Elon Musk’s lengthy historical past of questionable local weather takes on oil, inhabitants, and nuclear

Elon Musk, the person who topped Bloomberg’s 2021 record of “inexperienced” billionaires, just lately shocked observers when he referred to as for extra fossil gas exploration at an power convention.

“At the moment, we really want extra oil and fuel, not much less,” the Tesla CEO mentioned on Monday at an event in Stavanger, Norway, including that he didn’t need to “demonize” the fossil gas trade.

He argued that regardless of numerous efforts to construct renewable applied sciences, the invasion of Ukraine and ensuing sanctions on Russia’s fossil gas trade have been pinching power provides in Europe.

“Realistically I believe we have to use oil and fuel within the quick time period, as a result of in any other case civilization will crumble,” Mr Musk continued. “To ensure that civilization to perform, we do want oil and fuel. Truly, particularly lately, with the Russia sanctions, we do want to offer oil and fuel to maintain civilization operating. I believe any affordable particular person would conclude that, whereas on the identical time accelerating the arrival of sustainable power.”

The tech billionaire made an identical declare in March.

“Hate to say it, however we have to improve oil & fuel output instantly,” he wrote on Twitter. “Clearly, this is able to negatively have an effect on Tesla, however sustainable power options merely can’t react instantaneously to make up for Russian oil & fuel exports.”

The remarks have drawn swift rebukes from some environmental observers.

“What is absolutely wanted is to chop that power use globally by greater than a half—beginning with the 1% within the world North,” tweeted Peter Dynes of MEER, an environmental advocacy group, this week.

“I believe his remark was overblown,” wrote journalist Fred Lambert, editor-in-chief of renewable transportation information website Electrek. “He’s simply pointing a easy truth, however if you wish to take a look at it from a coverage standpoint, it’s essential to remember that we have to incentivize new power manufacturing to be renewable somewhat than from fossil fuels with a view to account for the impression on the surroundings.”

Worldwide leaders say that funding in new fossil gas initiatives must be halted instantly to forestall the worst of the local weather disaster.

“If governments are critical concerning the local weather disaster, there might be no new investments in oil, fuel and coal, from now – from this 12 months,” Fatih Birol, director of the influential Worldwide Power Company, mentioned in 2021. “Increasingly international locations are developing with web zero commitments, which is superb, however I see an enormous and rising hole between the rhetoric [from governments] and the fact.”

UN Secretary Common António Guterres has mentioned that even the warfare in Ukraine and its effect on global energy supplies shouldn’t imply new fossil gas investments, calling such pondering “delusional.”

“The power disaster exacerbated by the warfare in Ukraine has seen a deadly doubling down on fossil fuels by the foremost economies,” he wrote in June. New funding for fossil fuels is delusional. It is going to solely additional feed the scourge of warfare, air pollution and local weather disaster.”

Musk’s debatable tackle oil drilling was simply the most recent in a string of feedback about tackling the local weather disaster that environmentalists have taken subject with.

There’s little doubt Mr Musk is critical about constructing renewable applied sciences. By way of his corporations like Tesla and SolarCity, he has helped developed electrical automobiles, photo voltaic roof panels, and renewable power storage gadgets. Alongside the best way, he’s turn into an influential voice in clear tech, and each policymakers and legions of on-line followers typically observe his lead.

However that doesn’t imply he’s at all times proper. He’s obtained a prolonged historical past of divisive opinions on the local weather.

Nuclear or bust

Among the many most controversial points is Mr Musk’s embrace of nuclear energy. He has described those that oppose nuclear as a renewable power technique as “anti-human.”

He has referred to as for international locations to extend nuclear technology, a controversial stance that has divided clean energy advocates. Whereas some tout nuclear’s capacity to constantly present energy with out burning as many fossil fuels, others level to its excessive value, sluggish rollout, and danger of disasters.

“Nations must be rising nuclear energy technology!” Mr Musk tweeted last month. “It’s insane from a nationwide safety standpoint and dangerous for the surroundings to close them down.”

Responding to Mr Musk’s requires extra nuclear, Stanford environmental engineering professor Mark Z Jacobson argued: “New nuclear is totally ineffective for addressing local weather, air pollution, power safety.”

The professor pointed to research that implies the cash wanted to maintain nuclear energy could be higher spent on changing it with renewable power, which is cheaper to construct, faster to build, and emits less carbon per unit of energy generated than nuclear.

In line with Jan Haverkamp, an power professional at Greenpeace, nuclear has a document of overpromising and underdelivering. The world wants renewables, and quick, whether it is to keep away from the worst results of worldwide heating.

