Elon Musk has found himself on the back foot after defending President Trump’s choice for Secretary of State. The Tesla co-founder said on Tuesday that Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, “has the potential to be excellent” and “knows how to win for his team.” The comments sparked controversy: Musk has been a strong advocate for action on climate change, while Tillerson testified before Congress in 2010 that he was unsure how much it is caused by humans. Musk has defended his endorsement, stating that Tillerson is “obligated to advance the cause of the U.S.”
“He [Tillerson] has publicly acknowledged for years that a carbon tax could make sense,” Musk told Gizmodo in an interview published after his series of tweets went viral. “There is no better person to push for that to become a reality than Tillerson. This is what matters far more than pipelines or opening oil reserves. The unpriced externality must be priced.”
Although Tillerson may not bring Trump around to Musk’s way of thinking, Musk said in the interview that “simply attacking him [Trump] will achieve nothing. Are you aware of a single case where Trump bowed to protests or media attacks? Better that there are open channels of communication.”
Musk has stated his support for a carbon tax in the past. The idea, as he explained to Leonardo DiCaprio in a National Geographic documentary, is that it would help government encourage businesses to act sustainably by placing a financial burden on their CO2 emissions:
Musk’s endorsement is optimistic thinking, but it’s unclear whether it’s enough. Trump has been on a warpath against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), freezing contracts and silencing staff. If Trump’s open to suggestions from Musk and Tillerson on the need for action against climate change, he’s got a funny way of showing it.