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:
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail