Wired magazine has a fascinating interview with Bill Gates who talks about the world's energy challenges. In typical Gates fashion he analyzes from the data and concludes that only large scale solutions matter. This includes nuclear power, which he says is the only way out. He goes further to explain that nuclear power plants are built on 1950s technology and hence it is also the area where the most innovation can occur since there is going to be a lot of low lying fruit. He is sort of dismissive and supportive of the efforts of us here in the modern world and what we try to do to be more green, he says it's cute.
If you’re going for cuteness, the stuff in the home is the place to go. It’s really kind of cool to have solar panels on your roof. But if you’re really interested in the energy problem, it’s those big things in the desert.
Rich countries can afford to overpay for things. We can afford to overpay for medicine, we can overpay for energy, we can rig our food prices and overpay for cotton. But in the world where 80 percent of Earth’s population lives, energy is going to be bought where it’s economical. People are going to buy cheap fertilizer so they can grow enough crops to feed themselves, which will be increasingly difficult with climate change.
You have to help the rest of the world get energy at a reasonable price to get anywhere. It’s great to have the rich world, because we’re there to think about long-term problems and fund the R&D. But we get sloppy, because we’re rich.
He is really critical of the current fiscal allocation, explaining that basic research is being slighted. In short, the rich world is not tackling the big problems in a meaningful way, but instead in emotional ways, and that is the luxury of wealth. It's easy to confuse activity with progress, but they are not the same. In the end, we have problems of life because we are out of sync and rhythm, technology overcame them in the short term, but in the long term it's not so clear technology is the solution.