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Published on December 21st, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


5 Elon Musk Interviews, Tons of Awesome Quotes

December 21st, 2014 by  

I’ve been saving up a number of Elon Musk interviews for awhile but haven’t been able to get to them. So, now I’m getting to them all at one time. Below are links to the full interviews, or videos of the interviews when they were videotaped, but I’ve also gone ahead and pulled out some of my favorites quotes from the interviews, a ton of them.

I hope you enjoy these, and feel free to drop your own favorites quotes or thoughts in the comments below the article.

Since this turned into such a massive post, I’m planning to simply add onto this when good new Elon Musk interviews come out. So bookmark this page!

[Update January 4, 2015: I’ve added the interview below from CHM Revolutionaries. It’s probably my favorite yet. Notes come via my post on Planetsave.]

CHM Revolutionaries

Here’s a really interesting interview with the head of Tesla Motors, SolarCity, and SpaceX — Elon Musk. This is perhaps the most interesting interview I’ve seen with him, as it runs through life stories from age 6 to today. For some reason, it took me ages to get to this, and it is actually from 2013, but most of it is timeless. Check it out, followed by just a few of the many highlights:

  • Showing his determination even at a young age, when grounded at the age of 6 and really wanting to go to his cousin’s birthday party, Elon walked about 4 hours across town to get there. Granted, he didn’t realize at the time that it would take so long.
  • At the age of 12, Elon started creating video games and selling them… in order to buy more video games and better computers.
  • When dating in college, Elon was so fond of electric cars that he would talk about them on dates, even starting at least one with the line, “Do you ever think about electric cars?”
  • Elon initially provided something like 95% of the funding for Tesla Motors, and tried really hard to not be the CEO, but eventually had to take up that role.
  • Elon pushed his cousins Lyndon & Peter Rive to create SolarCity, and as the key funder is Chairman of the Board.
  • The one thing Elon Musk thinks the federal government needs to do is price/tax externalities. It’s common sense that is covered in some way or another in a basic economics course, but we still don’t adequately do it….
  • He also noted that we’re playing Russian roulette with the atmosphere. Not addressing global warming is the world’s dumbest experiment.
  • Elon gets a lot of his big ideas during long showers or late at night pacing around the house.
  • It’s good to solicit negative feedback from friends on your ideas.

Oil & Gas Summit 2014

First of all, yes, he was speaking at an oil & gas summit in Norway… the reason was apparently just that Norway was a big Tesla market and the country loves him and wanted him there. Also interesting, to me: Elon put on quite a snazzy suit. You don’t often see him so dressed up. I’ll take that to mean that he thought this was quite an important event to pull in influential outsiders who weren’t already Tesla fanboys.

  • “Certainly, Norway has a lot of incentives for electric vehicles, which are great. but it’s worth noting that, say, Denmark also has very strong incentives for electric vehicles, but our sales are much greater in Norway than in Denmark. In Norway, there’s a core group of electric vehicle enthusiasts who have really taken it upon themselves to promote electric vehicles and have done an amazing job. And as a result, that has made Tesla sales in Norway really, really great.”[Interestingly, this matches quite well what the Manager of Corporate Planning for Nissan Europe emphasized at EVS27 in Barcelona last year — that the key to EV growth in Norway was the society’s high level of electric vehicle awareness.]
  • “[The Model X is] on the same platform [of the Model S], so it’s about the same cost.”
  • “About a third of the output of the Gigafactory is intended as stationary storage, primarily to be paired with renewables, but also to do grid buffering in non-renewable situations, so that you can operate the plants — even if it’s a hydrocarbon energy plant, you can operate it at close to its optimum and avoiding having to sort of peak.”
  • “Here’s a little tidbit: If you take a nuclear plant, and you took its current output, and you compared that to just taking solar panels and putting solar panels on the area used by the nuclear power plant — because these typically have a big keep-out zone, you know of about 5 kilometers or thereabouts, where building houses and dense office or housing space… usually people don’t want to do that near a nuclear power plant. So, there’s quite a big keep-out zone, and when you factor the keep-out zone into account, the solar panels put on that area would typically generate more power than that nuclear power plant.”
  • “You could power the entire United States with about 150 to 200 square kilometers of solar panels, the entire United States. Take a corner of Utah… there’s not much going on there, I’ve been there. There’s not even radio stations.”
  • “If you’re in non-renewables, it’s like you’re stuck in a room where the oxygen is gradually depleting, and then outside, it’s not. So you want to get out of that room. And I think the ones that get out of the room sooner will be better off.”
  • “I don’t like patents, personally. When I was first starting out developing technology, I got lots of patents, and thought this was a good thing, and then I sort of discovered that a patent was really like buying a lottery ticket to a lawsuit. I was like, I’d rather not buy those tickets. You look at sort of the battle between Apple & Samsung, who is really winning there? The lawyers are winning certainly, but neither of those two companies. And, in the case of Tesla, I thought, ‘Well, would Tesla ever sue some other car company if they were using our patents, to try to make them stop making electric cars?’ We would never do such a thing, so why pretend that we would.”
  • “Norway has tremendous natural resources in terms of hydropower, also I think wind and potentially geothermal. I think there’s a huge opportunity there to expand those renewable sources and then provide that power to the rest of Europe. That really, I think, would be a wise thing to do.”


