He’s also become an angel to the environmental movement, because he’s advanced green technologies faster and more effectively than any other player, by a country mile. Tesla’s products and forward thinking definitely deserve respect. His cars have rewired everyone’s expectations as to what electric vehicles are capable of and how good they can be, and he’s also made them as cool as Apple products. His Powerwall home battery system, solar roof tiles, and electric vehicles form the most comprehensive and compelling advancement of green energy technology I’ve ever seen. GE, GM, Daimler, you name it – none have come even close to this sort of innovation. The company is by any standard one of the most progressive out there.
One of his greatest abilities though is to thoroughly milk the halo effect – the tendency to believe that success or virtue in one’s actions in one area mean similar in other contexts. Elon does great things for the environment, so everything he does must be that way. He has seemingly hypnotized half the world’s population, who are so under his sway that it would surprise no one to see masses of people acting like chickens until he snaps his fingers.
His spellbinding persona, however, is diverting our attention from the fact that, when he feels like it, he treats the environment like one of the coal-rolling idiots whose trucks purposely belch black smoke into the face if Prius-drivers. Musk is embarking on a program as environmentally destructive as any of the fossil fuel industries he so vehemently wants to stamp out. It is a testament to his anaesthetizing personality that he can simultaneously bash petroleum vehicles while concurrently sending fleets of carbon-spewing and absolutely unnecessary spacecraft into the sky.
The notable environmental impact of Musk’s rocket hobby deserves far more attention than it gets, particularly because it’s such a direct attack on what the climate industry holds so dear. Scientific American had this to say about rockets and the environment: “The climate impact of rockets has not really been seriously addressed as yet,” a senior project engineer for civil and commercial launch projects at The Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California, said. “But with respect to ozone, we now understand that the climate and ozone impacts of rocket exhaust are completely intertwined.”
The problem, apparently, is that some of the carbon emitted by rockets is released directly into the stratosphere, where it acts as a greenhouse gas and traps heat. What makes this type of emission so important is that the carbon released directly into the stratosphere stays for a very long time; it does not ever have a chance to get cycled back around like the CO2 in the atmosphere that plants use.
Those who’ve bothered to study the problem speculate that the radiative forcing (a measure of heat absorption) of black carbon injected directly into the stratosphere is 100,000 times greater than the CO2 released by the rockets. As with other climate change “measurements,” the impact on global warming isn’t known, but this is no less important an issue than burning fossil fuels.
We’re supposed to listen to Scientific American when they get all riled up about climate change, but Musk can ignore them when he wants to send his frivolous rockets into space?
Dumbfoundingly, he finds some of the mass pollution quite funny. After one part of his latest rocket launch crashed into a barge and the ocean at 300 miles per hour, smashing two engines on the target ship and scattering lord knows how much debris in the ocean, he had this to say: “If we got the footage that sounds like some pretty fun footage if the cameras didn’t get blown up as well, then we’ll put that up for the blooper reel.”
Bearded groupies around the world chuckled at the deity’s little joke; oh that Elon, what a character. The fact that these antics are an environmental disgrace is invisible to his fans; they can’t conceive that it’s even possible.
The media has completely ignored this paradox; almost everyone has (except Calgary’s unheralded resident sage, Bruce Malcolm – thanks for the input). Even in the foul hell of mainstream media comments sections, the masses had nothing to say about the problem. I read them until I felt woozy and nauseous, admittedly not very long, but could find nothing but glowing responses for his forward thinking. It seems that not a single media commentator is capable of considering the possibility that Musk could be doing serious damage to the environment.
It’s so hypocritical and silly that it’s almost beyond belief. Not only does Musk see no problem with massively polluting the atmosphere with his toys; he wants others to start doing it too. Musk wants a new space race. He wants other participants to fill the sky with these things. “Space races are exciting,” Musk said at a press conference. So are hurricanes, if you’re watching on TV.
What one must conclude then, from watching Musk’s various enterprises, is that he may appear to be an environmental angel, but in reality he’s no different than anyone else. Excessive pollution, or greenhouse gases, or whatever the problem, is a result of two things: a lot of people on the planet, and a lot of people on the planet that do environmentally harmful things because they feel like it. Fly to Mexico, fly to Thailand, fly to outer space – all harmful, all pure choice, and we all do it.
Read more insightful analysis from Terry Etam here. To reach Terry, click here