The electric car honcho surprised his audience by demanding an increase in fossil fuel production, in response to the complicated energy situation following the sanctions against Russia.
It is a small protrusion that has not gone unnoticed. Elon Musk, the man who propelled a small revolution in the automotive and energy markets with his Tesla brand, recently hit the headlines with a statement that goes against his usual positioning; on his favorite playground, he posted a tweet spotted by The Verge where he calls for an “immediate increase in gas and oil production”.
This is a direct reaction to the consequences of the war currently raging in Ukraine. Indeed, Russia has traditionally been one of the world's leading energy suppliers. But the country is currently under heavy fire from economic sanctions in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
Yet energy is one of the pillars of the Russian economy; the country is today the third largest oil producer and the second largest natural gas producer in the world, and is one of the very first exporters. The sector was therefore hit hard by these sanctions. To fill the void left by Russian gas, the world is therefore looking for alternatives. But the solutions are not jostling at the gate, far from it.
Hate to say it, but we need to increase oil & gas output immediately.
Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures.
— Elon Musk March 5, 2022
An exceptional response to exceptional circumstances
Elon Musk therefore believes that this “extraordinary period requires extraordinary measures”. To deal with the emergency, the billionaire sees only one solution: he suggests temporarily increasing the production of fossil fuels. According to him, this is the only pragmatic response likely to respond to the situation.
He believes that a decline in energy availability would be sufficiently problematic on a planetary scale to justify this ecological volte-face. “Renewable energy solutions simply cannot react instantly to offset the loss of Russian gas and oil exports,” he said in a second tweet. And the US administration seems to agree with him. NBC News recalls, for example, that Joe Biden announced the release of 30 million barrels of oil from the American national reserve.
European nuclear power at the heart of the equation
Musk also believes that it would be better to put dormant nuclear plants back into operation. In particular, he confronts Europe with what he considers to be its responsibility. “Hopefully, it is extremely obvious that Europe should restart its dormant nuclear power plants and increase the production of active plants,” he says.
Hopefully, it is now extremely obvious that Europe should restart dormant nuclear power stations and increase power output of existing ones.
This is *critical* to national and international security.
— Elon Musk March 6, 2022
It is “critical for national and international security”, he insists. “In addition, nuclear is vastly better than hydrocarbons in terms of global warming,” he concludes. It remains to be seen whether European governments will hear it that way. It will be necessary to watch for a possible reaction on their part, in particular on the German side.
As part of sanctions against Russia, Germany recently suspended construction of the NordStream 2; it is a controversial 11 billion euro gas pipeline project that is very important in the infrastructure projects of this country, which is also engaged in a vast process of phasing out nuclear power. The case of the Germans is therefore particularly complicated, but they are far from being the only ones concerned; it will be particularly interesting to see whether European policymakers share Musk's analysis or not.