Getting the Tesla brand out there more and more, Elon Musk was recently interviews by GQ magazine. Here are some quotes I loved:

  • “We really wanted to break the mould, to show that electric cars aren’t just glorified milk floats. This is the fastest accelerating four-door production car in the world. That’s one hell of a milk float.”
  • “I had thought the big car companies would be coming out with electric cars sooner. Crazy thing is, it’s now seven years since we unveiled the Roadster, and yet there’s still not a single car for sale without a Tesla badge that has a 250 mile range. That’s mind blowing.”
  • “It’s the goal of Tesla to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport, and I’d rather the other manufacturers would go fully electric as soon as possible.”
  • “Open sourcing the patents does have the advantage of making Tesla a more attractive place for the world’s best engineers to work. And it builds goodwill, which I believe will be important…”
  • “I only own 30% of the company. They can fire me if they want. I’ve got nothing against profit, I don’t think it’s an evil word. But if we have a choice between short-term profit and scaling the business, the latter makes much more sense.”
  • Musk apparently noted that “at least one major car company” is already taking advantage of Tesla’s open patents. Any guesses? Nissan would be mine, but I’m not putting any money on that.
  • “So I’ve come to the conclusion we need to be a lot more active in building our own cars. Maybe if we start taking market share away from other companies that’ll get them a lot more interested.”
  • “The P85D is a precursor to the Model X, which will use the same chassis and drive train architecture. Demand for the P85D is off the charts. We’re seeing a very high proportion of orders for all-wheel drive, either P85D or 85D (which has smaller, equal sized electric motors front and rear), so 70% plus of our cars will be dual motor. With deliveries of the X due to start next summer, the biggest problem we have at Tesla now is meeting production demands.”


Der Spiegel

Notably, this one is infamous for some not-so-true storytelling, or perhaps misunderstanding to give the benefit of the doubt, but it still included a lot of good tidbits (that I hope are actually true). Being in German, nothing is an actual quote, especially not after being translated by Google. So, these ones are not Elon Musk quotes but summary points from the Tesla Motors Club forum (member “HansWurst”):

  • “About 10 percent [of a Tesla battery uses cobalt]. But it does not originate from the Congo. In our new Gigafactory we will use cobalt from Canada.”
  • “In our cars we do not use any rare earths originating from doubtful countries. Our engine mainly consists of copper and steel. Our batteries only contain materials such as synthesised graphite and nickel.”
  • Elon Musk expects to build a battery factory in Germany within the 5–6 year timeframe.
  • Elon Musk thinks German OEMs should put a lot more effort into developing batteries, thinks Germany has good preconditions to do so (b/c of a lot of engineers living there).
  • He thinks Toyota and Daimler sold stakes to realize profits, nothing more.
  • “BMW has relatively cost-effective production of carbon fiber body parts.”
  • Doesn’t think that the reduced oil price has an effect on electric cars, and doesn’t think the price of oil will fall much further.
  • Elon Musk thinks fuel cells are ridiculous, three times less efficient, and highly flammable. [Editor’s Note: I think the correct verb there is “knows,” not “thinks,” but leaving it as it was written by my source.]
  • Autopilot works on 90% of driven kilometers. Problematic is driving around places without road marking or where kids are playing. Tesla will solve this within the next three years.
  • Elon Musk wants to talk with Tim Cook (of Apple), because Apple is highly interested in the car business. All he can say is that Apple is not about to buy Tesla. (and vice versa )
  • Elon Musk thinks small, autonomously driving, electric pods could be a great way of individualizing public transport.
  • He would like to see a lot more tunnels. Because buildings are three-dimensional, he thinks roads should be too. The alternative of flying cars is not the way to go because they are loud and can fall on your head.

