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.

More articles by:

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

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 20, 2017
Sebastian Friedrich – Gabriel Kuhn
A New Class Politics
Patrick Cockburn
The Massacre of Mosul: More Than 40,000 Civilians Feared Dead
Paul Street
The Abandonment: Reflections on James Foreman’s “Locking Up Our Own”
Kim Codella
A Practical Education
Frank Scott
America’s Trump, Not Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Clancy Sigal Goes Away
Don Monkerud
The Real Treason in DC: Turning Our Lives Over to Corporat
Brian Dew – Dean Baker
Are Amazon’s Shareholders Suckers?
Ralph Nader
Detecting What Unravels Our Society – Bottom-up and Top-down
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Covering Islam, Post-Jack Shaheen
Binoy Kampmark
Uhlmann’s Trump Problem
Patrick Walker
In Defense of Caitlin Johnstone
Barry Lando
Those Secret Putin-Trump Talks
Sean Marquis
Thank You, Donald Trump
July 19, 2017
Adam Ziemkowski and Rebekah Liebermann
How Seattle Voted to Tax the Rich
Patrick Cockburn
Why ISIS Fighters are Being Thrown Off Buildings in Mosul
John W. Whitehead
Zombies R Us: the Walking Dead of the American Police State
Mateo Pimentel
Net Neutrality’s Missing Persons
Adil E. Shamoo - Bonnie Bricker
Yemen Policy is Creating More Terrorists
L. Ali Khan
U.S. Misreads Pakistan’s Antifragility
David Macaray
Fear and Trembling in the Workplace
Brian Trautman, Gerry Condon and Samantha Ferguson
Veterans Call on U.S. to Sign Nuclear Ban Treaty
Binoy Kampmark
Militarising Civilian Life: Australia, Policing and Terrorism
Ricardo Vaz
Venezuelan Opposition “Consultation”: Playing Alone and Losing
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Cold-Hearted Agenda is Immoral
Raul Castro
We will Continue to Advance Along the Path Freely Chosen by Our People
July 18, 2017
James Bovard
Obama’s AWOL Anti-War Protesters
Gary Leupp
CNN: “Russia is an Adversary, Ukraine is Not.”
Ryan Shah
Beware the Radical Center
John Carroll Md
Cold Hands Don’t Need Narcotics
Derrick Jensen
Endangered Species Don’t Need an Ark – They Need a Living Planet!
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Canadian Conjucture
Arturo Lopez-Levy
Trump’s Cuba Restrictions: a Detour, Not the Future
Russell Mokhiber
State Street Bentley University Business Ethics and Corporate Crime
Laura Finley
Being Too Much
Robert J. Gould
What is Our Experience of our Flawed Democracy?
Taju Tijani
The Burden of Indivisible Nigeria
Guillaume Pitron
China Now Leads in Renewables
Ted Rall
How I Learned Courts are Off-Limits to the 99 Percent
Binoy Kampmark
Militarising Civilian Life: Australia, Policing and Terrorism
July 17, 2017
Gregory Wilpert
Time for the “International Left” to Take a Stand on Venezuela
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Embrace of the Saudi Crown Prince, and a Qatar Nightmare Scenario
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Liu Xiaobo: the West’s Model Chinese
Terry Simons
Why I Did Not Go to Vietnam
Jim Green
Nuclear Power’s Annus Horribilus
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail