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Fact Check: Facebook posts – Gates’ comments on renewable energy taken out of context

Bill Gates, the Microsoft Corp. co-founder and global public health philanthropist, explained in a 2018 interview why certain cheap, renewable energy sources will not fully solve the world’s climate crisis. 

A recent social media post suggests the 2018 interview shows Gates has changed his position on clean energy.

“Back in 2018 when Bill Gates would still admit the truth about ‘clean energy’ madness,” read the caption of the two-minute video shared Sept. 26 on Facebook.

The post’s caption highlighted one of Gates’ comments from the video: “Whenever we came up with this term ‘clean energy,’ I think it screwed up people’s minds!” 

The video was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook.)

Gates did say that, but the video cherry picked a moment from his commentary to suggest he was critical of efforts to support sustainable energy. The full interview makes it clear that Gates supported renewable energy.

But he also said that electricity is only 25% of greenhouse gas emissions and that more must be done to deal with emissions from airplanes, cows, cement, steel and other sources. In addition, more reliable sources of clean energy must be developed for large population centers. 

The footage in the post was taken from a 36-minute interview Gates gave to Stanford University’s Arun Majumdar on Nov. 2, 2018, as part of the university’s two-day Global Energy Forum. 

“A lot of people are very optimistic, as you know, with wind and solar — the renewable costs coming down, the battery costs are coming down,” Majumdar, now dean of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, said to Gates. “Do you think that’s enough? Or do you think we need more?”

“That is so disappointing,” Gates answered. Then, he went on to describe the difficulty in restoring power to communities when they are hit with widespread power losses.

Using solar panels, wind turbines and batteries is not enough to curb greenhouse gasses, Gates said. 

“Remember, electricity is 25% of greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “Whenever we came up with this term ‘clean energy,’ I think it screwed up people’s minds, now they don’t understand.”

One of the challenges to confronting climate change is that people think that switching to batteries or solar panels is enough, he said. 

In the full clip, Gates says, “The idea that we have the current tools and it’s just because these utility people are evil people, and if we would just beat on them and put (solar panels) on our rooftop, that’s more of a block than climate denial,” he said. “The ‘climate is easy to solve’ group is our biggest problem.” 

In a blog post published just a few weeks before the Stanford interview, Gates wrote that it’s generally good news that cheaper renewable energy sources are spreading around the world.  

“Renewables are getting cheaper and many countries are committing to rely more on them and less on fossil fuels for their electricity needs,” he wrote. “That’s good news, at least in places that get a lot of sunlight or wind. Everyone who cares about climate change should hope we continue to de-carbonize the way we generate electricity.”

Our ruling 

A Facebook post suggests that a 2018 interview shows Gates has changed his position on clean energy.

The video cherry picked a moment from Gate’s commentary on climate change to suggest he was critical of efforts to support sustainable energy. The full interview makes it clear that Gates supported renewable energy.

He said that more must be done to deal with greenhouse gas emissions from airplanes, cows, cement, steel and other sources. 

We rate this claim False. 

Source: PolitiFact.