bring power in from wind or solar farms, for a variety of reasons. Defeating coal will require something approaching cost parity.

    Secular Animist,

    I agree. Gates has a horrible reputation among people who have actually had to do business with him. He is so wedded to the dark side that it will never leave him.

  48. Leif says:

    I would like to say to the Capitalists of the world from the eyes of the poor: You must realize that the very things that make our lives richer, not just money, make yours richer as well. It is not an “either, or”. Besides, you have proven that you can win with those rules. But look at the mess you, Capitalists, and by extension, Corporations, have left the earth. Be honest now. How about we try a round for Earth, the future and harmony there of, and all living systems within?

  49. Oh so now the Republicans want us to spend tax money on developing the science and engineering for their business profits.

    Sorry. Gates needs to stick to the science. Private innovation is more efficient than government when it comes to R&D funding. Step forward Bill.

    Long ago the horrible disease of cholera was discovered to be transmitted by sewage and drinking water… the solution was to build water and sewage systems that prevented the disease. Finding a cure for cholera is not the only answer, it was engineering the proper water and waste systems in cities. Gates is asking for governments to find cures, but he is failing to agree to simple systemic changes. We need to build and install low carbon energy systems. He can do that himself.

    Gates Foundation is investing in finding a cure for malaria, but refuses to call for draining the swamp that breeds mosquitoes (or mitigating sea level rise). Here the cholera analogy works. Gates has to gain respect for science before he wields finance.

  50. prokaryote says:

    Bill Gates & Other Corporate Leaders Call for Renewable Push (Video)

    Washington, D.C., United States — Led by Microsoft’s Bill Gates and GE’s Jeff Immelt, the American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC) launched this week, releasing a report and a set of reccomendations that could help push renewables and other clean energy technologies even further into the overall energy picture in the U.S.

    The group, which also includes top executives from Cummins, Bank of America, Xerox, Lockheed Martin and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, said that its mission is to correct the “deficient” American energy system.

    The AEIC had five specific recommendations, listed below.

    * Create an independent national Energy Strategy Board
    * Invest $16 billion per year in clean energy innovation
    * Create Centers of Excellence with strong domain expertise
    * Fund ARPA-E at $1 billion per year
    * Establish and fund a New Energy Challenge Program to build large-scale pilot projects