In Defiance of Harmful Fuels — Is Tesla/Solar City the New Model For What an Energy Company Should Look Like?

It could well be said that we are subsidizing our own destruction. Despite centuries of use, fossil fuels around the world today receive about 500 billion dollars annually in the form of economic incentives from Earth’s various governing bodies. With alternatives to fossil fuels becoming less costly and more widely available, and with the impacts of human-forced climate change growing dramatically worse with each passing year, such wasteful and harmful misuse of public monies is starting to look actively suicidal.

Fossil Fuel Funding for Global Catastrophe

Given so much money going into the hands of what are already the wealthiest corporations in existence, one would expect that the practice of providing these economic powerhouses with such a massive largess of public generosity would result in some kind of amazing overall benefit.

Energy itself is certainly a benefit. It allows for the rapid and easy transportation of groups and individuals. It lights up homes, powers machinery, keeps us warm in the winter and cool in the increasingly hot summers. But despite what the industry would like you to believe, fossil fuels themselves only represent a small fraction of the global energy available to human civilizations. And the kinds of energy fossil fuels provide is often in its lowest efficiency and most highly externally destructive forms.

What these deleterious industries instead provide is the dirtiest sources of energy in the world. Harmful energy whose particulate pollution alone results in the death of 7 million people each year. More deaths than warfare, more than natural calamities such as earthquakes, and more than even those two combined. That doesn’t even begin to add water pollution from practices like coal burning and fracking. Nor does it add in the ramping up of a global mass extinction event due to the pumping out of hothouse gasses at the rate of 13 billion tons of carbon every single year. A rate that is likely faster than during even the worst previous periods of hothouse extinction in all of Earth’s long geological past. Probably faster than during the Permian, and certainly faster than the last heat spurred mass die off — the PETM of 55 million years ago. A harmful emission that threatens to, by mid Century, wreck much of global civilization and ruin the prospects of all of the children of humankind, not to mention that of millions of species living on this planet.

(Arctic glacier melts under the heat of human-forced climate change as Ludovico Einaudi plays a haunting requiem. Fossil fuel burning has led us to this pass, and things are now about to get much worse. But, for some inexplicably immoral reason, we continue to pump billions of dollars every year into the very industries that are causing the trouble in the first place.)

As such, the fossil fuel industry produces the exact opposite of a public good and its very continued operation is a dire existential threat. One that grows worse each and every time any of us light up a fossil fuel fire. Back during the 1930s, at a time when the US was recovering from another destructive period of corporate excess, it was thought that a corporation should not exist unless it produced some form of benefit to civilization. So the question must be asked — why do the destructive fossil fuel industries continue to receive so much support from the political bodies of the world when the use of these fuels results in so much harm inflicted upon the very publics they are supposed to serve?

It’s not as if there aren’t any viable alternatives.

Tesla Plans to Merge With Solar City

One example of a corporation that could produce an amazing public benefit by speeding the transition away from harmful fossil fuels is Tesla. Since its inception, this auto company has dedicated itself to producing only electrical vehicles. And it was the first Western company to do this successfully on a large scale despite a massive opposition coming from the fossil fuel special interest political and economic bodies themselves.

The reason for such opposition is due to the fact that the electric vehicle represents the potential to radically transform the way people across the world use energy. The electric motors and batteries that drive electric vehicles are themselves 2-3 times more efficient than fossil fuel based internal combustion engines. So even if the global EV fleet were powered by fossil fuels, it would result in less overall fossil fuel demand.

But an EV can be charged by anything, including wind turbines and solar panels. And this mating of battery powered vehicle with these two sources provides an amazing opportunity for individuals to dramatically reduce fossil fuel use yet again. Finally, the batteries produced in electrical vehicle manufacturing can be used, after and during their use in cars, as a device to store renewable energy produced in homes, commercial buildings or cities.

Energy Storage Tesla

(Tesla has long marketed itself as an energy storage provider. Its expanding battery supply chain, increasing reductions in battery cost, and recent proposed merger with Solar City provides the potential for Tesla to provide fully integrated renewable energy systems. Image source: Tesla Motors.)

The average home in the US uses about 10 kilowatt hours (kwh) of electricity on any given day. The Tesla Model 3 will come with a 60 kwh battery pack. Fully charged, this battery could power a home for nearly a week. But just sitting in the garage or driveway, the vehicle could take in energy from rooftop solar panels during the afternoon and evening hours, and with the simple application of some smart electronics and software, provide that energy back to a home during the night.

It’s an integrated system that largely can remove a person’s dependence on oil, gas, and coal for energy all in one shot. One that can reduce individual carbon emissions by 60 to 80 percent. And one that can result in greater systemic carbon emissions reductions if it becomes integrated into the full chain of manufacturing and transportation. And even more alluring is the fact that the more batteries are produced, the more solar panels that are sent down manufacturing lines, the lower the prices and the greater the public access to these energy transforming technologies. In such cases, it becomes more and more likely that an EV + solar combo will be supplemented by an inexpensive home battery capable of smoothing out times when the vehicle is not longer parked.

It’s a combination that the fossil fuel industry is apoplectic to prevent from hitting the market in a way that is broadly accessible. And, up until this point, there has never been one company that had the ability to integrate all these various systems in one go and under one roof. It’s a situation that changed yesterday when Tesla Motors offered to purchase Solar City.

Solar City Tesla

(The Solar City + Tesla merger has the potential to provide a number of integrated renewable energy solutions there were not previously available. EV charging stations mated with solar power generation is just one of many potential innovations that are likely to provide the opportunity to transition away from fossil fuel use. Image source: Clean Technica.)

The announcement came as CEO Elon Musk spoke of Tesla’s plans to fully solarize its network of charging stations. An innovation that would essentially begin to replace gas stations with solar and battery stations — and a huge step away from fossil fuels in itself. But the real transformative potential of the first fully vertically integrated renewable energy company in the form of Tesla + Solar City would be in its ability to provide single family homes with the potential to operate on renewable energy in a manner that is completely independent of any outside fossil fuel based source. And that, unlike oil, gas, and coal, is a public benefit that is entirely worthy of a government subsidy.


Fossil Fuels with 550 Billion in Subsidies Hurt Renewables

Tesla Offers to Buy Solar City

Tesla Motors

The National Recovery Administration

Air Pollution Kills 7 Million Each Year

Historic Performance on the Arctic Ocean

Hat tip to Vic

Hat tip to Greg

Leave a comment


  1. Colorado Bob

     /  June 22, 2016

    Tonight’s derecho threat is right down the climatological alley

    In a article published on Wednesday morning, Jon Erdman shows us just how well today’s event lines up with climatology. Erdman spotlights a new study by Corey Guastini and Lance Bosart (University at Albany, State University of New York), published in the April 2016 issue of Monthly Weather Review, that examines 256 U.S. warm-season derechos between 1996 and 2013. Figure 5 below shows the preferred corridor, extending from northern Illinois to Ohio, with much less frequent activity further east. “Northeastern Illinois is ground zero for warm-season progressive derechos,” Bosart said.

    • Parallel to that on on wundergroundlive

      Odds of supercell formation rising in Iowa

      An index called the supercell composite parameter (SCP) is at very high values of greater than 20 across southeast Iowa. The SCP takes into account instability, wind shear, and potential updraft rotation [helicity]. Values greater than 10 are quite unusual, indicating a very high potential for supercell formation if thunderstorms develop. An extremely warm layer of air one to two miles high will likely inhibit thunderstorm formation until later this afternoon. However, once storms begin to develop, they will likely intensify to severe levels very quickly.

  2. labmonkey2

     /  June 22, 2016

    Well, some folks are not too keen on this deal – the shorters, especially.

    Chanos has been outspoken about his short positions in both Tesla and SolarCity, which sells renewable energy systems.
    In September, Chanos told CNBC that SolarCity is the most problematic of companies led by Musk, because it is “burning $300 million to $500 million a quarter putting up solar panels that may not be worth anything in 20 years.”
    Some people have characterized Tesla’s bid as a punishing blow to those shorting both Musk firms.

    I guess that the lust for money is stronger than their lust for life. Must be a sad place to be…

    • Chanos is basically the investor version of a fossil fuel cheerleader. And that’s something that’s not too hard to find. It’s exactly a case of a lust for short term money being stronger than a lust for life. But anyone thinking even about profits over the medium term would know this guy was shamefully peddling snake oil.

  3. Colorado Bob

     /  June 22, 2016

    4 dead in record rainfall in quake-battered Kumamoto

    A low-pressure front that brought record rainfall to the quake-shaken Kumamoto region in western Japan was heading toward Tokyo and the Kanto region on June 21.

    Close to 500 millimeters of rain fell on some parts of Miyazaki and Kumamoto prefectures between June 20 and 21.


