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Bill Gates's New Version of the Einstein Letter

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the did-he-just-godwin-the-green-revolution dept.

Power 407

dcblogs writes "In 1939, Albert Einstein sent 'F.D. Roosevelt, President of the United States,' a letter with a warning about Germany's interest in a new type of energy with potential for use as a powerful bomb. The letter also outlined the competitive threat posed by Germany and steps for improving US research efforts. Last week, Bill Gates, along with GE's CEO and others, met with President Obama to deliver their own message: that of the top 30 companies in the world working on alternative energy, only four are in the US. Similar to Einstein's point and recommendations, Gates and his allies are asking the US to view the alternative energy push as a competitive threat posed by other nations, particularly China, which may be doing a better job in bringing its engineering talent and money to bear on this problem."

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Can You Spot the Difference? (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567262)

Einstein wrote of specific people and experiments. Gates does not.

Einstein warned of a horrible weapon. Gates is warning us that the most environmentally ravaged countries might be developing alternative energy (may god have mercy on our souls, lol).

Einstein acted alone and was not heavily invested in nuclear energy. Gates and his friends are heavily invested in alternative energy sources.

I'm no biographer of either but from what I know Einstein seemed to be motivated by things like the discovery of knowledge and genuine concern for mankind. Gates has (at least historically) seemed to be motivated by profit and money first above everything else with ideals similar to Einstein distantly following that primary motivator. Maybe he's changed but Einstein has always held a more altruistic image in my mind. That tends to happen to people long gone who made staggering advancements. Who knows, maybe revisionist history will see Gates alongside Einstein? But as it stands now, my personal opinion is that the two are not even close.

Bottom line: Einstein was a scientist who made great discoveries. Gates was a businessman who made great sales.

I'm not sold on Gates' motives. He sounds more like a lobbyist than a sage omen of caution like Einstein was.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567280)

Yeah its hardly the same. Comparing a letter that warns of Germany possessing a massive advantage in killing to one that warns a few US companies might lose their monopolies is stupid. If they want to advance research into alternative energy why don't they fund it? Without reading the recommendations I'm betting they're along the lines of subsidies, tax breaks & easing restrictions that prevent these companies maximizing profits.

Notice also that this is about alternative energy companies. If they want the US to look into alternative energy try getting the government to sign and ratify the Kyoto Protocol. That would force companies into looking at alternative energy. They're comfortable selling people non-renewable energy while constantly increasing prices due to scarcity so things will never change.

From their webpage they seem to want investment of $16 billion a year in alternative energy. Just the 7 listed on the front page have a combined equity of around $400 billion and yet they aren't willing to use that to fund it themselves.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (2, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567672)

a few US companies might lose their monopolies is stupid.

Who says they have monopolies NOW? I think there's two issues here:
1. Due to loss of US competetion, certain products HAVE to be sourced from foreign countries; without the US contendor we have to deal with increased costs and waits.
2. Due to loss of US competition, we 'miss out' on a upcoming technological field. That means that we're out of the running, money going out of the USA, lower economy, etc...

If they want the US to look into alternative energy try getting the government to sign and ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

You mean the one where basically none of the countries with serious goals under it are compliant?

. Just the 7 listed on the front page have a combined equity of around $400 billion and yet they aren't willing to use that to fund it themselves.

Do they really have that equity? Is it tied up in their current business?

Personally, I think it's a pure money grab; but there are likely underlying reasons. Many countries ARE subsidizing their green energy companies, sometimes quite hugely.

Personally, I look forward to the day that solar water heaters come standard on homes below the mason-dixon line, when a selling point in new developments are the solar electric panels that reduce utility electric down to near nothing for the average user.

The problem I have is that ancillary install costs tend to outweigh the electricity produced. They tend to run around a dollar per watt for a retrofit. Mounting brackets, wiring, inverter, etc... Which is why I concentrate on new builds.

Solar scales down well, wind scales up well - a big turbine is much more efficient, provides power more stably, and costs less per watt for both install and maintenance. Even then, the industry is so heavily subsidized it can be hard to find costs - but I tend to get figures around $1-2 per watt there. Not bad.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567726)

If they want the US to look into alternative energy try getting the government to sign and ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

The USA signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 [unfccc.int] . Ratification is a different matter.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567314)

What did you expect when you put a nigger in charge?

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (0, Offtopic)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567356)

What did you expect when you put a politician in charge?

Fixed that for you.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567440)

I think he got it right the first time.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567776)

You don't think at all

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (0)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567358)

I'm not sold on Gates' motives. He sounds more like a lobbyist than a sage omen of caution like Einstein was.

At the time, Einstein was just a lobbyist too. He only became a "sage omen of caution" in retrospect.

I understand this is Slashdot, but maybe we could ratchet-back the Gates hate a tiny bit and have a civil discussion for once? I think he brings up an interesting point.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567468)

Einstein lacked the resources to do it himself, nor did he stand to benefit in the same way Gates does here. Gates may well be right, but when someone owns/invests in a company that does X and tells you we should invest in X, but he does not want to spend more of his own money doing it, it is time to be suspicious.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (2, Insightful)

john82 (68332) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567664)

.... but he does not want to spend more of his own money doing it, it is time to be suspicious.

I'm not always a big fan of Bill Gates, however given his current investment [discovery.com] , how much of his own money would it take to satisfy you?

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (2, Insightful)

Aeros (668253) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567792)

Exactly. People will complain about Gates just because he's Bill Gates. Someone on here said he is only motivated by making money? How does donating so much of his money and time to fighting Aids help his profit margin? We all know he and his company have done some bad stuff but he has donated more than I think just about anyone. Funny how people forget about the positive aspects a person possesses when it do much easier an convenient to just complain about them.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567968)

How does donating so much of his money and time to fighting Aids help his profit margin?

Because that money is usually tied to buying US patented drugs at stupidly inflated prices. I dont have the link but I read somewhere
that more lives were saved before when they used copies of patented drugs than now with his 'donations'.

but he has donated more of the money he screwed out of us than I think just about anyone.

Fixed that for you.

Funny how people forget about the positive aspects a person possesses when it do much easier an convenient to just complain about them.

Yes we should just ignore how he got where he did and what it has cost us just because he donated some of it.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (5, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567480)

At the time, Einstein was just a lobbyist too. He only became a "sage omen of caution" in retrospect.

No, Einstein was the sage even at the time, which is why Szilard got him to sign the letter.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (1, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567360)

Gates was a businessman who made great sales.

Gates is also a *very* smart guy, and he's one of the greatest philanthropists in the world today. Your one-dimensional depiction of him isn't all that accurate.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567408)

Gates was a businessman who made great sales. Gates is also a *very* smart guy, and he's one of the greatest philanthropists in the world today. Your one-dimensional depiction of him isn't all that accurate.

Gates was a businessman and only that. Show me proof he was a philanthropist before he was filthy rich.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567496)

Gates was a businessman who made great sales. Gates is also a *very* smart guy, and he's one of the greatest philanthropists in the world today. Your one-dimensional depiction of him isn't all that accurate.

Gates was a businessman and only that. Show me proof he was a philanthropist before he was filthy rich.

If we're discussing the character of the man who wrote the letter, we're discussing the billionaire-philanthropist; not the silicon valley version of Khorne who thought Netscape and Lotus would look better mounted on his throne.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (1)

Lingerance (1117761) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567506)

He was never poor.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (2, Informative)

insertwackynamehere (891357) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567948)

This is quite possibly the stupidest thing I've ever read in my life. How many broke ass philanthropists do you know? How many middle class, family providing philanthropists do you know? How many struggling worker philanthropists do you know? All these people may do good works or contribute to charity when they can but a philanthropist's life is moving large sums of their money around to places where he or she feels it can help people.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567492)

How so?
He seems to tie his donations to governments not competing with the drugs the companies he is invested in sell. The deal seems to be they get some free medicine for guaranteed IP protection.
He also seems to have only started this quite recently, much like Rockefeller and his guilt driven giving.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (5, Insightful)

goldspider (445116) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567704)

"He also seems to have only started this quite recently, much like Rockefeller and his guilt driven giving."

No self-respecting Slashbot would ever acknowledge the possibility that Gates simply waited until he had the means (capital) to accomplish something more meaningful than cutting a $20 monthly check to Feed the Children.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567942)

He should get credit for waiting until he stole enough money before he engaged in self-serving ostentatious displays of philanthropy?

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (5, Insightful)

RingDev (879105) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567790)

You do not appear to be aware of the impact of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gates_foundation [wikipedia.org]

Saying that Bill Gates is one of the greatest philanthropists alive today is an opinion that is shared by many individuals. For 16 years now he and his wife have worked hard and funded significant projects in health, human services, and education across the globe.

When you are one of the richest men in the world, money is no longer a driving concern, Legacy is. Do you think Bill Gates wants to be remembered as "A rich man who's corporate leadership drove Microsoft to become a household name", or as "A philanthropist who helped to usher in an age of carbon free power generation". 70 years from now, will we think of him as a visionary who paved the way for vast technological advances, or will he be relegated to history as just another rich guy?

I would hazard a guess that he would blow his savings, sell his mansions, and unload the stocks if it meant he could have the kind of name recognition and positive connotation that Einstein has now, half a century after his death. And in order to achieve that state, he's going to have to do some extremely impressive and good things.

Lets hope that his work in alternative energy is one of them.

-Rick

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (1, Informative)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567686)

Gates is not the philanthropist you think he is, look at some of the strings that come attached when his foundation offers something... It's never a no strings attached donation of cash.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (4, Insightful)

roaddemon (666475) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567870)

I think a comment like that needs to be backed by some references.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567908)

[citation needed]

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (1)

TheOtherChimeraTwin (697085) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567362)

Billionaire, I studied with Al Einstein, I knew Al Einstein, Al Einstein was a friend of mine. Billionaire, you're no Al Einstein.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (3, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32568022)

Gates himself is under no such illusion, only the writer of the article. But Gates does know a thing or two about how to motivate politicians. And he *certainly* knows the tech industry (you know, the people who will have to develop this technology). Combine that with his well-respected reputation for philanthropy and you could have a lot worse advocates on your side for something like this than Mr. Gates. He may have a nasty reputation on /., but to the general public there are very few leaders in technology that command the kind of instant respect and name-recognition that he does.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567380)

But in the long run, economic strength is more fundamental than military strength (which is just a side effect of economic strength). What is more fundamental to economic strength than affordable energy? The free ride of pumping it straight from the ground is coming to an end, and we are not preparing.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (4, Insightful)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567946)

You really do touch on something important. Energy powers the war machine. For instance, the US strategic energy reserve is for a massive war, not to heat homes in the winter. The current US doctrine is centered around ensuring access to energy resources. The two are linked, they are inseparable. An Army may run on it's stomach but fighter jets fly on fossil fuel. Alternative energy is the key to getting everyone to be better global citizens. Resource wars are a very real thing.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (1, Insightful)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567490)

He sounds more like a lobbyist than a sage omen of caution like Einstein was.

Green technology is totally socialized in the United States. A company can't compete without lobbyist. Perhaps without the lobbyists we would be MORE companies competing instead of the government picking which technologies succeed. Think about how many research dollars are wasted on lobbyist.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (2, Interesting)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567518)

While I agree with you almost completely, I think it's unfair to judge him based on his motives. Let me put it this way: Imagine yourself 100 years ago, and you had the opportunity to invest in the automobile. Would you do it because you wanted to make sure that cars came around, or because there would be massive profit when cars did come around?

Bill Gates, while motivated by money, is not necessarily evil. The reason he is heavily invested in alternative energy sources is that he KNOWS its coming. He knows oil&gas won't last forever. He knows that Nuclear is our best alternative for the short term here.

Let me put it plainly:

If I had tons of money laying around, and I had a good idea that Nuclear energy was going to take off, I'd be a fool not to invest. Or, even more so, I'd be a fool to push for alternative energy sources without putting any money into them.

I mean, if he spent his entire life building a fortune through his underhanded business tactics at Microsoft only to bring about an environmental revolution, what would you think of him? I haven't yet decided, but I think its unfair to hold such prejudice against someone. People change a lot as they get older.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567838)

Yes, but you see you miss the point of the OP. Gates is writing this letter because he is trying to spread the fear that some poor country will create a method of cheap, renewable energy without having to buy it from the US, or more preferably a company that directly profits him.

This isn't altruism, he's not doing it for humanities good. He's not just saying it's a good investment or trying to motivate people into researching alternatives to oil. It's the same business practices as before, scare the government into funding you.

