Faced with the growing likelihood Pres. Donald Trump will pull the United States out of the Paris climate chance agreement binding the country to cut production of CO2 and other global warming gases, Tesla CEO and environmental champion Elon Musk said he will have “no choice” but to quit three separate White House economic advisory councils.
Musk would be the latest transportation industry leader to leave the Trump panels, following the move by Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick earlier this year.
The Tesla CEO had previously said he was “cautiously optimistic” he could influence Trump to remain committed to the Paris treaty, despite other actions critics said were anti-environmental. But on Wednesday, in response to a question posed by a Twitter follower, Musk replied that he would “have no choice but to depart [the] councils” if, as now expected, Trump pulled out on Paris.
The South African-born executive faced sometimes sharp criticism for agreeing to join the Trump Administration’s economic advisory group in the first place. Some motorists who had placed deposits on the upcoming Tesla Model 3 battery-car have said they cancelled their advance registrations because of that. But the Paris accord appears to have pushed Musk to the wall.
(First specs appear for Tesla Model 3. Click Here to check them out.)
The 45-year-old entrepreneur is a vocal environmentalist, with much of his business focused on green technologies. That includes not only the battery-electric vehicles produced by Tesla, but its home and office battery storage systems and the solar panels produced by Solar City, the company started by members of Musk’s family that Tesla recently acquired.
At a Wednesday White House press briefing, spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters to wait to find out how the president will move on the Paris accord, which had been approved by Pres. Barack Obama. Trump has been urged to walk away from the deal by a number of government officials, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. In something of an irony, the most vocal administration proponent for remaining within the treaty has been Sec. of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon/Mobil.
For his part, Trump on Wednesday tweeted that he will announce his decision “over the next few days.”
News outlets have offered conflicting reports on what the president will do, some indicating he has decided to withdraw, others saying a final decision has yet to be made.
(Senate bill would give carmakers more fuel economy credits. Click Here for that breaking story.)
Some observers believe Trump might actually remain officially committed to the climate treaty but do nothing during his term to actually meet its commitments. The Obama Administration emphasized that it did not require Senate approval, as with other treaties, since the Paris accord is non-binding. But experts in international relations have cautioned that with 189 other nations signed on, the U.S. risks even more trouble if it were to pull out – or if the Trump Administration said it would remain a signatory but would take no enforcement actions.
By committing each nation to reduce the production of global warming gases, including CO2, the Paris accord would require the U.S. to take a number of actions, including shift to more green energy sources – something that would run counter to the Trump pledge to revive the coal industry.
The White House has already reopened a review of automotive fuel economy standards expected to ratchet up between now and 2025 to 54.5 miles per gallon.
If the president does sign out of the Paris accord, and if Musk follows through and quits the economic advisory panels, he would follow Uber’s Kalanick out the door.
Like Musk, Kalanick took heat for joining in the first place. That was ratcheted up after the president signed his original ban on travel from seven Mideast nations, especially as Uber uses a number of driver from that region.
Mary Barra, CEO and Chairman of General Motors, remains an economic advisor to the Trump Administration.
(Click Here to see what was behind Tesla’s bigger-than-expected Q1 losses.)