TAPPER: Obviously, the oil spill in the Gulf makes your proposal for $11 billion in energy innovation all the more resonant, all the more relevant. But I'm wondering, some are criticizing the president's handling of the federal response to the spill by saying he doesn't have executive experience and that's why he hasn't been able to -- to really get the federal bureaucracy moving the way it needs to.
As a former CEO, do you think there's anything to that at all?
GATES: Well, I think in any crisis like this, the key thing is to avoid them happening in the future. And I'm not an expert on oil recovery. BP is certainly incented to try and minimize the damage here in a very complex situation.
But how did we get an ener -- energy infrastructure that is this fragile?
You know, we've got a supply chain where we send a billion dollars a year overseas and you can imagine that there will be disruptions. When there have been in the past, we've always said, no, let's put a solution in place. But, in fact, the only real solution is to take American ingenuity and fund R&D to get energy in different forms that we're not sending this much money away and -- and that it's stable and reliable.
TAPPER: Well, let -- let's talk about that. Obviously, your proposal for $11 billion in additional spending for energy innovation, there's not a huge appetite right now among the American people for more spending with the record deficits we have.
Forgetting the merits of your proposal for a second, how politically feasible is it?
GATES: Well, I would distinguish between spending and investment. What we're talking about is about 1 percent of what the United States spends on energy, being devoted to R&D. And so if you find a way out of the energy sector to raise that 1 percent, which is not some huge increase in the costs there, then you can tap into the unique ability in this country, through its universities, the national labs and entrepreneurs, to give us a form of energy that is both cheaper, not dependent on foreign supply and is environmentally designed so that we're not emitting carbon and getting into the climate change problem.
The only way you get those things is through the breakthroughs. And I'm optimistic they're there, but we're not making the investment. Today we spend only about $4 billion on energy R&D compared to $30 billion on health, $80 billion on -- on defense.
TAPPER: So that's your pitch.
How receptive have you found lawmakers?
GATES: Well, there is obviously a -- a tight budget. And it would be tough to say that this money should come from existing categories.
The question is can the energy sector finance its own revolution and create these great R&D jobs here in America?
TAPPER: What's the risk if -- if President Obama and Congress and the American people don't do this?
GATES: The problem we'll run into is that we'll have more crises like the oil spill and we'll have the supply disruption. We'll start to see more and more effects of the -- the climate problem. The costs will go up because you're looking for oil in harder and harder places.
So you'll just be paying more and more. And so it's an implicit tax. If you don't innovate, it's this gigantic cost that we'll be paying.