Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, speaks during the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019.
Takaaki Iwabu | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Bill Gates on Thursday proposed the formation of a new U.S. agency to tackle climate change and a five-fold jump in funding for research on renewable energy.
The Microsoft co-founder’s comments, which appeared on his Gates Notes blog, come as other business leaders push for President-elect Joe Biden and U.S. Congress to enact meaningful climate policy. Microsoft was among the 42 companies that signed a plea released Wednesday “to enact ambitious, durable bipartisan climate solutions.”
Biden has committed to bringing the U.S. back into the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change after President Donald Trump withdrew the country from the pact in November. Biden also wants to limit oil and gas drilling on public lands.
Gates has a bigger effort in mind. He said Thursday that he would like to see the U.S. establish an organization called the National Institutes of Energy Innovation.
“There’s no central office that’s responsible for evaluating and nurturing great ideas,” Gates wrote. “For example, research on clean fuels is managed by offices in the departments of Energy, Transportation, and Defense — and even NASA. Similarly, responsibility for research on energy storage is spread across at least four offices in the Department of Energy.”
Earlier this year, as the coronavirus became prevalent in the U.S., Gates stepped down from the Microsoft board and began spending much of his time with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has funded vaccine development. Besides making regular media appearances to talk about the pandemic, he has also spoken about climate change. In February Random House will publish Gates’ book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.”
Gates, the world’s third richest person, said the U.S. should be spending times five times what it is does now on clean-energy research.
“The federal government puts around $7 billion a year into clean-energy research, versus more than $35 billion a year into medical research,” he wrote. “Putting energy on equal footing with health would be a key first step that would create more than 370,000 jobs while also advancing a clean-energy agenda.”
Gates said the National Institutes of Health could serve as the model for the agency he imagines.
“Why is the NIH so successful? It has a clear and specific mission,” he wrote. “It has apolitical leaders who let independent researchers follow the science, rather than political staff who change priorities every few years. It’s organized in a way that empowers each of its separate institutes and research centers. And it has strong bipartisan support from policymakers and the public.”
The agency could have institutes across the energy, similar to the Energy Department’s geographically distributed national laboratories, and each one could have a different focus, such as an Institute of Transportation Decarbonization, he said.
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