Bill Gates on COVID vaccine, climate change, and the future of electric vehicles
Bill Gates is aiming to work more closely with Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos to combat a climate crisis that the Microsoft Corp. co-founder said could dwarf the current pandemic in fatalities and global impact.
“The deaths will just go up over time as you get more heat waves, forest fires and, most importantly, lose the ability to go outdoors and do farming anywhere near the equator,” Gates said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Emily Chang. His book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” went on sale earlier this month.
Unlike the pandemic, it’s hard to get people to focus on catastrophes that may be decades away in enough time to avert them. “It's a real test of humanity to invest in advance for problems that come later,” Gates said.
That’s part of where working with Bezos comes in — he’s pledged even more to combating climate change than Gates, US$10 billion to a few billion for Gates — and Gates is hoping they can collaborate to back costly early-stage green alternatives to current technologies. In his book, Gates uses the concept of a “Green Premium,” the difference in price between a traditional, carbon emitting technology like a gas-powered car and its green alternative, an electric car. When the price of those newer technologies is too high for regular consumers or governments, people like Gates and Bezos can use their capital to spur demand and bring the prices down to a level suitable for everyone else.
“The idea of how you create a demand side for these green products, even in the early stage where their green premium is very high, that's something I've realized is one of the missing pieces,” Gates said. “We want to bring companies and governments in on that but having a strong base of philanthropic capital to get it started would be fantastic.”
Gates said he isn’t a fan of bitcoin, either for environmental reasons — it uses a lot of energy — or for individual investors not named Elon Musk.
“Elon has tons of money and he's very sophisticated so I don't worry that his Bitcoin will sort of randomly go up or down,” he said “I do think people get bought into these manias who may not have as much money to spare, so I'm not bullish on Bitcoin, and my general thought would be that if you have less money than Elon you should probably watch out.”
Gates, a long-time aficionado of fast-food burgers — much of his early Microsoft work was fueled by the nearby Burgermaster and he has sometimes been pictured waiting in line at Seattle’s Dick’s Burgers — has shifted half his patty consumption to plant-based products like Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat. As they improve further he expects that to increase but he isn’t completely ruling out beef.
“Some people are trying to change the cow's diet or capture the methane, so you know I don't want to count the cow out,” Gates said.