By Colton Horn In Automotive News On June 9, 2017
After Donald Trump backed out of the Paris Climate Change agreement on Thursday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has chosen to step down from Trump’s advisory council. This move may come as a surprise considering that one of Musk’s other major companies, SpaceX, is heavily reliant on massive government contracts. Despite this, Musk’s frustration with the Trump administration is by no means a new or shocking development.
Even after publicly taking issue with Trump’s executive order in January that temporarily cut off travel from seven largely Muslim nations, Musk remained a part of Trump’s advisory council. When asked how he could justify remaining a part of an administration that blatantly went against his political beliefs, Musk said “Advisory councils simply provide advice, and attending does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration.”
As an adamant supporter of alternative energy, Musk takes serious issue with Trump’s decision to once again neglect climate change, an issue extremely important to Musk’s career and vision for America’s future. Thursday’s decision places the United States alongside only two other countries not to sign the agreement: Syria and Nicaragua. Trump maintains that he will “go through negotiations to get Americans a better deal and possibly re-enter the Paris accord,” but Musk, Disney CEO Robert Iger, and other high-level executives have now determined that their positions on White House councils have yielded far less of an impact than they had hoped for and therefore are not worth continuing to hold.
Musk has been under heavy public scrutiny since accepting a spot on Trump’s council, mainly because his stated political views stand in stark contrast with most of the Trump administration. Upon first sitting on the advisory board, he said, “I believe at this time that engaging on critical issues will on balance serve the greater good.”
Among Musk’s highest priorities as an advisor to Trump was to sway him leftward in terms of climate change. On February 2nd, he wrote in a tweet that his goals were to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy and to help make humanity a multi-planet civilization.” Musk’s largest company, Tesla, Inc., makes solar technology as well as environment-friendly vehicles with high battery capacity. He has been an outspoken advocate of climate change and has consistently advised Trump to approach the Paris agreement in a very different manner than he ultimately did.
Musk is not the only major public figure to disapprove of Trump’s recent decisions regarding climate change. Google, Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted that he was “disappointed with today’s decision,” and assured that “Google will keep working hard for a cleaner, more prosperous future for all.”
Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, feels similarly, saying “Climate change is real. Industry must now lead and not depend on government.” Sir Richard Branson, founder of the multi-billion dollar Virgin Brand, was also very unsettled with Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement. He said Thursday, in a statement on Bloomberg Television, that “It’s a sad day for Americans, it’s a sad day for the world, it’s a sad day for our grandchildren.”
Due to both his work in the alternative energy industry and his distrust in Trump’s decision-making, Musk’s decision to resign from an advisory role is far less surprising than it seems on the surface. Even considering the near $5 Billion given to SpaceX by the U.S. government, Musk has prided his career on pursuing and standing by his values of environmental protection and progress in the renewable energy field, which he believes takes precedent over any of his other business endeavors.