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Grant Whittington headshot

Does Elon Musk Have Trump's Ear? And If So, Will It Matter?


Donald Trump’s election could spell bad news for Elon Musk, the outspoken entrepreneur and brainchild of Tesla Motors and SolarCity. A leader of the two companies whose survival depends on alternative energy couldn’t possibly seek solace in a president so apt to support fossil fuels while calling climate change a hoax.

But as Morgan Stanley automotive analyst Adam Jonas told the New York Times: “You don’t have to be anti-electric to be pro-fossil fuel.”

Musk appears to be defying expectations and creating an alliance with the president, despite clear differences.

For one, Musk is an adamant supporter of a carbon tax. Trump, on the other hand, has discredited climate change and assembled a pro-fossil fuel cabinet, with his picks for Secretary of State and Energy Secretary going to Rex Tillerson and Rick Perry, respectively.

Despite their differences and despite Musk openly criticizing Trump during his campaign, the tech billionaire isn’t turning his back to Trump. In fact, he’s embracing Trump’s presidency -- accepting a position on the president’s manufacturing counsel and drawing headlines reading, “Opposites Attract? Why Musk and Trump Are Having a Bromance.”

While it’s true that Trump hasn’t been particularly partial to the environmental industry in his first week in office, one of his main aims is to boost American manufacturing. Musk’s Tesla represents some overlap in that field, boasting high-tech manufacturing jobs right in the United States.

Sure, Tesla is an all-electric car manufacturer working in a country where the president is more slanted toward fossil fuels, but it’s also a business. And after just one week of Donald J. Trump roaming the halls of the White House, Musk’s business is booming.

Tesla stock was close to reaching a record high. And analysts are calling it the “Trump effect.

The newly-formed relationship between Musk and Trump can be seen in a few ways. On one hand, Musk can have Trump’s ear on environmental issues and start conversations on positions with which Trump’s cabinet disagrees. Musk already made strides in suggesting the carbon tax to Trump. While Trump didn’t openly welcome the idea, he didn’t call it a Chinese hoax like last time.

On the other hand, skeptics are questioning the genuineness in Musk’s relationship with Trump. Are his goals still aligned with environmental concerns, or is he more interested in expanding his net worth?

Trump’s friendship with Musk makes sense, despite his reservations on climate change. Tesla represents a perfect American company. The car company employs 25,000 workers in the U.S. and “could easily double that as it ramps up production for its new Model 3.” Tesla was receiving federal subsidies for its production, but that will end once the company reaches 200,000 vehicles.

All things considered, Musk and Trump’s unlikely partnership is something to keep an eye on.

Photo courtesy of Heisenberg Media via Flickr

Grant Whittington headshot

Based in Atlanta, GA, Grant is a nonprofit professional and freelance writer passionate about affordable housing and finding sustainable approaches to international development. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, Grant spent four months post-grad living in Armenia where he worked for Habitat for Humanity and the World Food Programme. He enjoys playing trivia with friends but is still seeking his first victory - he ceaselessly blames his friends lack of preparation.

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