And here’s one more from another forum member, NigelM (who I just realized is a forum moderator who lives in my hometown!): “Next month we’ll release new firmware so that the car can automatically recognize if it has insufficient range to get to your next charging opportunity. The car will warn you and offer directions to the nearest supercharger.”

Again, those were translations or even paraphrases (I think they were simply paraphrases in most of the cases) from interviewers at Der Spiegel who got the BMW–Tesla “partnership” story very wrong, so use cautiously.


Elon Musk and Steven Chu were both being interviewed in the video below. Both of them make many interesting and awesome comments. Here are a couple of notable ones from Elon:

  • After talking about the three things he thought, while in college, would most affect the future of humanity — the internet, sustainable energy (consumption and production), and “extending life beyond Earth on a permanent basis” — he clarified, “not that I expected actually in college that I would address them.” He has mentioned these things before, but I found it interesting that he was careful this time to note that he didn’t have huge, egotistical expectations that he would be the important person he has become. This is something important about Elon Musk, imho. He is certainly confident about what he thinks he knows, and he is bold in his visions and efforts, but he is also actually very cautious and humble… from what I have seen. I think this is a critical, often-overlooked aspect of his character and why his businesses have done so well. He doesn’t seem to have a sense of entitlement like many big CEOs and chairman ooze.
  • “As far as Earth is concerned, I think the biggest problem that humanity faces is one of sustainable energy. If we don’t solve that problem this century, independent of any environmental concerns, we will face economic collapse… This is obvious.” Nuff said.
  • “Long-term, we expect probably something in the order of 60 to 65% of the cars we manufacture will be exported to Europe and Asia, and then other parts of the world as well.”
  • “All three companies almost died in 2008.” (Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity.)
  • Regarding running Tesla Motors & SpaceX as CEO at the same time: “I’m doing this because I think I have to, not because I want to.”
  • “If you want to do something really innovative, you have to apply a sort of first principles analysis. And don’t reason by analogy. Analogies are referencing the past. First principles mean you look at the most fundamental truths in a particular arena, the things that really are almost indisputably correct, and you reason up from there to a conclusion. And if you see that that conclusion is at odds with what people generally believe, then you have an opportunity. You can’t operate like that on all things, because it takes too much mental horsepower, so most of your life, you have to operate by reasoning by analogy, but if you really want to innovate, you must reason from first principles to identify the problem.” (Before watching this video, I remember a CleanTechnica commenter highlighting that point/statement. Whoever that was, thanks for sharing that. Good commenters we have here. 😀 )
  • “And then you also should seek negative feedback… from your friends and from people who are knowledgeable…. You need to understand where you’re wrong…. A lot of times people can look at what you’re doing and they know that it’s wrong, but they don’t want to hurt your feelings, and that’s why they don’t tell you.”

To be honest, I think Steven Chu had even more interesting responses in this interview, so just watch the video:

Related Story: The Truth About Tesla’s Demand

Read more Tesla news and commentary.

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About the Author

Zach is tryin’ to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he’s also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada.

Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don’t jump to conclusions.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Corey, you need to understand the basis of electricity pricing. The cost of a MWh of electricity = total annual costs / total annumal output. When you lower output by load-following with a nuclear reactor you increase the cost of electricity.

    Nuclear provides no storage. Overbuilding nuclear and then load-following takes expensive electricity and makes it even more expensive electricity.

    You can declare renewables to not be our solution but you might want to take a look at what is happening in the real world. Wind and solar are soaring. Nuclear is fading away.

    Expect things to only speed up from here on as more grids learning how inexpensive renewables have become and how best to incorporate them into their activities.

    • Ian Oxenham

      Also, regarding the Weisbach et al analysis, even if we accept everything else about their methodology, they fail to account for the fact that solar PV and wind directly generate electricity, rather than thermal energy that can only be inefficiently converted into electricity. As Hall, et al. point out, “It should be noted that several recent studies that … give EROI values of 2 to 3:1 (Prieto and Hall, 2012; Palmer, 2013; Weissbach et al., 2013) … are not weighted for the higher quality of the electricity when compared with thermal energy input” and although “as it stands most ‘renewable’
      energy systems appear to be still heavily supported by fossil fuels. Nevertheless they are considerably more efficient at turning fossil fuels into electricity than are thermal power plants” (2014, p. 144, link: http://mahb.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/energy-policy_Hall_Lambert_Balogh_2013.pdf)

      Indeed, coal, oil, and nuclear power plants only convert about 33% of the thermal energy they generate into actual electricity (CCNG can get up to 55-60%), where is every single unit of energy that comes out of a wind turbine or solar pv module is already electricity. So even if solar PV has an EROI of just 2 to 3, in “primary energy equivalent” terms, that works out to about 6 to 9. Or put another way, if we are comparing nuclear and coal-fired electricity generation ERIO values to solar PV, we should consider how much energy is required to produce a given unit of electrical output, rather than thermal input in the case of the former, which require dividing their EROI values by a factor of about 3.