Gates is just playing it smart (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567956)

Seems more like a win-win. The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world rich enough to really put some serious money into alternative energy. And without serious money, alternative energy isn't going anywhere (the current state of the tech is just too inefficient and impractical to every really put a dent in conventional energy). So, without a serious investment from the U.S. (for altruistic reasons or otherwise), the future for the technology seems a lot bleaker. Gates is just couching it in terms that are an easier political sell (i.e., scare tactics).

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (4, Insightful)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567530)

Bottom line: Einstein was a scientist who made great discoveries. Gates was a businessman who made great sales.

Simply trying to compare Gates to Einstein reeks of arrogance. Gates is a Rockefeller or, at best, an Edison. He's a titan of industry rather than a luminary thinker.

Trying to paint a cut-throat businessman as some sort of visionary is ridiculous and insulting. This is like proposing to have Stephen Hawking at the helm of reconstruction at General Motors..

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (5, Informative)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567770)

Actually you're totally wrong.

Einstein acted alone and was not heavily invested in nuclear energy. Gates and his friends are heavily invested in alternative energy sources.

"The Einstein–Szilárd letter was a letter sent to United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt on August 2, 1939, that was signed by Albert Einstein but largely written by Leó Szilárd in consultation with fellow Hungarian physicists Edward Teller and Eugene Wigner."

Szilárd had a patent on nuclear chain reaction.
Szilárd and Fermi had patent on nuclear-power plant design.

Re:Can You Spot the Difference? (1)

seven of five (578993) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567802)

Einstein was, above all, a great innovator. He took the innovation of physics to new levels, embracing and extending the work of Planck, Maxwell, and others, creating a feature-rich set of theories. Einstein and others like him have serverd to inspire Microsoft as it continues to innovate new feature-rich user experiences. After all, Microsoft's innovation in developing the world's first operating system, gaming system, smartphone software, and personal music player underscores our ability to innovate, year after year.

What? (4, Funny)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567354)

What is this, a planned economy? Why is Bill Gates is begging for communist government help?

Obviously, the free market will just solve this problem on its own, in the process continuing to make America the greatest nation in the world.

Re:What? (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567548)

Bill Gates is a communist? I have to admit, I never saw that one coming.

Re:What? (3, Interesting)

cacba (1831766) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567592)

The free market is notoriously short sighted. This is one of the areas governments are needed.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567632)

Wow, such poor understanding of Capitalism and the idea of markets!

Free market has nothing to do with government taxes, etc. Free market is about ability to start a company and create something. Currently entry into non-fossil energy sources is quite high. They have to compete on equal basis with established, multi-billion dollar fossil companies. Unless someone discovers "free" energy with a "free" device, that just will not happen for long time.

If you knew *anything*, you would know that fossil fuels are not an elastic commodity. It's not line iron ore, or gold. If price doubles, you will not double supply. Heck, supply will only decrease going forward. Even now, oil is close to $80/bbl. It was $20/bbl less than 10 years ago, with pretty much the same supply. So unless you want oil to be at $300 or $400/bbl, you probably want gov't to start to pressure consumers of oil to seek alternatives. That is the only way to save the economy from price shock of oil.

Anyway, good shot at ignorance of everything in your statement. That includes free markets, communism, and even Bill Gates.

Re:What? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567748)

The free market is great for some things, not so great for others. Table top cold fusion? Sure. A 27 kilometer in circumference particle accelerator? Not so much. Some projects require the expertise and products from many companies from many different industries. No single company or coalition of companies would be able to pool their resources to accomplish something like the LHC.

You are simply railing against the free market and are looking for any angle in any story to do such.

Re:What? (4, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567754)

Seems like you are being sarcastic, but there is no need. Big businessmen have never been friends of the free market, they have always been only too happy to lobby for as much taxpayer money as they can lay their hands on. It's the conflict of interest I am worried about here. If it was some non-profit environmentalist group that was lobbying for government money I could understand, but not when it's the people who have most to gain financially from such investment.

Retread? (2, Interesting)

retardpicnic (1762292) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567386)

Doesn't the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act include 80 billion over 10 years for alternative energy research rather than the 16 billion the article suggests?

China and India? (1, Interesting)

Anon-Admin (443764) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567396)

So outsourcing is working and now Gates wants to bring it back to the US?

Wasn't he one of the ones who pushed for outsourcing?

