Musk Blasts Biden's Bill That Would Boost EVs
Elon Musk said that President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” bill should be canned because it would add to the U.S. deficit.
(Bloomberg) -- Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk spoke out in opposition to President Joe Biden’s signature economic package, questioning the need for legislation that would support electric-car adoption due to concerns government spending is out of control.
“Honestly, I would just can this whole bill,” Tesla’s chief executive officer said late Monday, during a remote appearance at a Wall Street Journal conference. “Don’t pass it. That’s my recommendation.”
Musk’s stance would seem to be in conflict with Tesla’s stated mission: to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. But the last several years, the company has been competing at a disadvantage to other automakers marketing electric vehicles in the U.S. Tesla reached a limit for the number of vehicles that qualified for a $7,500 federal tax credit in mid 2018, which led the incentive to gradually shrink to zero as of January 2020.
While Biden’s Build Back Better proposal would reinstate a $7,500 credit for Tesla and do away with any limit on the number of EVs that are eligible per manufacturer, it also would give consumers another $4,500 if the car is assembled by union workers. That would preserve a leg up for other automakers, since Musk has opposed the United Auto Workers’ effort to organize Tesla’s car plant in Fremont, California.
Musk’s criticisms -- he described the federal budget deficit as “insane” and unsustainable -- follow months of public tension between the world’s richest man and the White House. In August, Biden welcomed General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler owner Stellantis NV to the White House lawn to announce an executive order to electrify cars sold in the U.S. over the remainder of the decade. Tesla wasn’t invited.
Last month, Biden visited a plant GM has retooled to make EVs and said the company and Detroit were playing leading roles in advancing electric cars. Tesla is the world’s largest maker and seller of EVs.
Speaking remotely from the factory Tesla has been building in Austin, Texas, Musk did acknowledge the U.S. could have better airports and highways and better address traffic congestion in cities. He called for building some combination of double-decker freeways and tunnels -- the latter suggestion would align with the mission of The Boring Company, the company he founded in 2016.
But those pointers are too late for the infrastructure package Biden signed into law last month, which included $7.5 billion to expand the U.S.’s network of electric-vehicle charging stations. Musk called that specific measure “unnecessary” and said he’s in favor of dropping all federal subsidies, including for the oil and gas industry.
“The role of government should be that of like a referee, but not a player on the field,” Musk said. It should “get out of the way and not impede progress.”
Tesla benefited from a $465 million federal government loan in 2010, which the company paid back three years later.
Musk continued a pattern of speaking in relatively deferential ways about China, though he wasn’t entirely effusive. He described Tesla’s relationship with the government as good overall while saying this doesn’t mean he endorses everything the country does.
While he predicted China is on a path to have an economy two to three times the size of the U.S., Musk said many in the government came of age when its economy was small and the country felt “pushed around a lot.”
“They haven’t fully appreciated the fact that China really is going to be the big kid on the block,” Musk said. “You can really be pretty chill about things. Other countries are not really a threat to you if you’re by far the biggest kid on the block. That’s an important mindset change.”
During the wide-ranging interview, Musk reiterated his view that flagging birthrates are “one of the biggest risks to civilization.”
When asked if this was why he had so many children -- he has six sons, including a toddler -- Musk smiled. “Trying to set a good example,” he said.
The “Technoking” of Tesla also made fun of company positions including the role of chief executive officer, referring to it as a “made-up title” with no meaning. He said he works seven days a week and splits most of his time between Tesla and rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies Corp., depending on which company needs his attention most.
Cybertruck and Psychedelics
Musk said Tesla’s forthcoming Cybertruck, which should reach volume production in 2023, could be the company’s “best product ever,” but warned it has a lot of new technology and is difficult to make.
The billionaire, who famously smoked marijuana during a video interview with podcaster Joe Rogan in 2018, also briefly joked about drugs when asked about his views on aging and psychedelics.
“I don’t think dropping acid makes you age less,” he said. “I think drugs probably make you age more.”
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