      • Bob_Wallace

        If the EROEI calculation is correctly the inefficiency of the fossil fuel plant shows up in the final number. An accurate EROEI compares energy in to energy out.

        Weisbach and his friends did not do an honest EROEI calculation. First, they used out of date numbers for renewables. There is absolutely no excuse to someone who is doing research to use stale data when current data is so readily available. And there is also no reason for that sort of “mistake” to make it past the editing/reviewing process. This is a giant flag telling us that something is afoot.

        Then Weisbach goes totally off the tracks. Storage and fill-in generation are never included in EROEI calculations. What Weisbach starts to do is to do a system analysis and calculate the energy inputs for a renewable grid vs. a coal or nuclear grid. The problem here is that he compares a renewable grid to standalone coal and nuclear plants rather than a complete coal or nuclear grid.

        He simply loads up one side of the scale to get the results he wants.

        After starting by using flawed numbers.

        • Corey Barcus

          Look at what you are claiming:

          “Weisbach and his friends did not do an honest EROEI calculation. First, they used out of date numbers for renewables. There is absolutely no excuse to someone who is doing research to use stale data when current data is so readily available.”

          And this is from the Weissbach et al. paper:

          “Only those studies could be taken into account that sufficiently keyed down the numbers to allow for a calculation of the correct EROI. EROIs and EMROIs including storage systems are also provided as they are unavoidable when turning the power supply from fossil fuels to ”renewables”. The most effective system, the water pump storage, already reduces the EROI remarkably. However, for a mixed scenario including conventional back-up power plants which has not been investigated here, the change might be more moderate.”

          Weissbach et al. have been entirely transparent with their analysis, so once again, your claims are spurious.

          • Bob_Wallace

            In their paper Weisbach, et al. used the EROEI for a wind turbine model that is not longer sold (E-66). Current numbers with modern turbines (e.g. E-101) are much higher.

            How does one explain that flaw?

            Could it be that they aren’t aware that wind turbines and solar panels have not been improving year from year? If so, they have no business trying to publish anything about renewable energy.

            Could it be that they picked some out of date numbers that allowed them to reach the conclusion they were after? If so, they should be working as greeters at Walmart.

          • Corey Barcus

            So now you are saying that updated values for wind and solar equipment would invalidate their conclusions. You can update the values in their model rather easily to see for yourself if your claim holds up to scrutiny. The article at DailyKos (GETTING TO ZERO: Is renewable energy economically viable?) that refers to the Weissbach et al. paper includes a handy Google Docs spreadsheet that can be copied and modified to test your assertion.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, I’m saying that they set out with a result in hand and set up their “study” to support their desired outcome.

            They used out of date energy input data for wind turbines. They “charged” wind and solar with backup and storage but did not do the same for coal and nuclear.

          • Corey Barcus

            So, you believe that conventional power sources require backup on the same scale as a 100% renewable system? I just do not see that you are making the slightest bit of sense here. Their work is entirely transparent, and you can substitute updated values if you wish to challenge their conclusions (which you seemingly refuse to do).

            If you truly believe that you possess a competent rebuttal, then write a submission to Energy and see if you can convince them to publish it, but based on what you have told me in this discussion, I think you need to accept that you are wrong.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, Corey, I do not believe that conventional power sources require backup and storage on the same scale as a 100% renewable grid. I pointed out that Weisbach treated nuclear and coal as if they needed zero backup and storage.

            Have you ever considered how much backup and storage it would take to build a 100% nuclear grid? You’d have to shift immense amounts of power from low demand to high demand hours. A heat wave, grid surge or earthquake could take several reactors off line in an instant.

            It’s quite possible that a 100% nuclear grid would need more storage and backup than a well-balanced 100% renewable grid.

            Weisbach’s work is transparent. One can easily see the faults that make the paper worthless.

            You need to open your mind and think a bit Corey. You’re trying to defend a deeply flawed paper.

