FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Gates’ Nuclear Folly: the Breakthrough We Really Need is Fast Implementation of Renewables

by

The first question that crossed my mind when reading about the latest Bill Gates investment venture was “is this a cover to divert yet more money into nuclear energy?”  Gates unveiled his Breakthrough Energy Coalition at the start of the COP21 climate talks in Paris with much fanfare but few details, including the size of the financial commitment.

My suspicions were triggered not only by Gates’ already public commitment to nuclear energy research, but by the name selected for this collection of 28 of the world’s richest people (mainly men.)  The Breakthrough Institute, after all, is the name of the pseudo-green nuclear energy front group whose people promoted and starred in the 2013 nuclear power propaganda film, Pandora’s Promise.  But so far the Breakthrough Institute is lying low on the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, although I suspect not for long.

At first glance, the mission of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, whose collective wealth is three hundred and fifty billion dollars, sounds reasonable enough, even if it takes a while to get ones head around that kind of disposable income.  “The world needs widely available energy that is reliable, affordable and does not produce carbon,”   the group states.  The investors aim to provide “early-stage capital for technologies that offer promise in bringing affordable clean energy to billions of people, especially in the developing world.”  All quite noble.  But the madness is in the method.

“The only way to accomplish that goal is by developing new tools to power the world. That innovation will result from a dramatically scaled up public research pipeline linked to truly patient, flexible investments committed to developing the technologies that will create a new energy mix,” the Coalition website states.

Salesforce.com founder, Marc Benioff, a Coalition member, opined in a Washington Post article by Joby Warrick that: “We’re facing the rising danger of climate change, and it has become clear to me that the solution will require significant innovation.”

More research?  More innovation?  Why?  The chump change of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition members could, on a massive scale, deploy wind, solar and geothermal energy, technologies that are not waiting to be invented.  They are ready now and lack only the political willpower to implement.  And it’s deployment we so desperately need.  Why throw more money into “patient” research?  Surely they understand we no longer have the luxury of time?

So who are these guys and what are they really up to?  A review of Coalition members yields a mixed bag full of red flags proudly flying the radiation symbol.  Gates is already squandering part of his wealth on Terra Power LLC,  a nuclear design and engineering company seeking an elusive, expensive and futile so-called Generation IV traveling wave reactor that can never deliver electricity in time.

Mukesh Ambani is an investor in Terra Power.  Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, is betting his money on the perpetually-40-years-away nuclear fusion dream, which, even if it were ever to work, will be far too expensive to apply to developing countries.

Virgin Group founder, Richard Branson, publicly touts nuclear energy and put his name on Pandora’s Promise as executive producer.  “We should continue to develop advanced nuclear power to add to the mix,” he said in promoting the film via the Breakthrough Institute’s website.  (See our debunk of the film’s numerous errors of fact and omission.)

Chris Hohn’s TCI hedge fund invested in J-Power, a Japanese utility company whose assets included nuclear power stations.  In 2008, the Japanese government barred TCI from increasing its stake in J-Power and the hedge fund withdrew.

Vinod Khosla loves nuclear power and is on record blaming environmentalists rather than nuclear energy’s obviously disastrous economics, for its failure.   “Most new power plants in this country are coal, because the environmentalists opposed nuclear,” Khosla said in a 2008 interview.

Chinese billionaire Jack Ma of Alibaba, was recently brought onto British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Business Advisory Group, probably not coincidentally one day before a state visit by the Chinese president to seal a deal involving China’s investment in the UK’s planned Hinkley-C nuclear power plant.

Ratan Tata’s eponymous corporation leapt at the chance of investing in nuclear energy in India with the passage of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty-violating U.S.-India deal.

Others in the group have less obvious connections with energy or climate change and there is one clear nuclear opponent in Japan’s Masayoshi Son, founder, chairman and CeO of SoftBank Group Corp., whose epiphany after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster prompted him to become an outspoken critic of nuclear power and an advocate for renewable energy.  Others in the group appear to share interests in renewable energy.

Perhaps the Breakthrough Billionaires Club will yet come to the realization that from a clean energy generation perspective we have already broken through.  The innovations needed are not in abstract research but in deployment.  The Breakthrough Energy Coalition must tear itself away from the fascination of tinkering in a laboratory and instead do something real, practical and hands-on with their money.   However, the group’s assertion that “the foundation of this program must be large funding commitments for basic and applied research,” does not provide much reason for optimism.

A tennis coach I used to know would tell his team after a loss that “breakdowns come before breakthroughs.”  We’ve caused the climate breakdown and we’ve made the energy breakthroughs.  Now we just need to start winning.  The Breakthrough Energy Coalition could and should be on that team.

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear. She also serves as director of media and development. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
Norman Pollack
Taiwan: A Pustule on International Politics
Nick Pemberton
Make America Late Again
Kevin Martin
Nuclear Weapons Modernization: a New Nuclear Arms Race? Who Voted for it? Who Will Benefit from It?
David Mattson
3% is not Enough: Towards Restoring Grizzly Bears
Howard Lisnoff
The Person Who Deciphered the Order to Shoot at Kent State
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail