Let me say at once that I'm profoundly sceptical about the anthropogenic warming hysteria. But I'm also deeply concerned about the need to replace dirty carbon-fuelled energy with something clean. Of course the climate is changing, as every idiot knows. We don't need another idiot such as Al Gore to tell us that. The Earth's climate has been unstable since year zero, and it will surely continue on that uncertain path.
Yes, I'm repeating an argument which must be familiar to you. It cannot be said too often. Thus:
Providence (or if you prefer, the Deity) supplied humanity and civilization with a huge starter battery in the form of fossil fuels, which were laid down for us æons ago. In the past millennia we've been discharging that battery at an accelerating rate and the byproducts, which include carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse" substances, have been accumulating in the atmosphere. It's reasonable to presume that these byproducts may be harmful; remember, though, they may also offer us benefits.
Whatever the outcome, we would be well-advised to stabilise the atmosphere and the rest of our environment. What is just as important, our starter battery is rapidly becoming depleted. Whether carbon fuel supplies last hundreds, or thousands, of years they are not infinite: they are sure to run out within generations. If our species and the legacy of our species, is to endure for all eternity, then we must find everlasting sources of free energy to power the creation of wealth and beauty.
So we have to replace coal and oil. As Gates declared in his speech we must attain an energy miracle -- zero carbon consumption -- and get there soon. He pointed out that renewables such as solar power and wind energy simply cannot cut it. They are too diffuse and expensive to provide more than a few percent of the vast floods of power that our growing population now needs.
Hydrogen fusion energy appears to be far out of reach of our technology for the foreseeable future. So it's certain, beyond any doubt, that some form of nuclear fission will have to provide humanity's future energy needs, and do so quam cellerime -- with the maximum speed.
That's where Gates and his high tech multi-billionaire sidekicks come in. These capitalists have attained their wealth and status by the use of sharp wits and endless creative curiosity about the infinite resources of nature's laws. Who could have more insight about the possibilities of computer simulations than Gates? Well, a lot of people, obviously, but not politicians. Politicians, and especially liberal ones, don't believe in the salvific powers of high IQs.
Gates has used part of his vast wealth to finance research into the Terrapower travelling wave reactor. So far the TWR exists only as a computer simulation. The actual hardware will not need enriched uranium fuel. Instead it will consume the depleted uranium left over from existing fission power plants. The TWR breeds its own nuclear fuel inside itself, converting isotopes such as uranium-238 to fissile isotopes such as plutonium-239.
The reactor, which will be quite compact, 20 feet long and 14 feet tall, would be buried hundreds of feet underground, and will be less polluting than any competing power source. Such a reactor could generate a thousand megawatts of energy for up to a century without refuelling. When finally exhausted it could be left in the ground forever to cool off.
So there you have one possible solution for the energy crisis. Our challenge is to muster the political will and know-how to organize these solutions rapidly enough to save our skins. If we value our legacy we must coordinate our efforts in order to realize the hopes of visionaries like Gates.