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Scientific American: Gates Joins Big Wigs in Paris to Push Clean Energy Initiative

December 1, 2015 — 

Scientific American writes about the climate change summit in Paris and Bill Gates’s appreciation of Vaclav Smil, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the U of M:

[Bill] Gates says the energy sector’s complacency about developing new technologies makes it ripe for disruption. “We need to surprise them that these alternative ways of doing energy can come along and come along in an economic way,” he says.

Gates has become a devotee of Vaclav Smil, a little-known Czech-Canadian professor of the environment at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg whom he calls “the best energy author there is”.

Smil has written extensively about the long periods of time required for new energy technologies to take off. Oil, gas, nuclear: for all, the period from invention to widespread deployment was half a century.

It’s a warning to those who think new technologies will be a quick fix for the warming planet, though Gates thinks new energy sources can be moved to market faster these days.

“I’m more of an optimist than Vaclav,” he says, noting that “the world, scientifically, is far more sophisticated than at anytime in the past – our understanding of material science, our ability to simulate things, just the number of scientists and engineers in the world alone.”

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