Bill Gates and a coterie of billionaires have clubbed together to form a fund, the purpose of which is to save the world.
“Bill, phone call for you, someone called Don.” Maybe it didn’t happen quite like that, but we do know that Bill Gates and Donald Trump had a phone call a few weeks ago. We also know that Mr Gates, along with the likes of Larry Page from Alphabet, Tim Cook from Apple and a few other grandees of the tech space, are due to meet up with The Donald soon, for a good old chin wag – oh to be a fly on the wall.
We also know that Mr Trump has expressed a degree of cynicism towards the idea of climate change, and is packing his team with cynics – although in fairness, it should be pointed out that his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, current boss of Exxon Mobil, has recently said that he believes climate change to be a very real danger.
Maybe it matters not, all we need to do is come up with technology that is so apt, that the commercial need to burn fossil fuels will disappear in a cloud of ether.
The fix lies with nuclear fusion, but those who say it can never exist overlook one thing. It already does. There is a fantastic nuclear fusion reactor situated a mere 149 million kilometres away – further if you live on Mars.
So here is the idea, all those good thinking and caring billionaires – and no, that is not meant to sound sarcastic, although admittedly it does – club together and form a fund.
So, Bill Gates and the likes of Jack Ma, John Doerr and Vinod Khosla are launching Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Talk is that at launch it will have one billion dollars to play with.
“We’re going to have a very deep scientific team both at the companies itself and as our advisers,” said Mr Gates.
Frankly to develop technology that either efficiently captures the energy from the sun, (the nuclear fusion reactor), can store it, or can capture carbon, you need more than a billion.
A report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology once concluded that over half of the $25 billion invested into clean technology has been lost.
And maybe these investors need to be willing to take a hit on their investment.
But a clean tech alterative to fossil fuels has to be commercially viable. Then again, a commercially viable alternative will make its owners a lot of money and we only need to come up with one such alternative.
Of course, there is another way of looking at it.
All we really need is for the cost of energy generated by solar power to carry on falling at the rate it has fallen over the last four decades – which is roughly by 99 per cent – and for lithium ion batteries, or an alterative such as lithium sulphur batteries, or a combination of battery and supercapacitor, to carry on falling in cost at the rate we have seen since 2008. To put it in context, since 2008, the cost of lithium ion batteries in terms of kilowatt an hour has fallen from $1,000 to $200, Elon Musk reckons he is close to $100. If the trajectory of falling cost for renewables and energy storage can continue for say 15 years – which is said to be the life of the Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund, fossil fuels may go the way of the Ark, and for that matter, we won’t need an Ark to save us.