Elon Musk

Elon Musk: Mind of an Innovator

Elon MuskI really enjoy hearing what smart people think, what they say. This week Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, was interviewed on All in with Chris Hayes—two very bright young men making a positive difference in our world.

Tesla has recently announced that they will let anyone use their intellectual property, their pattens, free of charge as long as they use them in good faith. This was a mind-bending, break the corporate norm for any business! Chris Hayes wanted to understand why Tesla did this.

Bottom line, according to Elon Musk, Tesla wants electric cars to be the norm, the standard. His goal is really to save the planet (We’re all in the same ship.), not just make a buck. Tesla sold 22,000 cars last year and thinks they will sell about 35,000 this year.

But, considering that there were almost 100 million cars made last year1, we’re not even next to the decimal point. So, we have got a ways to go before we even get next to the decimal point in percentage market share

At this rate, he’s making money, but he’s not accomplishing his real goal of reducing carbon emissions in the world. So, he’s putting his money where his mouth is, and offering the company’s patents for use by anyone.

The entire interview is smart people saying smart things, but, even though Musk is an optimistic person, he’s not very optimistic about globally decreasing carbon emissions. Hayes asked him what the major impediment was to reducing carbon production:

… The thing that’s difficult to appreciate … is the sheer size of the economy that depends on hydrocarbons. It’s truly staggering…

The number of factories that have to be bought to produce factories, electric cars, produce solar panels, it’s enormous. … If you think of all the oil fields, and the gas fields, and the refineries you’re replacing—you’re trying to replace that infrastructure, which is trillions of dollars; so, it would be difficult for us to move too fast.

… If we said… OK, let’s go as fast as possible, which we’re certainly not going, it would still take a long time. …That’s the thing that I guess makes me … more than a little bit concerned about the future is … the vast amount of infrastructure that has to change. …

The biggest problem that we have right now is that we have a breakdown in the market system. Now, I’m ordinarily quite a big believer in the market, because the market is just the sum of individuals’ decisions. But when there’s a breakdown in the information mechanism of the market, that’s where things go awry.

And so because there’s no price on carbon emissions, it makes things that are carbon-producing very rewarding, because the true price is not being paid. …

It’s a classic economics problem, tragedy of the commons. …

You see this in international fishing stocks. … Since no one sort of owns that particular fishing area, it will get fished to extinction …—because there’s no price for that. So, there’s no price for carbon. So we do all these things that cause long-term damage.

The tragedy of the commons! Indeed.

We all need clean air, clean water, a stable planet. But, capitalism consumes it with abandon to make a buck.

I encourage you to watch the interview. It’s in two parts.


  1. There are a staggering 2 billion cars on the road world-wide! This is so very unsustainable!!!