Bill Gates on CNN's Fareed Zakaria show

Today they had Bill Gates on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS show. As always it is a joy to listen to Mr. Gates, he really has a winning personality and also has a lot of interesting things to say. He and his wife are aware of how important education is for our future and Bill Gates sees teachers as playing a key role in laying the foundation for tomorrows innovations. He promotes a system of identifying achievers amongst the teacher and rewarding them appropriately. He didn’t say where he stands on the debate of public vs. private schooling though.

He also knows a thing or two about technology trends, sustainability and energy. Although he is a firm believer in technology, he also sees the immense challenges especially in the energy sector. Bill Gates says we need, and I quote ‘innovation miracles’ to meet our future energy needs. He went o to point out that as of today we have only wind energy that comes close to being price competitive. He cautioned that the roll out of a new energy system will take 20 or 30 years at best and only if we (that is the government using tax money) invest heavily in R&D, which we are not at the moment,

I guess I am in good company with my misgivings about our energy future…



I think most people understand that we cannot deplete non renewable resources forever. Whether we run out in 100 years or 500 years, it is a short period of time in the life of the world, or even of the human race. Unfortunately, the far less obvious case for man made global warming has confused the issue.

As to public vs. private schools, people make their own decisions, and presumably should have that right. I think that most people feel that we should have a strong public school system, not one dominated by the teachers unions and inflexible autocratic bureaucrats. I believe that the new UK gov’t is taking some steps in that direction.

Bill Gates has no more knowledge of the future than you or me. Continued population growth is known from existing demographic data, but how prices will behave, how quickly new methods of conservation, energy storage, energy production etc, will behave is not predictable and therefore the definition is “price competitive” is quite elusive. Any country that moves too quickly based on ideology, like Spain will suffer the economic consequences.

I believe that arrival of China and India as massive consumers of energy , and enormous talent pools of educated people and sophisticated companies looking for solutions, will have a decisive impact. Energy prices could easily triple, and life would go on.

I have no misgivings.

What do you mean with this statement about Spain moving too early because of ideology? I believe their overly reliance on the housing sector is a major reason for their current problems.

I am not so sure whether our economies would handle a tripling of energy prices all that well.


and oil went from $5 a barrel to $150. Why do you think we cannot take a tripling of energy prices? While I lived in Japan (1971-82) the yen went from 360 to the dollar to 120. Every time the yen went up in value Japan expected their economy to come to a halt. People are much better at adjusting to change than predicting it.

I reckon we will have to take a huge increase of energy prices in the mid-term future.

All major oil price hikes, in 1974, 1979 and 2008 were followed by major recessions. Money spent on oil cannot be spent on iPhones. We have seen increases in oil prices in recent decades, but not as dramatic as you implied. The mean oil price from 1986 to 2002 was around 20$, then came a tripling to 60$ and then of course the fast runup to 147$ quickly followed by a collapse caused by the global recession. It is worth noting that the peak price during the second oil shock in 1980 was equivalent to 100$ or more in inflation adjusted dollars in 2008. A tripling of oil prices from the current level will have a dramatic impact on a country like the US that is importing 10 million barrels a day and is struggling with a mounting deficit.


I won’t get into the debate on energy sources, however, schools were mentioned. I don’t think offering incentives to teachers will necessarily work. In the UK teachers earn a great deal but I don’t think UK schools are very good and I think they have been declining for a long time, since I was at school in the 80s and 90s and maybe before.
I know state school teachers in Russia earn a miserable fraction of what British teachers do, but I think Russian schools are no worse than British schools, they are quite likely better.
And in Soviet times I think their education system was still more effective, but it won’t have been because of “spending”.

Has anyone ever read “Deschooling Society” by Ivan Illich? It is very radical, to the point of being difficult to read, but I think he raises some interesting points.