*Joking for those who can not tell*

Re:China and India? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567488)

So outsourcing is working and now Gates wants to bring it back to the US?

Wasn't he one of the ones who pushed for outsourcing?

And I am not joking for those who cannot tell

Re:China and India? (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567932)

Does that mean we're third world now?

Let me guess... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567422)

... the solution is to increase the number of H1B visas.

We're on the wrong track. (4, Insightful)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567432)

Wind energy this, Solar energy that. It's all fantasy dreamed up by hippies. It may or may not be able to meet a high percentage of our energy needs at some point in the future.

Nuclear power is here now. We know it works. We know it's safe, if done right. Sure, it's expensive, but if we'd invested a few trillion in nuclear power over the last 30 years ago we'd have ended up saving a shitload on foreign wars, cost to the environment from oil spills and pollution, etc...

At the rate we're going now, nothing will have changed 20 years from now. Instead, we need to start building nuclear plants and investing in research on portable power like fuel cells so we can use that nuclear power outside of the main power grid.

Re:We're on the wrong track. (3, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567578)

Wind energy this, Solar energy that. It's all fantasy dreamed up by hippies. It may or may not be able to meet a high percentage of our energy needs at some point in the future.

Wind and Solar will never meet a high percentage of our energy needs, at least not in the foreseeable technical future. People simply don't understand the scale of which modern society uses energy. I figured out not too long ago that to convert the world to solar power, using generous assumptions, it would take a space-based solar array the size of the entire state of California. And compared to space-based solar, wind power is a joke.

People need to figure out that there are only two viable sources of energy: burning carbon-based fuels, or nuclear. And nuclear probably means fission. It's entirely possible that fusion will never happen because of the insane engineering practical challenges that we haven't even started to try and deal with. We aren't even far enough along to hit those brick walls.

But we keep looking for the magical energy fairy to solve our problems...

Re:We're on the wrong track. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567906)

Um... http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/06/22/2244222 [slashdot.org]

Checking your user#, maybe you are too new here to have seen this story.
Of course I agree that we should be building fission and researching fusion.

Re:We're on the wrong track. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567596)

I encourage you to take a look at a few presentations by Nathan Lewis at caltech. They are on his website. He has ran the numbers, and has several negative things to say about nuclear energy.

Re:We're on the wrong track. (1)

Palpatine_li (1547707) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567984)

she's running very unrealistic maths. For one thing, why do we need to stop emitting CO2 by some arbitrary time point? Biomass may not be enough, but what if we just plant them and burn our coal so CO2 equilibrium can be dragged back to a more comfortable level?

Re:We're on the wrong track. (1, Troll)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567602)

the hippies can't even agree on their hippie power sources. they hype wind but then fight it because it kills birds or ruins the view at the beach

Re:We're on the wrong track. (1)

dward90 (1813520) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567606)

I give you the first ever TED debate [ted.com]

It may be relevant to your interests.

Re:We're on the wrong track. (2, Informative)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567614)

This [ted.com] is relevant.

Re:We're on the wrong track. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567618)

Nuclear is very competitive if you ignore the problem of storing the waste. Even recycling it is not cost-competitive with mining more fuel, so there is no incentive to do anything but dump it somewhere.

Re:We're on the wrong track. (5, Insightful)

Improv (2467) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567644)

Chances are we'd still intervene in foreign wars for humanitarian and business reasons, for as long as we have the economic and military prominence allowing us to do so.

It's possible that if we had managed to dig up those sums back then we'd have it, we don't really know that for sure but it would've been nice to find out.

Chances are we'll have a mix of wind/solar and nuclear energy - these things arn't fantasies - they work and are cost-effective in some circumstances. Unless these hippes you mention are the kind of hippies that get engineering, physics, and materials science degrees and actually put these technologies into practice, I suspect you're selling those technologies short. The issue isn't that they're not worthwhile, the issue is that since the 50s Americans have been skeptical of long-term thinking and terrified of central planning, leaving us with really lousy infrastructure, a discinclination to improve it, and a community of people who deny reality and work to discredit any studies that show that we fell off the right track when we stopped investing in infrastructure and the sciences and that other countries have surpassed us in many of these areas even when we have the resources of almost an entire continent and a massive population to bear on these problems.

