If it passes, Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act could be the most transformative government investment in the climate crisis ever. But according to Elon Musk, perhaps the industry tycoon most invested—literally and figuratively—in a green future, that may not be such a good thing.
He would scrap the bill altogether, Musk told a conference of CEOs on Monday.
“I would say can this bill, don’t pass it. That’s my recommendation,” he told an audience at The Wall Street Journal’s annual CEO Council on Monday, saying that the Tesla team wasn’t even really paying attention to the negotiations in Washington.
“If this bill happens or doesn’t happen, we don’t think about it at all really,” he said. “Honestly it might be better if the bill doesn’t pass.”
The colourful CEO said he took issue with how the $2 trillion spending package would add to the “insane” federal budget deficit, and would have the government incentivising certain business, including with up to $12,500 in incentives for electric car buyers.
He also hammered the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed last month, which included $7.5 billion for building out electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
“Do we need support for gas stations? No,” he told a crowd via video call from a Tesla factory in Texas. “There’s no need for support for a charging network,” he added, eliciting somewhat surprised laughter from the audience.
Climate experts and industry analysts alike have celebrated the BBB—which, along with its electric car incentives, invests billions in fighting environmental racism, handing out climate block grants, reducing pollution in ports, and funding a Civilian Climate Corps—as an important step in meeting US international commitments to maintaining a habitable climate amid global heating.
“These are the biggest pieces of climate policy legislation the US has seen in a decade,” Katharine Hayhoe, a climate researcher and the chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy, told CNBC in November. “The faster we can act, the better off we’ll be, because we’re already late to the table. The time for half-measures was 30 years ago.”
President Biden has celebrated, and Musk has criticised, that the BBB would add extra tax incentives to purchasing electric cars made with union labour.
“This infrastructure law with my Build Back Better plan, we’re going to kickstart new batteries, materials and parts production and recycling, boosting the manufacturing of clean vehicles with new loans and new tax credits,” Mr Biden said at an event in Detroit last month celebrating production of the electric Hummer SUV.
“Creating new purchasing incentives for consumers to buy American-made, union-made clean vehicles like the electric Hummer.”
Musk has regularly criticised the president for his including such pro-union benefits in the bill, calling him a “sock puppet” of the United Auto Workers, a union he has slammed as “fighting for their right to steal money from workers!”
The Tesla workforce isn’t unionised.
The UAW filed an ongoing complaint with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of Tesla workers in 2017, alleging they had been fired for pro-union views, allegations the company said were baseless.
More recently, the NLRB ruled the company had broken labour laws when it fired a union activist, and when Musk tweeted doubts about the value of unionising.
The billionaire CEO has also fumed that the White House didn’t invite Tesla, the largest US electric vehicle manufacturer, to an August event celebrating American electric vehicles.
“Biden held this EV summit — didn’t invite Tesla. Invited GM, Ford, Chrysler, and UAW [United Auto Workers Union],” he said at the time. “An EV summit at the White House. Didn’t mention Tesla once, and praised GM and Ford for leading the EV revolution.”