Elon Musk’s quarterly earnings reports for Tesla Motors always offer a little razzle, a little dazzle, soon-to-be-unfulfilled promises, and rationalized failures.
This go-round was no exception, and after yet another shortfall of financial and vehicle delivery expectations, perhaps the biggest surprise was the revelation that $1.3 billion in subsidies from Nevada taxpayers won’t be enough to get the hyped Gigafactory completed.
So he went about trying to fix things on CNBC and with the Times on Monday, but not by denying the conclusions reached by reporter Jerry Hirsch, but instead by essentially pointing at fossil fuel industries and saying “they do it more.”
The total amount calculated by reporter Jerry Hirsch for taxpayer-backed incentives – of many different forms, including tax credits and rebates provided to customers – was $4.9 billion. The corporate beneficiaries have been Tesla Motors and SpaceX, where Musk is CEO, and SolarCity Corp., where he is chairman. The sum does not include SpaceX’s contracts with the government to carry out programs for NASA and the U.S. Air Force.
There was little doubt that once CEO Elon Musk and Tesla announced they would locate their electric vehicle battery “Gigafactory” in Nevada, that Silver State lawmakers would vote in a special legislative session to support targeted tax breaks and incentives – even at the breathtaking amount of $1.3 billion.
Gov. Brian Sandoval, the courter, would have appeared an extreme fool if he didn’t already have the political backing needed for the deal. But there were other mini-surprises: Unanimity at the legislature; four separate bills passed to construct the package; and benefits enjoyed by other industries in Nevada that were rescinded to help with the Tesla payoff.
President Obama’s speech last week that re-emphasized his commitment to reduce US carbon dioxide emissions brought dismay to those who appreciate affordable energy, but it sparked a celebration among corporate types who have long sought caps and taxes on CO2.
While it was still more words from the president, which don’t always match his actions, on CO2 limitation he has largely kept his promise to environmentalists. Critics slammed his plan to bypass Congress and to task the Environmental Protection Agency to curb emissions via executive order, but EPA has operated out of bounds since he was inaugurated in 2009 – especially with the “war against coal” that is now universally accepted as true.
Taxpayer-supported Tesla, recipient of a $465 million stimulus loan guarantee to produce yet another electric toy car (the Model S) for rich people, reported its 4th quarter earnings last week. The word from billionaire CEO Elon Musk (Flickr photo: Jurvetson) was, “we’ll do better next quarter – promise.”
Undoubtedly alternative energy and transportation innovator Elon Musk (Flickr photo: Jurvetson) – like his competitor for the taxpayer-funded, six-figure electric automobile market Henrik Fisker – is a smart guy. But will economic and technological realities humble him, or worse, make him look like a fool?
After the experience recounted last week by New York Times journalist John Broder, who test drove the Tesla Model S in frigid conditions that required frequent unplanned recharging stops throughout the Northeast, humility is out of the question for Musk. The jury is still out on inanity.
The three top U.S. tycoons on Forbes’s “Green” billionaires list have received billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for their clean technology companies, after they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for political campaigns and lobbying.