Science

Bill Gates outlines how we could travel the world while remaining carbon neutral

Biofuels and electrofuels could be used in passenger jets, he says.

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Bill Gates is fighting climate change.
CBS

Microsoft founder Bill Gates is pushing a carbon-neutral society to help stave off the impacts of climate change, on Monday addressing how to continue traveling without releasing greenhouse gases in future. His solution: "use clean electricity to run all the vehicles we can, and get cheap alternative fuels for everything else."

"To prevent the worst effects of climate change, we need to get to zero net greenhouse gas emissions in every sector of the economy within 50 years," he said. "Decarbonizing how we move around is going to require lots and lots of innovation."

The biggest cause of emissions in the US is transportation, Gates said. But while electric vehicles can be used for short trips and like work, replacing standard cars, city buses and garbage trucks for example, they cannot be used on long-haul or heavy-duty trips. So there's a need cheap alternative fuels for things like passenger jets, cargo ships and 18-wheelers, he said.

Gates is optimistic about biofuels made from plants or agricultural byproducts, but says they "need a lot more innovation before they become a realistic, cost-effective option for long-haul transportation."

Electrofuels could also be used in airplanes, Gates said. The only problem is, they cost from three to seven times as much as fossil fuels.

"By using electricity to combine the hydrogen molecules in water with the carbon in carbon dioxide, we can create a liquid fuel that works in existing engines. The carbon dioxide this process uses is captured directly from the atmosphere, so burning electrofuels doesn't add to overall emissions," he explained.