Tesla CEO Elon Musk got closer to President-elect Donald Trump since the election, a move that was welcomed by people concerned about climate change considering Musk’s mission to address the issue and Trump being dismissive of even the existence of the problem.
During an event with investors at the Gigafactory in Nevada this week, Musk described his takeaway from the meeting and it looks somewhat encouraging for the clean tech industry.
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Investors attending the event told Electrek that Musk said the following when his meeting with Trump came up:
“The President-elect has a strong emphasis on US manufacturing and so do we. We are building the biggest factory in the world right here, creating US jobs… I think we may see some surprising things from the next administration. We don’t think they will be negative on fossil fuels… but they may also be positive on renewables.”
When someone like Musk, who had access to Trump, says something like that, it’s significant. That could represent an important change in the perceived approach to renewables that the upcoming Trump administration has been taking.
The fact that Musk believes that the administration “will not be negative on fossil fuels” takes a carbon tax off the table, but that’s not surprising considering Trump has been promoting himself has the champion of the fossil fuel industry and promised to unlock fossil fuel reserves in the US.
But even if regulations make it easier for people to invest in those reserves, it may still be difficult to find the investments considering the rapidly falling price of renewable energies. It would be hard to convince investors to reopen a coal mine today when the electricity it would produce will be more expensive than the unsubsidized and levelized cost of solar energy.
Nonetheless, there are still plenty of things that governments can do to slow the growth of renewables. For solar, changes in net metering and the legal monopolies on the sale of electricity come to mind.
The meeting Musk had with Trump reportedly revolved around job creation and that seems to be the card that Tesla’s CEO is playing with the President-elect. It’s hard to convince someone to act on something they don’t believe in, but if Trump wants to be the champion of job creation and Tesla shows that renewables create a lot of jobs, then their interests are aligned.
As we recently reported, Tesla currently employs over 30,000 people, more than 25,000 of which are in the US. Tesla wants to add over 3,000 manufacturing jobs at its factory in Fremont, California, 1,000 at its solar panel factory in Buffalo, New York, and over to 6,500 at the Gigafactory in Nevada.