Elon Musk’s long history of questionable climate relates to oil, population, and nuclear

Elon Musk, the man who topped Bloomberg List of “green” billionaires for 2021 recently surprised observers when he called for more fossil fuel exploration at an energy conference.

“At this time, we really need more oil and gas, not less,” said the Tesla CEO. On Monday at an event in Stavanger, Norway, He added that he did not want to “demonize” the fossil fuel industry.

He argued that despite various efforts to build renewable technologies, the invasion of Ukraine and the resulting sanctions from Russia’s fossil fuel industry were hampering energy supplies in Europe.

“Realistically, I think we need to use oil and gas in the short term, otherwise civilization will collapse,” Mr. Musk continued. For civilization to work, we need oil and gas. In fact, especially these days, with Russia sanctions, we need to provide oil and gas to keep civilization going. I think any sane person would conclude that, while at the same time accelerating the emergence of sustainable energy.”

The tech billionaire made a similar claim in March.

“I hate to say it, but we need to ramp up oil and gas production immediately,” he wrote on Twitter. “Obviously this will negatively affect Tesla, but sustainable energy solutions simply cannot react immediately to offset Russian oil and gas exports.”

These statements drew swift rebuke from some environmental watchers.

“What we really need is to cut global energy use by more than half – starting with 1% in the Global North,” Peter Dynes of MEER, an environmental advocacy group, tweeted this week.

“I think his comment was exaggerated,” Wrote Journalist Fred Lambert, editor-in-chief of the renewable transportation news site Electrek. “It just points to a simple fact, but if you want to look at it from a political point of view, it’s important to keep in mind that we need to stimulate new energy production to be renewable rather than fossil fuels in order to account for an impact on the environment.”

International leaders say investment in new fossil fuel projects must stop immediately to prevent the worst of the climate crisis.

“If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there will be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now – from this year,” Fatih Birol, director of the influential International Energy Agency, said in 2021. Countries come up with zero net commitments, which is very good, but I see a large and growing gap between the rhetoric [from governments] And reality.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that even the war in Ukraine and its war Impact on the global energy supply It should not mean new investments in fossil fuels, and describe such thinking as “delusional.”

Russia burns gas at the Portovaya compressor station in Russia. The photo was taken from the air traffic control tower in Pirolahti in Virulahti, eastern Finland on August 26, 2022

(Hiki Sakuma/Shutterstock)

“The energy crisis exacerbated by the war in Ukraine has seen a precarious doubling of fossil fuels by major economies,” Wrote in June. The new funding for fossil fuels is fictitious. It will only further fuel the scourge of war, pollution and climate catastrophe.”

Musk’s controversial stance on oil drilling was the latest in a series of comments about tackling the climate crisis raised by environmentalists.

There is no doubt that Mr. Musk is serious about building renewable technologies. Through his companies such as Tesla and SolarCity, he has helped develop electric cars, solar roof panels, and renewable energy storage devices. Along the way, he has become an influential voice in clean tech, with both policy makers and legions of online fans often following in his footsteps..

But that doesn’t mean he’s always right. He has a long history of controversial views on climate.

nuclear or bankruptcy

Among the most contentious issues is Mr. Musk’s embrace of nuclear power. Those who oppose nuclear power as a renewable energy strategy have been described as “anti human. “

He has called on countries to increase nuclear power generation, a controversial position that has led to this Divided clean energy advocates. While some tout nuclear power’s ability to consistently provide energy without burning as many fossil fuels as possible, others point to its high cost, slow deployment, and disaster risk.

“States must increase nuclear power generation!” Mr. Musk Tweet last month. “It’s crazy from a national security standpoint and shutting it down is bad for the environment.”

In response to Mr. Musk’s calls for more nuclear power, Stanford Professor of Environmental Engineering Marc Z Jacobson argue: “New nuclear power is completely useless for tackling climate, pollution, and energy security.”

The professor pointed out Research Which suggests that the money needed to maintain nuclear energy would be better spent on replacing it with renewable energy, which is Cheaper to build, faster to build, and less carbon per unit of energy Born from nuclear.

