Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bill Gates' Quest For Profit Might Help China Turn Green

Greedy Planet Savior?

As previously explained on this blog, China is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, even though its overall GDP is half or less than that of the USA.  As also explained in that post, some project that China's production of greenhouse gasses will double by 2030.   Almost a year ago this blog also called attention to China's under-reliance on nuclear power for electricity generation.  As explained then, coal-fired plants account for a disproportionate share of China's electricity compared to various Western nations and Japan.  Indeed, as also reported then, China, with the second largest economy in the world, ranks 9th in nuclear generation of electricity, behind such nations as Canada, Ukraine and South Korea. At the same, the post reported, China enthusiastically embraces nuclear power for military purposes, e.g., the propulsion of submarines. The post concluded as follows:

"If China is truly serious about moving to a clean energy economy, it should get with the (nuclear) program."

Recent reports suggest that China may in fact be getting more serious about civilian uses of nuclear power. In particular, Bill Gates and a start-up company, Terrapower, are developing a new line of nuclear reactors, called "travelling wave reactors," that will run mainly on spent uranium. (For a description of how such a reactor would work, go here.)   According to a recent report in the South China Morning Post, Gates and Terrapower are in talks with the Chinese government about jointly developing the reactor in cooperation with the Chinese National Nuclear Corporation.  Put another way, a profit-oriented entrepreneur is helping a Statist nation turn green in a way that could perhaps prevent undue damage to the climate.  Of course, even if Gates is successful, some will still scrutinze whether he gives enough to charity!