Elon Musk is a celebrity in every meaning of the word. The Simpsons had him as a quest voice star. South Park made fun of him. When he made comments warning against the rise of Artificial Intelligence, people listened. Given his high profile, it’s no surprise that anything he says has the potential to become news.
This happened to be the case when Musk and Neil deGrasse Tyson. While talking about fossil fuels, Musk made an interesting point. There is a finite amount of oil and coal, and when it runs out then society as we know it will simply cease to be. Based on this knowledge, Musk argues that regardless of any environmental damage this causes, the need to abandon fossil fuels is imminent.
Many writers – including Steve Hanley – were quick to make the comparisons to Admiral Hyman Rickover, known to many as “the father of the nuclear navy.” Hanley quotes a speech Rickover gave in 1957 to help illustrate the comparison to another who tried find alternatives to fossil fuels for reasons other than the environment. In his speech, Rickover made analogies to “capital in a bank,” and declared that alternatives must be put in place before the fossil fuels ran out.
The comments by Musk themselves were straight foreword and uncontroversial – tough using the term “the dumbest experiment in history” did make for easy headline fodder. Overall, this article (and several similar ones to it) shows that Musk’s opinions place him in the majority on this issue. Probably the most interesting part of this entire incident is that Musk – who has shown consistently that he cares about environmental issues and the future of the human race (which was the topic overall talk he was having with Tyson) – is making a push to the business world in terms they will understand – profit.