28 Sep '11, 1pm
Drumbeat: September 28, 2011
The reason Bill Gates wishes for a technology that creates energy at half the price of coal with no carbon dioxide emissions is that he wants a technology so compelling that it is adopted by poor countries as well as rich ones. Coal is plentiful worldwide, and unless the new technology is much cheaper, China and India will never adopt it. And if these two countries — which together are building four coal-fired power plants a week — don’t get off coal, nothing that happens in the West matters, since the levels of carbon dioxide they will pump into the atmosphere will be well above the danger mark. Half the price of coal and no carbon: That’s a tall order, which is why Gates is looking for a miracle. But what he means is a technological miracle of the kind that happens from time to time. The steam engine, the automobile, the computer, the Internet are all miracles. We need s...