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20 September 2019

Bill Gates no more an authority on renewables than you

I used to hate it when Bill Gates was asked to speak at events like the opening of CES, because after he talked gibberish for 25 minutes even the journalists, who were, after all, paid to be detached and critical, applauded. I never did.

Once he came down the carpet at another event, and someone offered to introduce me. I felt a surge of anger, and said, he would not thank me for what I might say to Bill, best not. I had spent the better part of a decade trying to not be introduced to Gates and that was before he was successful with Windows 2.1, but that’s another story. My partner met him for a beer once and said he was quiet and thoughtful, she is perhaps more forgiving than me.

But the myth that was built around this man, who once shouted at IBM employees for two hours in order to get his way, and stole code from a local business to insert it as the “de facto” operating system for PCs, in the process parleying a payment of $50,000 into a multi $ billion personal fortune, is that he is one of the smart rich people.

But one of the 12 disciples (Microsoft had 12 EVPs in its early days nicknamed this) one day admitted to me that Bill did not even code. He didn’t know how to. And yet his PR machine had it that he would wander around the building looking over people’s shoulders pointing to coding errors – he was that smart.

Which is perhaps why Bloomberg Television thought it would be a good idea to share Bill’s ideas that perhaps wind has had its day and should no longer get any subsidies.

So if he really could not code and was just a figurehead (unlike Steve Jobs who was a real software man), what is he really famous for. And the answer is for being a figurehead. It comes down to being rich.

In the words of Naomi Klein the US voting population is in awe of anyone who is rich, and assume that people who make it rich have the answer to everything. The US people have gambled that having a rich president will also solve many of their ills. We wish them well.

But actually rich people rarely have the answers and many events that make people rich actually turn on inheritance or luck, and little else.

Ask Gary Kildall, who was telephoned ahead of Gates and asked to come and meet with IBM to sell his ideas and his operating system, but he was out at a flying lesson, so they called Bill Gates and the rest is history…

So we are seriously critical of Bloomberg Television for giving space to Gates. It is well known that he is a huge fan of both carbon capture and geoengineering, the idea of spraying the atmosphere with chemicals to block out the sun, to prevent global warming. These two concepts have drawn little but derision from serious scientists and yet Gates continually gets space to talk up his own investments – simply because he is rich.

But then again he can throw his personal fortune at solving the world’s problems, like he did when he donated just under $260 million to “solving” the global malaria problem in 2005.

According to the latest World malaria report there were 219 million cases 2017, up from 217 million cases in 2016. Death from Malaria were 435 000, unchanged for some years. So it appears that rich people waste money too.

But anyway, what was the content of that speech by Gates? He says that after decades of government incentives, wind and solar have been deployed widely enough for manufacturers and developers to become increasingly efficient and drive down costs. Now they should survive without subsidies and the money should be spent on something else.

At least he mentioned energy storage (he has an investment in this in Form Energy) and offshore wind, which he mentions, because it is still too expensive to stand on its own two feet.

And then he repeats the Republican mantra on renewable energy “The sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day,” something which President Trump is fond of saying, and which Energy Storage is all about fixing. So why doesn’t he say so? Because he really can’t code.