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Thursday, December 03, 2015

Elon Musk Can Be Wrong

Rockstar entrepreneur Elon Musk is right most of the time. But, he can certainly be wrong. We've written before that he's wrong about Lithium-ion battery technology as he's betting the future of Tesla on that obsolete technology. We will be proven correct in the long run and Musk may very well snap to the facts. The inventor of Lithium-ion battery technology agrees with us, by the way.

Today, we find that Musk thinks that we can only solve the Climate Change problem with a Carbon Tax. Well, there's another thing Musk is wrong about. What will solve the problem is technology. Strangely enough, we agree with Bill Gates on this point. We read in Fortune that:

As world leaders and policymakers continue climate negotiations in Paris, serial entrepreneur Elon Musk appealed to a younger, seemingly less powerful group to help prevent global warming.

His message: only a carbon tax—not innovation, conservation, or renewable energy—will accelerate the transition from carbon-producing fossil fuels to sustainable energy.

“I think you have tremendous power—you have the power to make change,” Musk told students during a conference at the Sorbonne in Paris, just a 30-minute drive from the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference, where negotiations are underway to pass an international treaty that would cut emissions enough to prevent the world’s temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius.

Musk, who has pushed for a carbon tax before, said the tax should be revenue neutral and phased in over a period of years. A revenue neutral tax means governments would still receive the same amount of money despite a change in the tax code. Under Musk’s scenario, taxes would be weighted heavily on carbon, and reduced in other areas. This approach already occurs, Musk said, citing how taxes are higher on cigarettes and alcohol than fruits and vegetables.

Musk encouraged students to press politicians to take action on climate change because “governments respond to popular pressure.”

Eventually, the world will run out of carbon to mine and burn, and will have to move to sustainable energy, Musk predicted at the conference. A hidden subsidy that benefits all carbon-producing activity—about $5.3 trillion annually, according to the IMF—is delaying that transition, he said.

The net result of this “untaxed negative externality” is 35 gigatonnes of carbon per year being emitted into the atmosphere—additional carbon that Musk described as the “turd in the punch bowl.”

Musk, who is chief executive of all-electric automaker Tesla Motors and aerospace manufacturer SpaceX, said governments, which set how companies are rewarded financially, must send a clear message.

“The fundamental problem is the rules today incent people to create carbon; this is madness,” Musk said. “So what can you do? Whenever you have the opportunity, talk to your politicians, ask them to enact a carbon tax.” Musk also encouraged the audience to talk to their friends about it and to “fight the propaganda from the carbon industry,” which he compared to the tobacco industry’s often spurious strategies to convince consumers smoking is safe.

This idea that government has to coerce the public into doing the right thing is where conservatives lose patience with environmentalists. We say let the market decide which is the best course of action. Let the technology force the outcome. And, we think the market is going to tell the fossil fuel industry to keep their polluting fuel in the ground. That's because we have an unlimited supply of clean green fuel for our energy coming from 93 million miles in the sky. We can take this free energy and store it in advanced batteries and have it available at any time in the future. We can create electric transportation and store that solar energy to put to use in transporting goods from place to place on the surface of this planet—and in the air as well. It's called solar+storage and it's now cheaper than burning polluting fossil fuel in many parts of the planet. Let the market decide, not government. Tell politicians to keep their greedy hands off the economy. You know that if the politicians pass a tax, they'll find a way to funnel some of those funds into the hands of their sponsors in industry. The public will pay higher taxes and receive no benefits from the tax while some gets funneled into corporate coffers that finds its way back into politicians' pockets.