According to Jan Haverkamp, ​​an energy expert at Greenpeace, nuclear power has a record of over-promising and under-delivering. The world needs renewables, and fast, if it wants to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

“We have never opposed any technology in principle, but it is very clear, every time you start the calculation, that the moment you introduce nuclear power, the costs go up and the speed of change goes down.” Tell independent earlier this year. “This is exactly what we cannot afford now that climate change is more realistic than ever. If you start talking about nuclear power at this moment, you are either following a fad or trying to divert attention from what really needs to be done.”

independent Contact Mr. Musk for comment.

More nuclear families

At the event in Norway, Musk also hit on another reason for his pet: population trends.

He told a crowd of reporters that due to low birth rates, such as those recorded in the United States, the European Union and China, in recent years, civilization “You will die with a moan in an adult diaper. “

Last month, Musk also said demographic trends, such as slowing birth rates in many high-income Western countries, pose a greater threat from global warming.

“Population collapse due to low birth rates is a much greater danger to civilization than global warming,” Tesla CEO wrote on Twitter. Mark these words.

In fact, birth rates have fallen on average since the mid-20th century, According to the World Bank. However, it likely does more to improve public health, especially for young people, than a societal fertility crisis, demographic experts say.

“It’s better off in the auto industry and in engineering than predicting the trajectory of population,” said Joseph Shami, former director of the United Nations Population Division. He told CNN in August. “Yes, some countries, their population is declining, but for the world, that’s just not the case.”

The world’s population likely won’t peak until around the year 2100 when it reaches 8.5-10 billion people, according to the United Nations.

Practically every developed country has less than two [children per average pregnant person]It’s been like that for 20 or 30 years.”

Even when the world’s population is at its peak, The United Nations saysThe world will not be crowded with old people. There will be more people under the age of 20 and over the age of 70. And unlike the new threats of climate change, governments already have a long history of policy solutions such as state-sponsored pensions and health care that meet the needs of older people.

Some argue with such concerns about low birth rates in the wealthy, relatively white, and racist Western nations, as high birth rates can still be seen in many low-income countries in Africa.

About a third of countries in Africa have an average birth rate of five children, particularly in places with high youth mortality rates and low access to contraceptives.

“The real challenge is to tackle the poverty, injustice, and lack of life opportunity that characterizes high fertility and population growth, improve the well-being of the largest proportion of our citizens, and protect ecosystems here on Earth — before indulging in the space fantasies of a handful of competing billionaires,” Robin Maynard of the Think Team Matters population, said in july.

Hyperloop – or just propaganda?

Musk has sparked a long debate among climate experts over his proposals for “hyperloop” transit systems – high-speed train-like ships moving through vacuum chamber tunnels. The billionaire first argued about hyperloop systems in a 2013 report. Mr. Musk claimed that if they were running on renewable electricity, they were a more sustainable way to travel medium distances.

It is an idea that has spread. Inspired by Mr. Musk’s entry into the transportation world, the companies are working on No less than 15 proposed hyperloop projects ABOUT US.

Analysts are divided on whether hyperloops will really be a more environmentally friendly way to get around.

Early estimates suggest it is a more carbon-efficient way to travel 250-500 miles of journey, According to NASA. An analysis by the US Department of Transit reported that a perfect hyperloop could be six times more efficient than air travel over certain distances.

Others, such as Jacqueline Jenkins, a professor of environmental engineering at Cleveland State University, argue that these systems will not be feasible unless they are paired with huge investments in green energy to ensure hyperloops run on renewable energy.

“If we don’t do it sustainably, it’s probably a short-term solution” For GreenBiz News in 2019.

Some doubt Musk’s commitment to truly public transportation, which is a more carbon-efficient way to transport people than single-car ownership or long-distance trips.

Mr. Musk Confess to the biographer that he came up with the idea of ​​a hyperloop out of his dissatisfaction with public transportation, and rooted in California to scrap a planned high-speed rail system — even though the train crossing is Greener than driving And often from flying, too.

Although it is widely seen as a key solution in cutting emissions, billionaire Tesla has spoken of his public disdain for public transportation.

“It’s a pain in the ass” For audience in 2017. “That’s why not everyone likes it. And there’s like a bunch of random strangers, one of them might be a serial killer, well, great. That’s why people like solo transport, that goes wherever you want, whenever you want.”