Bill Gates may be the genius who developed the Windows operating system (though, if you, like me are running Windows 10, you may object to the classification, “genius”), but he does not believe that human ingenuity and the free market that welcomed him with open arms and has made possible his success, will make any impact when it comes to combating “Climate Change.”
In an interview with the Atlantic, Gates claimed that the private sector was “too selfish and inefficient” to produce effective alternatives to traditional fossil fuels, and called for a “substantial” tax on emissions designed to force corporations to reform their ways.
Well, there’s no fortune to be made…Without a substantial carbon tax, there’s no incentive for innovators or plant buyers to switch…
If it was just about economics, if we had no global warming to think about, the slowly-but-surely pace of these transitions would be okay. If you look at one of these forecasts, they all say about the same thing: What you look at is a picture that’s pretty gradual, with natural gas continuing to gain at the expense of both coal and oil. But, you know, 1-percent-a year-type change. If you look at that from a greenhouse-gas point of view—if you look at forecasts—every single year we’ll be emitting more greenhouse gases than the previous year.
Logical leaps – that greenhouse gases are the primary force behind “global warming,” and that man, beast or government can make inroads against such environmental changes – aside, Gates actually goes on to make the case against his own theory, stating that its the regulatory structure that surrounds energy methods development, not necessarily the free market’s unwillingness, that keeps alternative fuel sources in the experimental stages.
Even if you have a new energy source that costs the same as today’s and emits no CO2, it will be uncertain compared with what’s tried-and-true and already operating at unbelievable scale and has gotten through all the regulatory problems, like “Okay, what do you do with coal ash?” and “How do you guarantee something is safe?”
John Galt could answer that question fairly easily: the people who could make large strides in technology often don’t because navigating the bureaucratic red tape in order to get the product to market – or even to an experimental stage – is simply not worth the effort. And, of course, a free market operates on demand. While the government is losing sleep over developing an alternative energy source, the public has more pressing needs. A market that required an alternative fuel would develop one – there just simply isn’t the desire for it.
If government then creates an artificial desire, it’s certainly not creating the sense of urgency or need that propels quick development. Government tolerates inefficiency, and it’s standards for research goals are malleable. And it often stands in the way of its own success; even as millions has gone to the solar energy and wind energy industries, much of that funding has been made on the basis of crony relationships, as a reward for campaign contributions, and as a “job placement” service for former Obama Administration bundlers looking to have short-term investments pay off with government money. A government program that throws countless billions to random alternative energy upstarts would fare no differently from the ill-fated Solyndra, or the dozens of other bungled Department of Energy projects.
Gates goes on to claim that cancer is only on its way to being cured because the government finally took a financial interest in the subject. But he ignores that government has also built regulatory agencies designed to make bringing cancer treatments, like prescription drugs, to the market. Government is not – and cannot be – a force for good on its own.
Gates will contribute a large chunk of his own fortune to developing alternative energy fuel sources, and that’s fine. Private charity can also be a driver of interest in free market innovation. But Gates may want to think twice before encouraging the government to put its own fingers in the pot.