          • Corey Barcus

            Mr. Wallace, there is no need to shift power around through the use of extraneous storage with nuclear generation, as the fissile represents the storage, and the reactors can be made to load follow, as I am sure you are aware. If nuclear power is going to be the sole source, then fluctuations in demand will lower capacity factors, but none of this should present a problem as we are perfectly capable of building nuclear systems for under $1/watt. The only question is whether we will have the sense to try.

            As an example of a nuclear power system that should come in under $1/watt, I recommend looking over this recent MSR design (based upon the MSRE):

            [Google for ThorCon executive summary]

            “One can easily see the faults that make the paper worthless.”

            Good, then you should have no problem whatsoever convincing the scientific community that your notions are informed and sound. I look forward to seeing your formal rebuttal in Energy as you try to back up your hyperbole and set us all straight on how to properly model power systems.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Mr. Barcus, yes we can build load following reactors however that makes the cost of their electricity even more expensive.

            Cost of electricity = total annual costs / total annual output. Produce less and you’ve got to charge more to cover your costs. Nuclear, unlike natural gas, has very low variable costs so cutting back on production saves almost nothing.

            Consider a grid where demand varies between 1 GW and 3 GW. You’d have to build 3 GW of capacity but run it only (roughly) at 2 GW average.

            If the cost is at least 12 cents per kWh (Citigroup LCOE) for new nuclear when the plant runs as much as possible then the price per kWh rises to 18 cents per kWh.


            Now as to building nuclear for $1/watt. That is a wild claim.

            The installed cost for the Vogtle reactors being built was $6.94/watt (Vogtle cost estimate $15.5 billion for 2,234 MW a few months ago).

            I have no idea if there is some extremely disruptive way to build nuclear but apparently the nuclear industry doesn’t believe that to be true. If it were companies such as GE and Toshiba would be reaching into their own cash reserves and building these puppies like crazy.

            As for the Weisbach paper, it is what it is. If you can’t see the flaws then that’s your problem. I’ve given you all the hints an objective person should need.

          • Bob_Wallace

            BTW, Mr. Barcus, it would be less expensive to build more storage to time shift part of a 2 GW nuclear supply from low demand time to high demand time than to overbuild generation.

            We can install pump-up hydro storage for around five cents/kWh. EOS Energy Storage zinc-air batteries look like they could give us storage for about 2 cents ($160/kWh and 10,000 cycles).

            Nuclear energy is very expensive. That’s why it has lost market share over the years. That’s why nuclear is fading away. With the rapidly dropping price of solar and wind look for nuclear to fade more rapidly.

          • Corey Barcus

            “Now as to building nuclear for $1/watt. That is a wild claim.”

            We started out building nuclear plants for around $1/watt before massive public opposition and regulatory hurdles greatly drove up the cost. But it would be inaccurate to claim that was the only problem with our nuclear strategy in the 70s & 80s.

            The ThorCon executive summary offers a very conservative estimate of what their MSR plants should cost, but of course, with a poor regulatory environment they could cost far more.

            And I fully agree that nuclear plants that do not run full out effectively cost more, but as we get good at building them, that cost will come down, and it will matter little that they are used to load follow demand.

            As for the Vogtle plant, the NRC introduced an 11th hour requirement that added to the already first-of-a-kind challenges, so unsurprisingly the cost has gone up. But as we build more of them, the cost will be lower and China is already building these machines for less than $3/watt. Still, the rate at which we can deploy AP1000s is limited (too many major components within the critical path), and we need a new approach if we are going to try and mitigate Global Warming and poverty with nuclear. That drives a primary interest in introducing the thorium fuel cycle with denatured MSRs.

            The scientific community is already making a very strong case to rapidly deploy nuclear power (surely you have heard this from Dr. Hansen), and I expect this recommendation to be followed by nations committed to lowering energy intensity as a strategy for more effective decarbonization. The United States currently presents plenty of obstacles for innovation in nuclear with its over-burdensome regulatory environment, so I expect some radical changes to accommodate rapid development and deployment of designs like the ThorCon MSR referred to above. It has been claimed that a new nuclear design is impossible to introduce in time to make a difference in our current predicament. ThorCon’s approach assumes periodic replacement of modules (referred to as ‘cans’) which are cycled out after 4 years of operation. The assumptions that have driven a quality control nightmare with current LWRs are not as relevant here. We will not need a long period of testing to verify the safety of the system.

            Again, I encourage you to examine the details of this radical proposal, as it is sure to challenge what most people assume to be possible.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Mr. Barcus, you need to learn something about the history of nuclear energy. It started expensive and only got more expensive.