Still, I fundamentally agree with you that we should be investing a lot more in nuclear power - an emphasis on fusion research combined with our standard fission plants in areas not well-covered by something better (not every community has a Hoover Dam) would pollute less and were we to actually have nice ways to transform and store that energy and were our automotive industry to migrate to electic cars, the strategic and economic benefits could be profound.

Re:We're on the wrong track. (1)

ZaphDingbat (451843) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567662)

I've heard nuclear (fission) power is not the ultimate solution either, because of the scarcity of the fuel.

Anyone care to comment on this?

Re:We're on the wrong track. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567692)

Uranium is 2 or 3 ppb in seawater.
Lots left, but only if extractable.

Re:We're on the wrong track. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567854)

Breeder reactors, reprocessing and nuclear transmutation of waste to deal with "non-reusable" waste products (and has the happy side benefit that the process liberates more energy than it uses), Fission may not be "The Ultimate Solution", but it comes darn close.

Re:We're on the wrong track. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32568008)

There is enough fuel for 100-300 years. Some estimates are up to 1,000 years. It depends on whether the fuel is reprocessed. It also depends on if we make a concerted effort to look for nuclear fuel. Canada a couple of years ago stumbled upon the stuff. We don't actually know how much of it is out there. People have also noted that the ocean has a huge amount of the stuff dissolved in it and there are techniques for attracting and capturing it.

Re:We're on the wrong track. (3, Insightful)

somaTh (1154199) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567666)

While I agree that nuclear is a very viable current solution to our energy problems, it still fails to address the long-term problem. Fossil fuels and nuclear fuels have the same problem: limited supply. The Peak Oil concerns of today are swapped with finding caches of nuclear fuels tomorrow. I realize I'm probably looking a little too far down the road, but it would be nice to know that we're not just reacting to problems, but anticipating them.

Re:We're on the wrong track. (2, Insightful)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567862)

Well, I think that's where some portion of those trillions go - research. Breeder reactors, fusion, etc... I don't think we'll have a fuel problem with nuclear.

Re:We're on the wrong track. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567914)

100,000 years of fission power, and that's not long-term? Have you done ANY reading beyond the Greenpeace website?

Re:We're on the wrong track. (1)

goldspider (445116) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567944)

"While I agree that nuclear is a very viable current solution to our energy problems, it still fails to address the long-term problem. Fossil fuels and nuclear fuels have the same problem: limited supply. The Peak Oil concerns of today are swapped with finding caches of nuclear fuels tomorrow. I realize I'm probably looking a little too far down the road, but it would be nice to know that we're not just reacting to problems, but anticipating them."

Why do you assume that increasing nuclear infrastructure would halt other energy research and development?

Re:We're on the wrong track. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567678)

We should do both.

And we should have done it 35 years ago, when the first oil crisis hit (was it 1973 or 74?). Pres. Carter tried to move the country in that direction, but it got canceled. Thank you, Ronald Reagan (and everyone who voted for him).

Maybe our military priorities are wrong (1)

voss (52565) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567730)

Instead of fighting for a bunch of ungrateful people in the middle east, maybe we should move to nuclear.

The top 5 nations in uranium reserves include Australia, US and Canada.

Gee perhaps the country with the largest army in the world(usa) ought to be protecting the country
with the largest supply of uranium in the world(australia).

Re:Maybe our military priorities are wrong (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 4 years ago | (#32568016)

If someone could figure a good way to extract the uranium out of seawater, we'd have supplies to last essentially forever. The Japanese are the only ones I am aware of even working on the problem.

Good times: tell a really antinuclear person who likes going to the beach about how seawater has recoverable amounts of uranium in it.

NIMBY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567736)

If we build it in you backyard, are you still for the building of a nuclear plant?

'cuz that's the reason nuclear is still the exception in the US. The same is not true elsewhere.

Re:NIMBY (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567842)

Yes. Please build a nuclear power plant in my backyard.

Re:NIMBY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567940)

I'd build it mine, fuck ya.

Re:NIMBY (3, Insightful)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567950)

Yes. I am absolutely for it. It could replace that coal power plant down the way that's spitting nuclear, gaseous, and particulate pollution into the air. If properly built, nuclear power is very safe.

Sure, it costs a shitload of money to build and properly maintain a nuclear power plant but all we're doing now is just pushing that cost into poor air quality, possibly global warming, foreign wars, a high dependence on the ups and downs of oil/natural gas prices, etc...

