The world's richest man, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, thinks the private sector is too greedy to effectively tackle the issue of climate change, telling The Atlantic in a new interview that the free market has no real incentive to move away from fossil fuels.
When asked why the free market won't develop new forms of energy fast enough, Gates said, "Well, there's no fortune to be made."
"Even if you have a new energy source that costs the same as today's and emits no CO2, it will be uncertain compared with what's tried-and-true and already operating at unbelievable scale and has gotten through all the regulatory problems."
He continued: "Without a substantial carbon tax, there's no incentive for innovators or plant buyers to switch."
"The rewards to society of these energy advances - not much of that is captured by the individual innovator, because it's a very conservative market," Gates said. "So the [research and development] amount in energy is surprisingly low compared with medicine or digital stuff, where both the government spending and the private-sector spending is huge."
Gates said he would like to see the U.S. government spend $18 billion a year on energy research and development, triple what it currently spends.
"Now, as a percentage of the government budget, that's not gigantic. But we are at a time when the flexibility - because of health costs and other things, but primarily health costs - of the budget is very, very squeezed," he said. "But you could do a few-percent tax on all of energy consumption, or you could use the general revenue. This is not an unachievable amount of money."
The "climate problem has to be solved in the rich countries," Gates said. "China and the U.S. and Europe have to solve CO2 emissions, and when they do, hopefully they'll make it cheap enough for everyone else."
He added, "Since World War II, U.S.-government R&D has defined the state-of-the-art in almost every area."
Gates admitted that the government will still be "somewhat inept" as it attempts to reduce greenhouse gases, however, he says "the private sector is in general inept."
"How many companies do venture capitalist invest in that go poorly? By far most of them," he said.
Gates did the interview in order to publicize his plan to spend $2 billion of his $72 billion fortune on deploying new green energy technology, an investment he encouraged other billionaires to make.
To stop a rise in average global temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius, Gates said he believes the largest producers of greenhouse gases - the U.S. and China - must be adding no more carbon to the atmosphere by 2050.
The Obama administration issued new regulations in August requiring a 32 percent cut in power-plant carbon emissions by 2030, based on emissions levels of 2005, reported The Wall Street Journal.
Even further, the president is expected to announce in Paris later this year that the U.S. will cut its carbon emission by more than a fourth, or 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, according to CNS News.