            Nuclear energy projected $1/watt in the1960s but delivered for more than $2/watt. Graph below.

            Prices rose partly because more safety measures were required. I assume you aren’t suggesting we build less safe reactors?

            ThorCon can say what they like. If they can show a big company that they have a route to cheap nuclear then someone will build it. Get back to us when that happens. Otherwise you’re talking fantasy.

            BTW, I have great admiration for James Hansen when it comes to climate change. Obviously he knows little about renewable energy based on the statement he made. James failed to act like a good scientist and check out the facts before opening his mouth.

  • Pavithra

    In general, Musk is easily one of the very few that question the status quo. And the insights listed above are of great value, especially when somebody follows his work.

    This is one of my favorites: “Boil things down to their fundamental truths (first principle) and reason up from there, as opposed to reasoning by analogy. Through most of our life, we get through life by reasoning by analogy, which essentially means copying what other people do with slight variations.”
    The way he pushes physics more than anything else makes perfect sense.
    Plus, Musk’s TED talk/interview was very impressive, you should have added parts of it here 🙂

  • Awesome post! His insights are always so valuable. Especially how he breaks things down to break through the conventional beliefs thrown at him by the reporter

  • Jouni Valkonen

    I agree that Steven Chu had really good points. It is hard to understand that people actually believed in that neoclassical economic discourse that job is a job, no matter if it is a manufacturing job or a service sector job. But of course Chu had good term “exportable” that directly makes it obvious that not all goods and services are made equal although their have same monetary value.

    Instead of exportable, I think that it is better to emphasis the life span of specific goods and services. If you buy a hamburger, it maintains its value about 20 hours until it is flushed down the toilet. But if you buy a share of local wind farm, it generates value to the local economy for the next 20 years and even after that there is some residual value remaining, either wind turbine is refurbished and service life extended or the materials of wind turbine are recycled.

    Therefore even it is obvious that when we are buying hamburgers, there is no new wealth created into economy. But instead you just give some of your existing wealth to the burger flipper. But investment on wind farm clearly generates new long term wealth and certainly it is not just redistributing existing value.

    • Corey Barcus

      It is hard to believe that there are plenty of people who insist that diffuse and intermittent sources of energy can grow the sustainable economy quickly enough for decarbonization to be successful.

      That is an extraordinary claim to be sure.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I find it hard to believe that there are people who still don’t understand that ” diffuse and intermittent” sources of energy can grow the sustainable economy quickly enough for decarbonization to be successful.

        So often it turns out that these misguided individuals think we should turn to nuclear energy, take many more years (decades) to get carbon under control, and wreck our economies with the resulting cost of electricity.

        I guess there’s more education work that needs to be done…

        • Bob_Wallace

          Global solar and wind installed through 2013.

          See the acceleration? That ain’t nothing. Just watch the next ten years.

        • Corey Barcus

          Have you seen Google’s analysis? How about the Weibach EROI analysis? You are at least an order of magnitude off in performance, despite falling component prices. The fundamental energy flows do not support your wild assertion.

          Yeah, “there’s more education work that needs to be done”…

          • Corey Barcus

            There is also a recent analysis of Germany’s renewable efforts: Development and Integration of Renewable Energy: Lessons Learned from Germany…

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here’s the first paragraph from the Executive Summary…

            “Over the last decade, well-intentioned policymakers in Germany and other European countries created renewable energy policies with generous subsidies that have slowly revealed themselves to be unsustainable, resulting in profound, unintended consequences for all industry stakeholders.

            While these policies have created an impressive roll-out of renewable energy resources, they have also clearly generated disequilibrium in the power markets, resulting in significant increases in energy prices to most users, as well as value destruction for all stakeholders: consumers, renewable companies, electric utilities, financial institutions, and investors.”

            Yes, if you are heavily invested in a coal plant in Germany you are experiencing a lot of butt-hurt. Renewables are making the wholesale price of electricity so low that large thermal plants are losing money. I’ll show you the picture below.

            Yes, the high FiT rates of the early days of renewables in Germany are not sustainable. But those days are in the past, subsidy rates are down and will continue to fade away.

            German industrial electricity rates are lower than the EU27 average (as are Danish). I’ll show you that table.

            German retail electricity prices are high. That’s due to taxes lumped on top of the low wholesale rate. Some of those taxes are to cover the FiTs but the majority are “sales tax” that has nothing to do with electricity.