  4. Colorado Bob

     /  June 22, 2016

    The Atmosphere of Venus Is More Terrifying Than We Imagined

    Add this to the list of reasons Venus is a blistering hellscape: not only is the surface hot enough to melt lead, not only will the sulfuric acid rainstorms burn gaping holes in your partially-melted spaceship, it’s got a monstrous electric wind that appears to have helped strip all the water out of the atmosphere. Good luck gardening in your cloud city.

  5. I sure hope they know what they’re doing here, and that they’re not overreaching. It would be awful if Solar City dragged Tesla down with it. I’m not saying I think it’s going down, but it seems like a risk.

  6. Colorado Bob

     /  June 22, 2016
    • – We can blame the sneaky and sleazy fossil fuel compliant US Congress for this:

      ‘The law Skavdahl cites is the 2005 Energy Policy Act. The federal fracking regulations were shot down largely because of an amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SWDA) within the 2005 law. Originally, the EPA had regulatory authority over fracking under the SDWA because of how “underground injection,” which is part of the fracking process, was defined. The amendment redefined the SDWA’s definition of “underground injection” to exclude fracking, which took away regulatory power from the EPA.

      “There can be no question that Congress intended to remove hydraulic fracturing operations … from EPA regulation,” Skavdahl wrote.’

  7. Colorado Bob

     /  June 22, 2016

    THE GREAT POLAR BEAR FEAST premieres Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET on PBS.

    The conservation-focused special THE GREAT POLAR BEAR FEAST examines the impact of environmental changes on polar bears and their cubs.

    • Cate

       /  June 23, 2016

      It was impossible to watch this dry-eyed.

      What have we done to this planet? to the habitat of these majestic fellow creatures and to all life on earth? What can possibly explain the wholesale destruction we have wrought here?

      There is such a reckoning coming to humanity.

      It will be hell to pay.

  8. John McCormick

     /  June 22, 2016

    Yet another piece of good news when we can find it.

    Storage will be the next bing breakthrough that accelerates EV sales and combined with rooftop solar will definitely let the homeowner live off-grid.

    Robert, there is a way through this valley of fire and it will take the fortunes of the new and young wealthy to realize the market is going to make some smart investors very rich and proud.

    • The market can’t be depended upon to save us, but it really can start to make the right choices and to move away from the most harmful ones. And it absolutely can start to help people out of captivity to fossil fuels. It’s already taken responsible citizens getting us this far. And we’re all going to need to pull together — individuals, entrepreneurs, scientists, public servants, politicians, everyone. Given how bad things look now, I think that Government is going to need to provide a big assist in the end. But we can do a lot to soften the big blow that is coming.

  9. Reply
  10. – Democracy in action?

  11. – Dust in the wind:

  12. – NA wildfires: Quite a bit of smoke wafting in the atmosphere

  13. Mark

     /  June 23, 2016

    “In March, the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association (VADA) filed a lawsuit against both Tesla and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, alleging a conspiracy to “hide” the opening of a second Tesla Store.

    Apparently not satisfied with that action, dealers are now calling for an investigation by state regulators into Tesla’s sales practices.

    the opening of Tesla Stores has led to the tightening of franchise laws in many states, resulting in bans on any direct sales by a carmaker, period.”

    • Tesla’s met with stiff resistance from Auto dealers. In Virginia, it’s more a question of the VADA attempting to strong-arm legislators in an attempt to limit Tesla stores. The law as it stands was meant to prevent franchise competition vs automaker direct sales from the same automaker. But since Tesla does not have a dealership franchise, then the law does not apply. VADA appears to be attempting to strong-arm the state into creating an exclusive arrangement in which auto dealers are the only group able to sell cars. And that’s the behavior of a monopoly stake-holder.

      Tesla, for its part, does not want to sell cars alongside fossil fuel vehicles. Part of the principle of the company is that it would make an all-electric offering. Buying into dealership franchises would erode this. However, if all-electric dealerships began to pop up, I could see Tesla possibly changing its stance. That said, the Tesla owned stores provide a strong strategic advantage in that the company can sell directly to customers without having to go through a middle man. And, of course, dealership franchises would feel threatened by this. It’s just that their actions are basically an attempt to use laws to prevent Tesla from selling cars in the state of Virginia at all.

  14. Mark

     /  June 23, 2016

    Looks like the fossil fuel companies have basically thrown in the towel and are just grabbing what they can now, before closing the doors permanently. An unadvertised “going out of business” sale.

  15. Mark

     /  June 23, 2016

    Thanks a lot for the elaboration Robert.

  1. In Defiance of Harmful Fuels — Is Tesla/Solar City the New Model For What an Energy Company Should Look Like? | GarryRogers Nature Conservation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: