Tesla shares fall after CEO Musk abuses British diver

British caver Vernon Unsworth (C) gets out of a pick up truck near the Tham Luang cave complex, where 12 boys and their soccer coach are trapped, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, in this July 5, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 17 July 2018
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Tesla shares fall after CEO Musk abuses British diver

  • The billionaire entrepreneur’s spat with British diver Vernon Unsworth started last week, after rescue teams rejected Musk’s offer of a mini-submarine created by his rocket company SpaceX
  • Musk gave no evidence for alleging Unsworth was a pedophile

NEW YORK: Shares of Tesla Inc. fell 2.75 percent on Monday after Chief Executive Elon Musk directed abuse on Twitter at one of the British cave divers involved in the rescue of 12 Thai children last week.
A number of analysts and investors, requesting anonymity, told Reuters that Musk’s comments are adding to their concerns that his public statements are distracting him from Tesla’s main business of producing electric cars. The stock sell-off knocked almost $2 billion off the company’s market value.
Tesla shares closed at $310.10 before rising 1.9 percent in after-hours trading.
James Anderson, a partner at Tesla’s fourth-largest shareholder, asset manager Baillie Gifford, called the weekend’s events “a regrettable instance” and said he had reiterated to the company the need for “peace and execution” of its core business.
The billionaire entrepreneur’s spat with British diver Vernon Unsworth started last week, after rescue teams rejected Musk’s offer of a mini-submarine created by his rocket company SpaceX to help rescue a 12-member soccer team and their coach trapped inside a flooded cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai.
“He can stick his submarine where it hurts,” CNN reported Unsworth as saying. “It just has absolutely no chance of working.”
Musk shot back on Sunday on Twitter: “We will make one (video) of the mini-sub/pod going all the way to Cave 5 no problemo. Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.” The tweet was later deleted.
Tesla spokespeople and lawyers did not respond to emails and phone calls from Reuters requesting comment on Musk’s comments on Twitter.
Musk gave no evidence for alleging Unsworth was a pedophile. Unsworth said he would consider taking legal action against Musk over the remarks, in comments filmed in Chiang Rai on Monday by Australia’s 9News. Reuters could not reach Unsworth for comment.
Unsworth’s wife told Reuters on Monday that her husband was returning to Britain on July 19, where he will speak to lawyers.
Last week, Narongsak Osottanakorn, the leader of the rescue operation in Thailand, rejected Musk’s mini-submarine as not suitable for the task. Musk responded on Twitter on July 10, calling Osottanakorn “not the subject matter expert.”
Musk also regularly uses Twitter to criticize media reports on Tesla, which has struggled to meet its own production targets for its Model 3 sedan, which is seen as key to the company’s profitability.


US says conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative

Updated 19 August 2018
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US says conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative

  • Fears of oil scarcity no longer driver of US energy policy
  • Surging shale production brings energy abundance

WASHINGTON: Conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative for the US, the Trump administration declares in a major new policy statement that threatens to undermine decades of government campaigns for gas-thrifty cars and other conservation programs.
The position was outlined in a memo released last month in support of the administration’s proposal to relax fuel mileage standards. The government released the memo online this month without fanfare.
Growth of natural gas and other alternatives to petroleum has reduced the need for imported oil, which “in turn affects the need of the nation to conserve energy,” the Energy Department said. It also cites the now decade-old fracking revolution that has unlocked US shale oil reserves, giving “the United States more flexibility than in the past to use our oil resources with less concern.”
With the memo, the administration is formally challenging old justifications for conservation — even congressionally prescribed ones, as with the mileage standards. The memo made no mention of climate change. Transportation is the single largest source of climate-changing emissions.
President Donald Trump has questioned the existence of climate change, embraced the notion of “energy dominance” as a national goal, and called for easing what he calls burdensome regulation of oil, gas and coal, including repealing the Obama Clean Power Plan.
Despite the increased oil supplies, the administration continues to believe in the need to “use energy wisely,” the Energy Department said, without elaboration. Department spokesmen did not respond Friday to questions about that statement.
Reaction was quick.
“It’s like saying, ‘I’m a big old fat guy, and food prices have dropped — it’s time to start eating again,’” said Tom Kloza, longtime oil analyst with the Maryland-based Oil Price Information Service.
“If you look at it from the other end, if you do believe that fossil fuels do some sort of damage to the atmosphere ... you come up with a different viewpoint,” Kloza said. “There’s a downside to living large.”
Climate change is a “clear and present and increasing danger,” said Sean Donahue, a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund.
In a big way, the Energy Department statement just acknowledges the world’s vastly changed reality when it comes to oil.
Just 10 years ago, in summer 2008, oil prices were peaking at $147 a barrel and pummeling the global economy. OPEC was enjoying a massive transfer of wealth, from countries dependent on imported oil. Prices now are about $65.
Today, the US is vying with Russia for the title of top world oil producer. US oil production hit an all-time high this summer, aided by the technological leaps of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
How much the US economy is hooked up to the gas pump, and vice versa, plays into any number of policy considerations, not just economic or environmental ones, but military and geopolitical ones, said John Graham, a former official in the George W. Bush administration, now dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.
“Our ability to play that role as a leader in the world is stronger when we are the strongest producer of oil and gas,” Graham said. “But there are still reasons to want to reduce the amount we consume.”
Current administration proposals include one that would freeze mileage standards for cars and light trucks after 2020, instead of continuing to make them tougher.
The proposal eventually would increase US oil consumption by 500,000 barrels a day, the administration says. While Trump officials say the freeze would improve highway safety, documents released this month showed senior Environmental Protection Agency staffers calculate the administration’s move would actually increase highway deaths.
“American businesses, consumers and our environment are all the losers under his plan,” said Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat. “The only clear winner is the oil industry. It’s not hard to see whose side President Trump is on.”
Administration support has been tepid to null on some other long-running government programs for alternatives to gas-powered cars.
Bill Wehrum, assistant administration of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, spoke dismissively of electric cars — a young industry supported financially by the federal government and many states — this month in a call with reporters announcing the mileage freeze proposal.
“People just don’t want to buy them,” the EPA official said.
Oil and gas interests are campaigning for changes in government conservation efforts on mileage standards, biofuels and electric cars.
In June, for instance, the American Petroleum Institute and other industries wrote eight governors, promoting the dominance of the internal-combustion engine and questioning their states’ incentives to consumers for electric cars.
Surging US and gas production has brought on “energy security and abundance,” Frank Macchiarola, a group director of the American Petroleum Institute trade association, told reporters this week, in a telephone call dedicated to urging scrapping or overhauling of one US program for biofuels.
Fears of oil scarcity used to be a driver of US energy policy, Macchiarola said.
Thanks partly to increased production, “that pillar has really been rendered essentially moot,” he said.