Former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson narrowly managed to get the support of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in order to get confirmed as Secretary of State yesterday. While he was only one vote away from losing the important position, he also gained the surprising support of Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Tillerson’s opposition was concerned by his obvious close ties with the oil industry and Russia, but Musk seems more optimistic about the new Secretary of State.
Being CEO of a company with the mission to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, it feels out-of-place for Musk to be happy about the former CEO of one of the world’s top polluter leading the U.S. state department, but he decided to voice his support on Twitter.
Indeed, it is surprising. Of course, he is entitled to his opinion, but the surprise is not only that he would support Tillerson specifically but also simply that he would comment on it publicly. Musk makes extensive use of his Twitter account and he is quite successful at it, but he uses it mainly to promote his companies and answer questions from fans or customers. Rarely to comment about politics.
The surprising comment comes as Musk has been getting closer to Trump’s administration since the election. He joined Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum and he attended a meeting with the then President-elect last month and again yesterday during the President’s first full day in office.
He elaborated on why he supports Tillerson, or at least why he gives him the benefit of the doubt:
He then went on to defend Rex on his climate change stance, which is significantly stronger than Trump’s:
But the thing is that the “actions” that Tillerson has taken over the years speak louder than his words and those actions have been quite awful for the environment, like drilling for oil in the Arctic with the Russian and of course, through his company’s continuous effort to undermine climate science – something Musk even commented on recently:
Musk has been quite vocal against this exact kind of fossil fuel propaganda – even going as far as saying that people need “to revolt against the propaganda of the fossil fuel industry which is unrelenting and enormous“.
To his credit, Tillerson has also been supporting a tax on carbon. Exxon has been involved in legislations trying to implement a carbon tax, but as we reported, it appears to be more about controlling the price and avoiding to pay the true cost of carbon emissions.
Let’s hope that Musk is right to be optimistic about Tillerson. Now that he has been confirmed and should be able to take actions soon, we should be able to know very quickly if it is foolish to be optimistic here.
Featured Image: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, reacts to a reporter’s question following the electric automaker’s initial public offering on Nasdaq, Tuesday, June, 29, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)