Letters and Opinion

We must explore alternative energy

August 14, 2010

The Viewpoint essay penned by Peter Grossman [in the July 26 issue] was infuriating. The incendiary headline (“Bill Gates wants to spend your money”) was shameful. As of 2007, Bill and Melinda Gates were the second-most-generous philanthropists in America, having given over $28 billion to charity. They have since pledged to donate their entire $58 billion fortune to charity upon their deaths, leaving nothing even for their children. They are currently working to convince other American billionaires to follow their example. There is not enough room in this newspaper to enumerate all of Gates’ philanthropic acts.

Grossman suggests that Gates made his fortune “by having a good sense of the market.” Grossman must be the only person in America unaware that Gates designed and developed the modern personal computer, something which has arguably benefited nearly everyone alive today. Instead, it would seem that Grossman prefers to celebrate the kind of billionaire who inherited a fortune from his parents and then doubled it through investment—the kind of billionaire who amasses wealth only to be used for the pleasure of himself and his family.

Grossman suggests that the acts of Presidents Carter, Bush and Obama to develop alternative energy sources were complete wastes of time and resources. One can only arrive at this conclusion if they ignore two indisputable facts: Burning oil and coal is bad for human health and our environment, and fossil fuel reserves will not last forever.

Grossman implies that research into alternative energy is a waste of time because it is not cost-effective. According to this logic, we should continue to use asbestos in home construction, knowing that it is a carcinogen, until the cost of liability lawsuits exceeds the profits to be made. And yes, you are correct that “very little oil is used to generate electricity.” The vast majority of electricity is created by burning coal. The hope is that alternative energy can replace both.

If you want to suggest that this new effort by Gates will ultimately fail, then you may very well be correct. Developing a cost-effective replacement for all of the oil and coal in the world is a lofty goal. But to paint this effort as the selfish act of a greedy tycoon is wrong.

The question must be asked: What would you, Mr. Grossman, prefer that we do instead?

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Joshua Hassett

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