“We’ve by no means been in precept towards any expertise, however it is extremely clear, each time you begin calculating, that the second you introduce nuclear, the prices are going up and the pace of change goes down,” he told The Independent earlier this 12 months. “That’s precisely what we are able to’t afford now as local weather change is turning into ever extra actual. If you happen to begin speaking about nuclear at this second, both you’re following a fad otherwise you’re making an attempt to divert the eye from what actually must be accomplished.”

The Impartial has reached out to Mr Musk for remark.

Extra Nuclear Households

On the occasion in Norway, Mr Musk additionally hit on one other of his pet causes: inhabitants traits.

He advised a crowd of reporters that due to declining start charges, like these recorded in america, European Union, and China, in recent times, civilization “will die with a whimper in adult diapers.”

Final month, Mr Musk additionally mentioned that demographic traits, such because the slowing start charges in lots of high-income, Western international locations, are a higher menace than world warming.

“Inhabitants collapse on account of low start charges is a a lot greater danger to civilization than world warming,” the Tesla CEO wrote on Twitter. “Mark these phrases.”

Certainly, start charges on common have declined for the reason that mid-1900s, according to the World Bank. Nevertheless, it’s seemingly extra a perform of improved public well being, particularly for youth, than a societal fertility disaster, demographic specialists say.

“He’s higher off making automobiles and engineering than at predicting the trajectory of the inhabitants,” Joseph Chamie, former director of the United Nations Inhabitants Division, told CNN in August. “Sure, some international locations, their inhabitants is declining, however for the world, that’s simply not the case.”

The worldwide inhabitants seemingly gained’t peak till round 2100 when it reaches 8.5-10 billion individuals, based on the UN.

“Just about each developed nation is under two [children per average pregnant person], and it’s been that manner for 20 or 30 years,” Mr Chamie added.

Even when world inhabitants peaks, the UN says, the world gained’t be overrun with seniors. There might be extra individuals beneath 20 than over age 70. And in contrast to with the novel threats of local weather change, governments have already got an extended historical past of coverage options like pensions and state-sponsored healthcare that deal with seniors’ wants.

Some argue such fears over declining birthrates in wealthy, comparatively white Western international locations have a racist bent, since excessive start charges can nonetheless be seen in numerous lower-income international locations in Africa.

A couple of third of nations in Africa have a median start price of 5 kids, particularly in locations with excessive youth mortality and low entry to contraception.

“The true problem is to handle the poverty, inequity, and lack of life alternatives that top fertility and inhabitants progress characterise, enhance the wellbeing of the best proportion of our fellow residents, and shield ecosystems right here on Earth – earlier than indulging the house fantasies of a handful of competing billionaires,” Robin Maynard of the thinktank Inhabitants Issues, said in July.

Hyperloop — or simply hype?

Mr Musk has provoked a long-running debate amongst local weather specialists over his proposals for “hyperloop” transit methods — ultra-high pace, train-like vessels that transfer by way of vacuum-chamber tunnels. The billionaire first argued for hyperloop methods in a 2013 white paper. Mr Musk claimed that in the event that they run on renewable electrical energy, they’re a extra sustainable approach to journey medium distances.

And it’s an concept that has caught on. Corporations, impressed by Mr Musk’s entry into the world of transit, are engaged on at least 15 proposed hyperloop projects across the US.

Analysts are cut up on whether or not hyperloops would genuinely be a greener approach to get round.

Early estimates advised that they’re a extra carbon-efficient approach to journey distances of 250 – 500 miles than a flight, according to NASA. A US Division of Transit evaluation mentioned a perfect hyperloop might be six instances extra environment friendly than air journey at sure distances.

Others, like Cleveland State College environmental engineering professor Jacqueline Jenkins, argue these methods gained’t be worthwhile until they’re paired with large investments in inexperienced energy to guarantee hyperloops are operating on renewable power.

“If we don’t do it sustainably, it’s most likely a short-term resolution,” she told the news site GreenBiz in 2019.

Some doubt Mr Musk’s dedication to really public transportation, a much more carbon-efficient approach to transfer individuals than particular person automotive possession or long-haul flights.

Mr Musk admitted to a biographer that he obtained the concept for hyperloop out of a dissatisfaction with public transportation, and rooted for California to cancel a deliberate high-speed rail system — regardless that prepare transit is far greener than driving and infrequently than flying too.

Regardless of being extensively seen as a key resolution in reducing emissions, the Tesla billionaire has spoken of his basic disdain for public transit.

“It’s a ache within the ass,” he told an audience in 2017. “That’s why everybody doesn’t prefer it. And there’s like a bunch of random strangers, one among whom may be a serial killer, OK, nice. And in order that’s why individuals like individualized transport, that goes the place you need, whenever you need.”

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