|Melinda and Bill Gates at the World Economic Forum in 2009. Photo credit: World Economic Forum.|
By Anders Lorenzen
Billionaire entrepreneur and the founder of Microsoft Bill Gates has, in a blog post, been flirting with Danish sceptical environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg.
On his blog Gatesnotes, Mr Gates hints that we need fossil fuels to deal with energy poverty, going down an ideological route that Mr Lomborg for a long time has been championing.
Mr. Gates argues that we demand that developing countries get off fossil fuels and instead use clean energy, that is more expensive and obstructs growth, development and getting people out of poverty. He states: “Instead of putting constraints on poor countries that will hold back their ability to fight poverty, we should be investing dramatically more money in R&D to make fossil fuels cleaner and make clean energy cheaper than any fossil fuel.”
Mr. Gates’ comments comes in the wake of some economists, journalists and charities who would argue the opposite. New York Times journalist Thomas L. Friedman argued in his 2008 book ‘Hot Flat and Crowded’ that the only way to deal with energy poverty would be a massive uptake of clean energy. The charity SolarAid have sold a million solar lights in rural Africa which have brought people out of poverty and meant they could discard the expensive and highly polluting kerosene lights. The US economist Jeffrey Sachs, Director at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, has countless times said in his connection on sustainable development that it is a necessity that we rapidly invest in clean energy technologies.
Gates, who along with his wife Melinda, founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) with the idea of aiding the couples passion of reducing extreme poverty.
And now it seems that Gates is going to open up his arms to the fossil fuel industry as a solution to the problem. But critics of the move would arguably claim that the people who are hit hardest by energy poverty live in remote areas far away from grid connection and no matter how many coal power plants that would be built, it would still not give them access to energy. The fossil fuel based energy solution they have is kerosene lights and diesel generators, which are both deeply costly and with high human health impacts. Organisations like SolarAid would also argue the best way to reduce energy poverty would be decentralised solar installations like solar lights.
So far there is little detail in Mr. Gates blog, he does not detail specific scenarios for how fossil fuel should aid reducing energy poverty.