by Chris White
CNBC corrected Tesla CEO Elon Musk Monday after he falsely claimed in a tweet that the coal industry receives more government handouts than renewable energy companies.
Musk, who owns more than 20 percent of Tesla, tweeted out a response to comments made by Murray Energy CEO Robert E. Murray made on “Squawk Box” suggesting that Tesla “has gotten $2 billion from the taxpayer,” and “has not made a penny yet in cash flow.”
The government could shutter every single coal plant in the country, Murray added, and not see any discernible reduction in the Earth’s temperature.
Musk apparently didn’t take kindly to the inference that one of his companies is failing despite being recipients of heavy government subsidies, so he took to Twitter, and wrote: the “real fraud going on is denial of climate science.” He attached the video of Murray to the tweet.
Tesla receives far less in subsidies than the coal industry, Musk added, “How about we both go to zero?”
Real fraud going on is denial of climate science. As for “subsidies”, Tesla gets pennies on dollar vs coal. How about we both go to zero?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 10, 2016
CNBC noted Musk’s claim, did a quick fact-check, and found that the renewable energy industry actually receives far more handouts than the coal industry.
Coal-dependent energy production received $1 billion in direct cash giveaways through federal programs, tax benefits, among other developmental loans in 2013, CNBC pointed out. It amounted about 6 percent of all such funding.
Green tech companies like Tesla and SolarCity, meanwhile, received more than $15 billion that same year in funding from the same programs — or nearly 72 percent of aid of that kind. Solar power attracted 35 percent of such largess. Musk chairs both companies.
CNBC cited numbers from data accumulated by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Murray wasn’t deriding Musk’s penchant for government subsidies — far from it. The coal CEO told the show’s host that he simply wants a cut of the action.
“Just as the government is supporting through the people’s taxes windmills and solar panels, they need to support the clean coal technology … We need a level playing field,” Murray said.
Still, he was correct. Neither SolarCity nor Tesla is a cash crop.
SolarCity is not looking so hot either. The bedraggled solar panel producer’s stock prices tumbled more than 60 percent during the past 12 months and lost $283 million during the first three months of 2016.
Meanwhile, Tesla was forced to sell off $2 billion worth of stock in May to help finance the production of the Model 3 electric vehicle as well as cover tax obligations for the options exercised by Musk. The company is breaking its hump trying to deliver the nearly 400,000 Model 3 vehicles on back order.
The California-based automaker will cough up roughly $1.4 billion in common stock to cover the expenses associated with the vehicle, and says it expects to raise a total of nearly $1.7 billion after fees, while Musk will receive the remaining portion, all of which will go toward covering the $5.5 million in stock options.