            European countries have generally piled taxes on electricity and vehicle fuel as a way to encourage efficiency.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The paper you link does not recognize the reason for renewable energy subsidies.

            Renewable energy subsidies are investments that were necessary to create a large enough market to bring enough activity to wind and solar to bring down prices.

            The US has spent a total (roughly) of $25 billion subsidizing wind and solar. The price of wind electricity has fallen from $0.38/kWh to under $0.04 kWh (unsubsidized). The price of solar panels has fallen from about $100/watt to around 50 cents/watt. A modest up front investment that has brought us ~5% wind and solar will now let us move to a 60+% wind and solar grid at an excellent price.

            BTW, we’ve spent over $185 billion on nuclear and the price has not become acceptable. Think about it.

          • Corey Barcus

            I think there is a lot more that needs to be done with nuclear power, but the fundamentals are quite sound.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here are the fundamentals of nuclear.

            1) Electricity from a new nuclear plants built in the West will cost upwards of 11 cents/kWh.

            2) It takes many years to bring a new nuclear reactor on line whereas a wind or solar farm comes on line very quickly and starts displacing carbon.

            3) Siting a new reactor is difficult. Between access to cooling water supplies and NIMBY issues the places where a reactor can be built are limited.

            4) We have no acceptable solutions for long term storage of hazardous radioactive waste.

            Those fundamentals sound to me like nuclear has no real future.

          • Corey Barcus

            We have very different ideas of what ‘fundamental’ means. You are not citing inherent issues with nuclear power, only some issues with our current implementation.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The fundamentals are now, and into the future:

            1. Nuclear is too expensive.

            2. Nuclear takes too long to bring on line.

            3. Finding places to place new reactors is difficult.

            4. We have no solution for hazardous waste except to put it in temporary storage and let our children, grandchildren, and the generations that follow deal with the mess we leave them.

            Nuclear is fundamentally flawed. Perhaps someday in the future someone will solve those problems but for now that is the reality of nuclear.

          • Bob_Wallace

            BTW, here’s how I use the word “fundamental”.

            “forming or relating to the most important part of something”

            I don’t use fundamental as a synonym for fantasy.

          • Corey Barcus

            You are espousing an incredibly insular view of nuclear power:

            1) The energy-economic fundamentals of nuclear are incredible, and cost issues can be addressed. AP1000s can cost anywhere from $2-8/watt depending upon who is building them (and we just started doing this, so the cost can come down as the domestic industry becomes more established and experienced), but the latest and largest Topaz solar farm in southern California is how much per watt? By my estimation, about $20/watt ($2.5 billion for ~1 TWh/year of non dispatchable power). I know, you only seem to care about your superficial historic analysis that shows that nuclear only gets more expensive with time.

            2) The deployment time of nuclear is definitely a challenge, but one that can be addressed with policy and technology. We are looking at being able to deploy hundreds of MWs with standard tractor-trailers when MSRs become commercially viable.

            3) Higher operating temperatures will facilitate higher conversion rates and dry cooling, which should allow for site flexibility.

            4) We have plenty of solutions for radio-waste, from on-site storage, above ground waste facilities, and WIPP (currently used for defense waste). Additionally, we can greatly improve our waste profile with some of the GEN IV technology. And there are other possibilities with deep boreholes. So, lots of options, and the waste volume is quite miniscule, despite the hazards they entail.

            I am sure you can come up with more objections, but you are just espousing an insular view of what is possible with the technology. Why the anti-nuclear community believes they are an authority on energy, and in particular, nuclear energy, is just confounding.

            Now, in the above video clip with Chu and Musk, Musk discusses the importance of ‘first principles’ or fundamental analysis. The EROI paper that was published in early 2013 in the journal Energy, is such an analysis. What this modeling allows us to do is understand the relative energy flows of various power systems so that we might understand what the basic economic effects must be. Yes, your simple observational analysis suggests something different, but it does not contradict anything found in the paper. A similar type of error is common among the global warming denialists, where they harp on about the ‘noise’ or hiatus or pause in a temperature trend without any reasonable physical context. Of course, you would not take those fools seriously. But in the context of energy, you criticise Weibach’s et al. model for not following EROI convention. When I add propeller generators to my hydroelectric dam, am I increasing or decreasing EROI? When I add PV to a gas plant, am I increasing or decreasing EROI? If I replace that gas plant with pumped hydro, what happens? What if that pumped hydro is a battery?

