Nov 4, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Bill Gates: Some oil giants won't make it

Bill Gates at COP26 on Nov. 2. Photo: Evan Vucci/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

GLASGOW, Scotland Bill Gates sees a role for Big Oil companies and their skill sets in the transition to clean energy but doesn't think all the incumbents will be left standing.

Driving the news: Gates, in a briefing Wednesday, cautioned against assuming "new eras are marked by the falling of giants," but added: "Yes, some of these giants will fall, you know, 30 years from now, some of those oil companies will be worth very little."

  • "I hope a few of the big companies make it. We're certainly open-minded. The whole idea of cutting off investment in the old as a tactic, as opposed to investing in the new, I just don't get that," he said.
  • "A few of the big guys I think will make the transition."

Zoom in: A number of oil majors — led by the European giants — have been diversifying into areas like renewables and EV charging and hydrogen, though oil and gas remain their dominant business lines.

  • Gates sees potential in areas like "blue" hydrogen and also noted, "we have a pipeline infrastructure in the United States that probably can be retrofitted to transmit hydrogen."

The big picture: I asked about Big Oil but Gates was really here to talk up the expansion of initiatives through his Breakthrough Energy group.

  • One is Catalyst, a partnership between Breakthrough, huge corporations and government partners to steer billions of dollars into commercially scaling promising technologies.
  • At COP26 it announced new partners including Citi and the Ikea Foundation and formalized a partnership with the European Commission and European Investment Bank to mobilize capital for areas like long-duration storage.
Go deeper