18 November 2011:
The Energy Research Imperative
Bill Gates is cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, chairman of Microsoft, and a member of the American Energy Innovation Council.
As someone now working full time in global health and development, I see firsthand how the U.S. government'ssupport for scientific research has improved people's lives. That support is vital in another area
affordable, cleanenergy. I believe it is imperative that the government commit to clean energy innovation at a level similar to itsresearch investments in health and defense.In a time of economic crisis, asking policy-makers in Washington, DC, to spend more money might not be the mostpopular position. But it's essential to protect America's national interests and ensure that the United States plays aleading role in the fast-growing global clean energy industry. There is really no other choice. Carbon-based fuels areprone to wild price gyrations and are causing the planet to overheat. The United States spends close to $1 billion aday on foreign oil, while countries such as China, Germany, Japan, and Korea are making huge investments in cleanenergy technologies. The creation of new energy products, services, and jobs is a good thing wherever it occurs, butit would be a serious miscalculation if America missed out on this singular opportunity.The United States is uniquely positioned to lead in energy innovation, with great universities and nationallaboratories and an abundance of entrepreneurial talent. But the government must lend a hand. Market incentives,alone, will not create enough affordable, clean energy to get the nation to near-zero CO
emissions, the level of emissions that developed countries must achieve if we are going to keep Earth from getting even hotter.* Moreover,
developing major new technologies, where the time frames necessary for true innovation stretch past the normalhorizons of patent protection, requires up-front investments that are too large for venture capital and traditionalenergy companies.History has repeatedly proven that federal investments in research return huge payoffs, with incredible associatedbenefits for U.S. industries and the economy. Yet over the past three decades, U.S. government investment in energyinnovation has dropped by more than 75%. In 2008, the United States spent less on energy R&D as a percentage of gross domestic product than China, France, Japan, or Canada.Last year, I joined with other business leaders in a call to increase federal investment in energy R&D from $5 billionto $16 billion a year.
(Others, including the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, have also