What Bill Gates was really saying

The Hill reported in the April 25 article “Bill Gates: Carbon tax not right for the US” that “Bill Gates says a carbon tax in the United States would not be an effective way of confronting climate change.” But he said no such thing. 

In his MIT Technology Review interview, Gates emphasized the need for innovation to combat climate change, and he argued that leading countries should double their energy research and development spending in the next five years. He envisions private investors — namely, his Breakthrough Energy Coalition — supporting startup companies that translate basic government research into technological breakthroughs. 

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According to Gates, R&D addresses the “supply side” of the world’s energy challenges, whereas carbon taxes address the “demand side.”

When asked whether a carbon tax is needed to motivate private investment in clean energy, Gates responded: “The answer to your question is yes, we need lots of work on the demand side. But when you click on the supply side and see what we’ve done, you’d be very disappointed.” When asked whether he prefers carbon taxes, cap and trade or a mixture of smart policies, he responded: “Some countries will do a pure carbon tax, and there’s a certain beauty to doing it that way, but the consensus that I think people will reach here in the U.S. will be to focus more on supply side.”

In other words: Are carbon taxes the only solution that the world needs to address climate change? No, R&D spending is also needed. But could carbon taxes be an important part of the solution? Yes, absolutely.

Like Bill Gates, most economists see “beauty” in using a carbon tax to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Such a policy would accelerate market adoption of clean tech innovations without arbitrarily favoring one technology over another. Revenue from a carbon tax could be used to fund the additional R&D spending that Gates proposes, or it could be returned to businesses and households in the form of income tax cuts or tax rebates. It could even be used to promote economic development in hard-hit coal communities.

National leaders should consider all of these policy options carefully because Gates is right. We need to create the right conditions for innovation to bloom.

From Stephanie Burns, Arlington, Va.


Congress should unite to fund computer science education

As a longtime member of the Maryland technology sector, I applaud the news in The Hill’s April 26 article, “Tech leaders press congress on computer science funding,” that a group of national business and education leaders, as well as 27 governors, recently urged Congress to provide federal funding for computer science education. 

Information technology is fundamental to all parts of our society and economy. It is essential to healthcare, government, finance and every American industry. Given its importance, computer science should be an essential part of K-12 school curriculum. 

Instead, only one out of four American K-12 schools offers classes in computer science. Inadequate computer science education is already holding back our economy, and we are falling behind other nations that are committed to tech education. 

In addition, for young Americans who will be entering the workforce, computer science education leads to the highest-paying, fasting-growing jobs in the U.S. economy. 

If a bipartisan group of governors and diverse business leaders can agree on this issue, then Congress can, too. Congress should unite to support federal funding specifically dedicated to computer science education. 

From Frank Valdivieso, president and CEO, Gryphon Consulting LLC, Largo, Md.