Powering the World’s Poorer Economies: A Response to Bill Gates and Jigar Shah

Monday, June 18, 2018

By Carl Pope

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and SunEdison founder Jigar Shah have clashed in a heated debate over the best way to provide energy access to the world’s poor.

Gates sides with Bjorn Lomborg (author of The Skeptical Environmentalist) in making a call for centralized, fossil-fuel-based electrification. Shah calls for prioritizing distributed renewable solutions.

Both Gates and Shah agree that it should be a high moral priority to provide modern energy to the poor as quickly, reliably and cheaply as we possibly can. Both also agree that to the extent that this goal involves some additional use of fossil fuels, climate concerns should not be regarded as a barrier. Both are right on this count.

It would be wrong for the rich to continue to burn fossil fuels while denying them to the poor to protect the climate. It would also be a pointless exercise, since the poor cannot afford enough fossil-fuel consumption to make a meaningful climate difference.

However, neither Gates (and the Bjorn Lomborg clips which Gates cites) nor Shah provide meaningful, supporting data analysis for their divergent solutions.

Photo courtesy of Ron Waddington.

Source: Greentech Media (link opens in a new window)

climate change, global development, poverty alleviation, renewable energy