'Cute' Green Technology May Be Politically Popular, But Is Not the Answer
In an interview with Wired Magazine, Bill Gates notes that many of the trendy environmental technologies we hear about all the time will not make a significant difference in reducing environmental impact.
He tells Wired, "If you’re interested in cuteness, the stuff in the home is the place to go," but real solutions require more innovation. He goes on to tell Wired:
"Over 90 percent of subsidies are on deploying technology and not on R&D. You can buy as much old technology as you want, but you won’t get breakthroughs which only come out of basic research,” Gates said. “If we don’t have innovation in energy, we don’t have much at all."
Most state and federal policy is about subsidizing current technology rather than providing incentives to innovate.
This is to be expected, however, when the decisions are made by politicians. Looking to burnish their green image, politicians look for short-term, tangible evidence of their commitment to the environment. So, politicians focus government spending on projects they can point to during their next election campaign.
For example, electric car charging stations are popping up around the area. They are a tangible symbol of the government's commitment to green cars. But this eco-fad is not actually helping the environment. A number of charging stations have still never been used despite being in place for several months.
As long as we are relying on politicians who have a short-term perspective, we'll continue to spend taxpayer dollars on "cute" but ineffective environmental technologies. Market incentives to become more energy efficient and to use fewer resources are more effective at making a real difference for the environment.