Gates’ clean-energy plan is on right track, Republican senators say

  • Offers contrast with heavy-handed government mandates
  • Similarities with Senate bill
  • Has potential to increase job creation, rather than hamper it

Two Republican state senators say Bill Gates has a powerful idea with his plan to spur private-sector development of clean-energy technologies – and they say it offers a dramatic contrast with the heavy-handed government mandates favored by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Sens. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, and Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, said Gates’ plan harnesses the power of private-sector innovation to promote research and development into clean forms of energy. Yet it doesn’t impose special financial burdens on energy-intensive industries, nor does it drive up the cost of electricity and motor fuel for the people of Washington.

“This question is of particular importance as Gov. Inslee jets to Paris for the world climate summit,” said Ericksen, chair of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee. “One of our state’s leading citizens has come up with a plan to promote private and public development of new energy technologies. Gates is on the right track.”

Ericksen noted parallels between the plan unveiled Monday in Paris by Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Coalition, and a bill Ericksen sponsored during the last legislative session. Senate Bill 5735 allows the state’s largest electric utilities to satisfy renewable-energy requirements by investing in programs that reduce carbon emissions. The bill leaves choices to the utilities – allowing them to direct their money where they get the biggest bang for the buck. The measure was passed by the Senate but did not receive a vote in the House. It remains in play during the next legislative session.

“Programs like these can help accelerate the rate of technological advancement,” Ericksen said. “They harness the power of the marketplace and direct our energies to the technologies that will give us the best results. This makes more sense than programs that would punish our economy and create misery for our citizens, by imposing heavy taxes and top-down government regulation.

“It’s great to see the private sector stepping up to the plate. This is a system that works. Bill Gates is a smart entrepreneur who knows how to make things happen. This investment of money and know-how is what we need to move us toward new energy solutions.”

Brown, who serves as a member of the Joint Legislative Task Force on Nuclear Energy, praised Gates for his forward-thinking approach to nuclear power. Gates is chairman of Bellevue-based TerraPower, a company working to develop new clean energy technologies that uses depleted uranium to produce nuclear power.

“Nuclear energy is clean, carbon-free power,” said Brown. “In 2013 nuclear energy produced 19 percent of our nation’s electricity and prevented 589 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, which is equal to the CO2 emitted by 113 million passenger cars.

“Bill Gates recognizes that if our goal is to encourage the use of energy that is clean, nuclear power should be included in the mix; it produces zero emissions, provides stable, baseload power and accounts for 63 percent of carbon-free electricity in the United States.”

Brown, who chairs the Senate Trade and Economic Development Committee, noted an added benefit to the approach taken by Senate Republicans and Gates, versus that advocated by the governor.

“Supporting new technologies, like small modular reactors, and promoting the growth of the nuclear industry in Washington could also mean thousands of good-paying, family-wage jobs in construction, manufacturing and other related high-tech fields.

“It’s a win for our environment and a win for our economy.”