Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk cautioned on Monday that the global economy places itself at risk by pursuing a rushed transition to renewable power.
Energy prices in many developed countries — particularly nations in western Europe heavily dependent upon renewable sources — have soared following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with natural gas prices in Germany and France soaring to an order of magnitude higher than usual levels. During an energy conference in Norway, Musk remarked that “some additional exploration” of oil and gas resources “is warranted at this time.”
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“Realistically I think we need to use oil and gas in the short term, because otherwise civilization will crumble,” Musk told reporters. “One of the biggest challenges the world has ever faced is the transition to sustainable energy and to a sustainable economy. That will take some decades to complete.”
Many developed countries are indeed shifting their energy portfolios toward renewables and away from conventional sources. As a result, Norwegian production of oil, natural gas, and other fossil fuels reached a peak in 2004 and has steadily declined since, according to data from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate. More broadly, the European Union — of which Norway is not a member — aims to be “a climate-neutral society” by 2050 in accordance with the European Green Deal and the Paris Agreement.
Meanwhile, Switzerland and Germany are among several countries progressively shuttering nuclear power plants in reaction to the 2011 meltdown in Fukushima, Japan. Germany — which imported 55% of its gas from Russia before the war — will likely proceed with the scheduled closure of its three remaining nuclear facilities before the end of the year.
Musk issued a similar warning to the United States earlier this year — despite possible harm brought to Tesla, which exclusively manufactures electric cars. “Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures,” he commented on social media, noting that sustainable energy solutions “simply cannot react instantaneously” to cope with lower energy supplies.
The national average price of gasoline was $2.38 per gallon when President Joe Biden assumed office, according to the Energy Information Administration, and increased to $3.53 per gallon by the start of the Russian invasion. Prices surpassed $5.00 per gallon in early June before subsiding to $3.85 per gallon as of Monday, according to AAA.
Multiple states — including California, Massachusetts, and Washington — are nevertheless moving to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars in alignment with rules from the California Air Resources Board. “This is a critical milestone in our climate fight,” Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA) said, establishing the goal of “all new car sales to be zero emissions by 2030.”
However, Governor Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) opposed the law and vowed to prevent the policy from impacting his state.
“In an effort to turn Virginia into California, liberal politicians who previously ran our government sold Virginia out by subjecting Virginia drivers to California vehicle laws,” Youngkin wrote in a statement. “Now, under that pact, Virginians will be forced to adopt the California law that prohibits the sale of gas and diesel-fueled vehicles. I am already at work to prevent this ridiculous edict from being forced on Virginians. California’s out of touch laws have no place in our Commonwealth.”