The man who’s tutoring Bill Gates …

Bill Gates believes Prof. Smil is one of the smartest guys around today. He plugs several of Prof. Smil’s recent books on his website ( Gates recommends: Energy at the Crossroads: Global Perspectives and UncertaintiesGlobal Catastrophes and Trends: The Next 50 Years, Enriching the Earth: Fritz Habery, Carol Bosch and the Transformation of World Food Production, and Energies: An Illustrated Guide to the Biosphere and Civilization), and says that he has “opened my eyes to new ways to think about solving our energy and environmental issues.”

Professor Smil thinks we’re gonna stay with fossil fuels for decades to come:

For example, take the notion (heavily promoted by Al Gore) that we could wean ourselves off fossil fuels in a few years if only we really wanted to. This is about as realistic as the notion that we could fly to the moon on gossamer wings if we really wanted to. Some day it may be possible – but not any time soon. “We are structurally cooked,” he recently explained. “Every new technology takes 40 to 50 years before it captures the bulk of the market. As of today, there are no clean-energy technologies that can replace fossil fuels on a large scale.”

Prof. Smil is an expert on the history of technological innovation. He points out that the U.S. energy industry – which includes production, processing, transportation and distribution, coal and uranium mines, oil and gas fields, pipelines, refineries, fossil-fuel fired, nuclear, and hydroelectric power plants, tanker terminals, uranium enrichment facilities, and transmission and distribution lines – constitutes the world’s most massive, most indispensable, most expensive and most inertial infrastructure. Its principal features change on a time scale measured in decades, not years. That’s why “we’re going to be a fossil-fuel society for decades to come.”

Read the full article at the Globe and Mail

Related
Energy at the Crossroads: Global Perspectives and Uncertainties
Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next 50 Years
Enriching the Earth: Fritz Habery, Carol Bosch and the Transformation of World Food Production Energies
Energies: An Illustrated Guide to the Biosphere and Civilization