Re:We're on the wrong track. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567788)

"We know it's safe, if done right."

So is drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

Re:We're on the wrong track. (2, Interesting)

imnotanumber (1712006) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567826)

Wind energy this, Solar energy that. It's all fantasy dreamed up by hippies. It may or may not be able to meet a high percentage of our energy needs at some point in the future.

A Nice Dream: http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=portugal+energy+wind [wolframalpha.com]

Nuclear power is here now. We know it works. We know it's safe, if done right. Sure, it's expensive, but if we'd invested a few trillion in nuclear power over the last 30 years ago we'd have ended up saving a shitload on foreign wars, cost to the environment from oil spills and pollution, etc...

And have more Three Mile Island and Chernobyl spills. No, I think I prefer an oil spill...

At the rate we're going now, nothing will have changed 20 years from now. Instead, we need to start building nuclear plants and investing in research on portable power like fuel cells so we can use that nuclear power outside of the main power grid.

Portable radiation sources! The solution to overpopulation, guaranteed...

Re:We're on the wrong track. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567972)

Invoking the 3MI and Chernobyl event really just declares yourself as utterly pig ignorant about modern nuclear power. And calling them "spills" merely triples the stupidity. Shut up and let the adults handle this. You're just another "OH NOES! RADIATION!!!1!" moron. Seriously, you could not have posted a more cliched and ignorant response if you trierd.

steps for "improving" US research efforts. (-1, Troll)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567450)

  • Ban open source software
  • Pass laws ensuring that software and mathematical algorithms are fully patentable
  • Office XML as the file format to be used by researchers and all federal and local government, for storing their documentation
  • Extend the durations of patents to 100 years
  • Pass a constitutional amendment removing 'limited times' from the copyright clause. Add a clause allowing the regulation of ideas, concepts, and facts.

Re:steps for "improving" US research efforts. (-1, Offtopic)

splatter (39844) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567656)

yadda yadda yadda... I'm a troll yadda yaddaa yadda.. I hate MS....

Get back in your hole, and let the big people talk.

Gates is such a f*cking *asshole (0, Troll)

cats-paw (34890) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567472)

The world's uber capitalist talks about how the government should do this and that

Well if the f*cking free market was so teh awesome, we'd already be the world leader, now wouldn't me ? We're the goddamn free market capital of the world, next to Somalia, that is.

Dishonest F*cker.

Re:Gates is such a f*cking *asshole (0, Offtopic)

cats-paw (34890) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567520)

alright, I admit it, maybe I should have thought about that a little more before posting...

oh, and that should be *sshole, not *asshole.

Re:Gates is such a f*cking *asshole (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567620)

Don't worry, this is Slashdot, you can call him a fucking qasshole, we don't filter.

Taxes (2, Interesting)

Spiked_Three (626260) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567484)

When Bill Gate's company and General Electric start paying US taxes I will take them seriously. Until then they can go fuck themselves.

looking for a grant? (5, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567534)

I don't understand this, the people who wrote this 'letter' to the president are rich, look at the names. So they can start a company to create new energy production facilities etc. but they decide to write to the administration as if it is as urgent as a nuclear weapon about to be created and unleashed by a warmonger. Einstein obviously was concerned about a new weapon that Germany could develop and use to completely dominate the globe, Gates and Co. looks like are hoping for the government to get into yet another money laundering scheme.

If these guys think their ideas are worth a try and may work they should invest their money, they'll be rich beyond their wild dreams (hard to do, considering who they are, but still).

BP is getting billions of dollars from government contracts of all kinds, looks like this new initiative is about the same thing.

Build factories and make your energy generating equipment and see if you can compete with it and deliver something people will buy, why are you trying to involve the administration into this? The only thing that comes to mind is yet another money laundering scheme, a Halliburton/BP level scheme.

Top companies.... = big? (1)

Gertlex (722812) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567538)

Assuming top companies are measured by how big they/their profits are... Someone remind me why this metric is so important. Surely the smaller companies are contributing too? (obviously for massive prototypes costing billions, you do need a lot of money, of course) I agree with the first post that this sounds like lobbyist talk.

And no I didn't RTFA.

