Bill Gates doesn’t think free markets will solve climate change and move the world into more of a fossil fuel free fairyland. He’s more interested in seeing how the government can push private businesses into alternative energy, telling The Atlantic the free market won’t move fast enough.
Well, there’s no fortune to be made…Without a substantial carbon tax, there’s no incentive for innovators or plant buyers to switch.
Gates get more alarmist and yells, “GOVERNMENT DO SOMETHING!” when talking about energy transitions (emphasis mine).
If it was just about economics, if we had no global warming to think about, the slowly-but-surely pace of these transitions would be okay. If you look at one of these forecasts, they all say about the same thing: What you look at is a picture that’s pretty gradual, with natural gas continuing to gain at the expense of both coal and oil. But, you know, 1-percent-a year-type change. If you look at that from a greenhouse-gas point of view—if you look at forecasts—every single year we’ll be emitting more greenhouse gases than the previous year.
Gates in a smart guy, however he’s horribly wrong and misguided on this. I’ve already written how computer models on the Earth’s climate tends to vary, so scientists can’t agree on what’s going to happen. But Gates is also wrong in saying the free market can only be pushed into investing in alternative energy. He actually explains why the government shouldn’t be involved in energy exploration, while pushing for it (emphasis mine).
Even if you have a new energy source that costs the same as today’s and emits no CO2, it will be uncertain compared with what’s tried-and-true and already operating at unbelievable scale and has gotten through all the regulatory problems, like “Okay, what do you do with coal ash?” and “How do you guarantee something is safe?”
The government is the one setting up the regulatory framework, not the free market. This is something Ayn Rand complained about in Atlas Shrugged. Remember, John Galt developed an alternative energy engine, but decided not to market it because of the power of the unions and collectivist thought. So if the government didn’t get so involved in what businesses were doing, it’s completely possible the market would actually demand alternative fuels. If it doesn’t demand it, then it’s up to the seller to convince the buyer why his or her product is better than what they currently have. Then word of mouth starts spreading and the cash could start pouring in. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen because the market is pretty much always in flux, but Gates obviously believes energy comes in waves. He’s just buying into the entire global warming hysteria. His solution to all this is more government spending because obviously the government can fix everything..
When people viewed cancer as a problem, the U.S. government—and it’s a huge favor to the world—declared a war on cancer, and now we fund all health research at about $30 billion a year, of which about $5 billion goes to cancer. We got serious and did a lot of R&D, and then we got the private sector involved in taking that R&D and building breakthrough drugs.
Realistically, we may not get more than a doubling in government funding of energy R&D—but I would love to see a tripling, to $18 billion a year from the U.S. government to fund basic research alone…
Gates is ignoring some of the criticism that the FDA actually stunts the growth of innovation and keeps drugs which might actually cure cancer from hitting the market (while punishing the innovator for going outside their guidelines). Gates isn’t pushing socialism as Drudge and Independent proclaimed, but really a form of mercantilism. Here’s how Library of Economics and Liberty describes mercantilism.
Domestically, governments would provide capital to new industries, exempt new industries from guild rules and taxes, establish monopolies over local and colonial markets, and grant titles and pensions to successful producers.
Sounds a lot like what Gates wants right? The sad part is the Gates Foundation is doing a great job of funding things which government won’t. It really seems like Gates wants to believe the free market will solve the problem, but he’s so convinced himself it won’t that he can’t help running to the government. He sees how much it costs to get things started up and goes, “Only government money can solve this,” withing looking into why the costs are so high. It isn’t just because of the free market, it’s because of how many regulations there are on the local, state, and federal level. The solution isn’t tossing out government cash, it’s hacking away at government power like Hercules did the Hydra. The problem is it’s easier to bow at the feet of the leviathan, like Gates is doing, than it is to fight it. This is why Gates is part of the solution, but also part of the problem. His decision to use his own money to fund research is fantastic. His desire to have the government fund even more research will only hurt taxpayers and stunt market growth.