Bill Gates on the Importance of Energy to the Developing World


Anyone who discounts what Bill Gates says on any issue has some explaining to do. Recall that, when he ran Microsoft, Gates would famously make himself available to talk with employees who wished to present their ideas, but was aggressively unforgiving of people who hadn’t done their homework, and were unable to support their positions in reasoned and compelling ways.

But forget about IT, and simply consider Gates’ devotion to philanthropy, in which he uses reason (and his not inconsiderable fortune and influence) to tackle the big challenges that our civilization faces. I’ve seen several of his talks, and I have to say that he’s as well-prepared as ever; at the very least, he doesn’t make a lot of silly remarks and other gross errors in his positions on things like world health and the improving the quality of life for the poorest two billion. (He’s way wrong about the importance of solar energy, but that’s a matter for another day.)

Here’s an interview in which he explains that bringing low-cost energy to developing nations means a great deal – a viewpoint I’ve echoed in dozens of my own pieces over the years. The video cuts off before he can expand on his thinking, but I have to assume he’s about to go on and show that the availability of electrical energy means:

1) Not only lighting and refrigeration, but better education as well — the last of which is arguably the most important.

2) An end to the developing world’s reliance on deforestation for its fuel source.

The real win here, needless to say, is not bringing in huge quantities of fossil fuels to countries in Africa and the rest of the developing world; it’s bypassing that mess altogether. Here, we have the opportunity to leapfrog the 20th Century energy paradigm altogether. Let’s make that happen.



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