I support the "Paris Hilton" program (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567568)

Paris Hilton said in her music video mocking the 2008 presidential election that we should support all kinds of energy development along with conservation. During the election the parties had polarized into Republican conventional position and Obama alternative/conservation position. Fortunately, Obama moved closer to Paris's more pragmatic stance since then.

Its a fantasy to think that we can run out Hummers off of windmills next year.

Re:I support the "Paris Hilton" program (1)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567706)

Its a fantasy to think that we can run out Hummers off of windmills next year.

Therefore we should immediately halt all research into anything that isn't oil. Brilliant. "This treatment shows promise for treating leukemia, but doesn't help at all with breast cancer, back to the drawing board until you fucking eggheads come up with a REAL solution." Remember, if something isn't a silver-bullet cure-all panacea, it's totally pointless.

Re:I support the "Paris Hilton" program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567808)

I think he was trying to say it will take more than a day and we shouldn't be driving hummers, unless I'm the one who missed the point completely.

Re:I support the "Paris Hilton" program (1)

dward90 (1813520) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567846)

You completely missed the point of what Peter was saying. We should continue research in many areas of energy production as well as reducing our overall consumption. This is the most reasonable of all possible solutions. "It's a fantasy....." simply means that we require multiple avenues of research and more time to develop them. Please pay more attention to what people say.

Re:I support the "Paris Hilton" program (2, Insightful)

AthleteMusicianNerd (1633805) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567966)

You should have your Slashdot privileges revoked for that post.

Re:I support the "Paris Hilton" program (1)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567980)

There was music in that video?

talk about PC! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567598)

These guys are just a bunch of politicians trying to get in front of the trend. If they knew what goes on in their own businesses they would be warning the President (for all the good it would do) that of the top 30 companies in the world, most or all have discovered significant intrusions from China and other places, should reasonably assume there are more yet to be discovered, and that the US government should get off it's fat, dumb, sleepy, behind before it is hit with a hack attack that will make Pearl Harbor look like kids playing with cap pistols.

Last stage (4, Insightful)

javilon (99157) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567646)

Amazing. Just five years to go from:

China, they just can make cheap copies of western technology
to
China, they are starting to compete with western products
to
China is ahead on R&D

I stopped reading... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32567722)

As a US citizen I had to stop reading when Gates said

In the same way that the U.S. has led in health care

Did Gates compare himself to Einstein or ... (1)

iwfam (1829036) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567752)

I'm sorry, but I had difficulty in understanding something from TFA. Did Gates compare himself to Einstein or are we bashing Gates because TFA compares him to Einstein?

The message that Bill Gates, venture capitalist John Doerr, Jeff Immelt CEO of GE, Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox, and others who met with President Barack Obama, is that ...

Yeah, that is an objective group on this subject matter.

CO2 will make the sea _what_? (1, Insightful)

netwiz (33291) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567768)

You've got to be joking. To see a rise in sea levels, you have to melt land-based ice, of which the only significant volume is on Antarctica. Even the IPCC admits that to see appreciable rise would take over 10,000 years. This is a cruel joke, with us as the punchline.

It's another way to strip people of power sources that enable modern standards of living in the here and now.

Re:CO2 will make the sea _what_? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32568004)

> You've got to be joking. To see a rise in sea levels, you have to melt land-based ice

No you don't. You just need to increase sea temperatures, causing the water to expand. Melting ice isn't going to have a significant affect upon sea levels (it is, however, an accurate indicator of long-term temperature trends).

Dear Planet Earth (1)

The Altruist (1448701) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567844)

Since facts are in short order, let's consider some speculations. The US of A may or may not have started a war for oil. (I'm actually pro-George W, but let's play the devil's advocate).
The next World War will likely be about natural resources. (Tell me with a straight face it won't be.) Those of us in industrialized countries (like the US) consume A LOT of resources. India and China are getting into the game, and hey, that's cool. They all deserve a piece of the pie. The problem is that pie is getting smaller. The US is behind in a lot of things. Internet being one of them. If energy runs scarce, there will be a panic. Allow me to applaud Mr. Gates and say "Hell yeah. We got the money. Let's get ahead of the game."

If it is long term viable, then invest in it... (1)

AmazinglySmooth (1668735) | more than 4 years ago | (#32567884)

Why does the government have to get involved if it is a good investment?
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