Elon Musk might not be the first name to spring to mind when considering leaders of the War on Carbon but the visionary driver behind Tesla Motors has been stumping for mean, clean, green energy for years.
Musk was born and raised in Pretoria, South Africa, to a native father and Canadian mother. At age 17, he moved to Canada to attend Queen’s University but transferred to the University of Pennsylvania two years later, earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School and a bachelor’s degree in physics from the College of Arts and Sciences. Musk holds citizenship in South Africa, Canada, and the United States.
In 1995, Musk moved to California to start a Ph.D. program in applied physics and material sciences at Stanford University – but chose instead to begin a business career rather than continue his education. He and his brother Kimbal started a web software company named Zip2 that Compaq acquired for $340 million in 1999.
Millionaire Musk then founded an online bank (X.com) that merged with Confinity in 2000, which had launched PayPal in 1999 and was purchased by eBay for $1.5 billion in October 2002.
In May 2002, the newly-enriched Musk founded the revolutionary SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company. He is CEO and lead designer. SpaceX just made history by partnering successfully with NASA to launch the private company’s rocket with NASA astronauts aboard using NASA space flight facilities.
Musk joined electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors, Inc. (now Tesla, Inc.) in 2004, the year after it was founded, and became its CEO and product architect. In 2006, Musk helped create SolarCity, a solar panel manufacturer (now a subsidiary of Tesla).
In 2015, Musk co-founded OpenAI, a nonprofit research company developing helpful artificial intelligence applications. In July 2016, he co-founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology company focused on developing brain-computer interfaces.
In December 2016, Musk founded The Boring Company, an infrastructure and tunnel construction company focused on tunnels optimized for electric vehicles.
As of June 2020, Musk’s net worth was estimated at $38.8 billion, all of it earned. Forbes ranked him as the 31st-richest person in the world and tied him for first place on the 2019 list the world’s Most Innovative Leaders.
In 2015, Musk stated that only a carbon tax will speed the transition from carbon-producing fossil fuels to sustainable energy. He said no amount of innovation, conservation, or renewable energy could prevent a climate change crisis.
In September of that year, Musk announced a battery pack for buildings that would store excess solar energy generated throughout the day to use at night. He repeated his mission to thwart human-produced climate change:
“I think it’s very important that we take action today to recognize that we are making a very significant change to the chemical constituency of the atmosphere and oceans. One that is almost impossible to reverse.”
After U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the UN-backed Paris Agreement to neutralize the perceived harmful effects of trapped greenhouse gases through industrial restrictions and economic sanctions in 2017, Musk broadcast his disapproval over his Twitter account. On June 1, the entrepreneur said he had no choice but to resign from Trump’s business advisory council:
“Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.”
In November 2017, Musk said the evening before he introduced the new electric Tesla Truck to the world that this vehicle was part of a much bigger plan to transition the world to sustainable energy. The innovator announced that his decision to share all patents developed by Tesla was fueled by the desire to zero-out carbon emissions as soon as possible:
“Climate change is the biggest threat that humanity faces this century, except for AI. I keep telling people this. I hate to be Cassandra here, but it’s all fun and games until somebody here loses a f*cking eye.”
In January 2020, Musk made headlines after tweeting that merely going meatless isn’t enough to save humanity from the extinction-level effects of carbon-induced global warming:
“I support people choosing whatever diet makes them happy, but it’s true that everyone going vegan still wouldn’t stop climate change. Moving billions of tons of hydrocarbons from deep underground into the atmosphere & oceans is fundamentally the issue.”
Musk is certain that Earth is heading for deeply troubled times and is working hard to keep humans from extinction, including colonizing the Moon and Mars:
“We want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of human civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back, and perhaps to shorten the length of the Dark Ages.”
But it’s not all doom and gloom in the House of Musk. The remarkable inventor has endorsed a tree-planting initiative called #TeamTrees whose goal is to plant 20 million trees by 2020 in a bid to reduce the effects of climate change.
Clearly, Elon Musk is playing a very long and serious game to win global freedom from Big Petroleum. In the final analysis, regardless of your views on climate change, is that such a bad thing?