            Who cares about EROI anyway? As you must realize, this basic energy return drives the economy. Global per capita energy is about 2 kW. Even if we were able to exceed our most optimistic expectations for renewable technology, we still would not be in a position to raise this value. Why is it important? Because it is a useful metric for quality of life. To not expand the economy is to condemn most people to a marginal existence. I doubt that is your intention, but it is an inevitability with renewables.

            And our energy needs are increasing. Over half of the global population resides in urban centers, and is heavily dependent upon our industrial systems. Shut those systems down, and you are cutting back on medical services, education, travel, and pretty much everything that we consider to be an advantage of an advanced technological society. How can a liberal agenda survive without the material support it requires?

            We are now faced with the decline of sea life from ocean acidification. This problem cannot be addressed by decarbonization, but requires efforts to neutralize that excess oceanic CO2 that is lowering bicarbonate saturation. This is one of the ‘geo-engineering’ solutions. This problem has been estimated to be on the order of terawatts in magnitude. We are looking at mass extinctions within decades at the higher latitudes, so we must do something soon that will be effective. At stake is about 20% of the global food supply.

            So, to summarize:

            1) You are overestimating the economic potential of a renewable power system.

            2) You are underestimating energy need.

            3) You are underestimating the economic potential of nuclear power.

          • Bob_Wallace

            1) If nuclear can be built cheaply then why is no one building cheap nuclear?

            France and China combined want 16 cents per kWh to build some new nuclear for England. Those are our nuclear superstar countries.

            2) SMRs are likely going nowhere. GE just bailed, saying that they see no market. Nuclear is cheaper when made larger. Too much redundancy in building multiple small reactors.

            3) Dry cooling means much larger cooling towers and a lot more noise. Makes reactors even harder to site.

            4) We have no acceptable solutions for long term storage or we would be using them. You can argue that we could do this or that, but the world is not accepting your solutions.

            ERoEI – you do realize that this is an important consideration for fossil fuels but not for renewables, do you not?

            The eroei thing arose because we realized we were using more and more limited fuel to extract the same amount of limited fuel. As we approach an eroei of 1 it would make no sense to extract further supply.

            That concern does not apply to wind and solar. Our energy inputs are (essentially) unlimited. What matters with wind and solar is the cost of electricity. The amount of embedded energy matters only to the extent it drives price.

            “Global per capita energy is about 2 kW.” We can give everyone on the globe 10x that with wind and solar and do so for a decent cost. We can’t do that with nuclear.

            We can get carbon off our grids incredibly faster with wind and solar than with nuclear. There’s nothing all that involved with building a wind or solar farm. It involves the sort of construction skills that are used every day to build thousands of commercial buildings.

            It would take us at least a decade to train a new generation of nuclear engineers and specialists and give them enough experience to start building several new reactors at a time. Look at the mess that has happened in Finland because they used inexperienced construction crews.

            “So, to summarize:

            1) You are overestimating the economic potential of a renewable power system.”

            No. I gave you real world prices. If you’d like I can give you the links.

            “2) You are underestimating energy need.”

            No. There’s no practical limit to how much energy we can produce with renewables. There are practical limits for nuclear energy.

            “3) You are underestimating the economic potential of nuclear power”

            No. I’ve been watching the price of nuclear for many years. Nuclear, after over 60 years of subsidy, has failed to become an affordable source of electricity.

            Nuclear is simply priced itself off the table. It’s simple mathematics.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes, I’ve read Weibach’s paper carefully. I suspect you haven’t.

            Weibach’s paper is a piece of junk. He commits the following errors.

            1) He misuses ERoEI because he attributes backup and storage embedded energy to wind and solar. Embedded energy in backup and solar is important to consider, but it is not part of a ERoEI calculation.

            2) He charges wind and solar with embedded backup and storage energy but he gives coal and nuclear a free ride. Weibach puts both fists firmly on the scale and creates a dishonest outcome.

            3) Weibach also uses outdated energy input numbers for wind and solar. There’s no excuse for reaching back and pulling forward stale numbers. Only someone writing propaganda would try to get away with something like that.

            If you’re going to continue to remain ignorant then please go away Corey. If you wish to participate on this forum leave the BS somewhere else.

          • Corey Barcus

            You do realize that you can update the wind and solar values within their model? Have you done this?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Weibach’s model?

            Why would anyone bother when the basic argument is fatally flawed?

          • Corey Barcus

            Wait, so you think assessing overall EROI of the power system is ‘fatally flawed’?

          • Bob_Wallace

            No. But one does not add in the energy of a gas peaker plant to a solar farm and call that the ERoEi of a solar farm. That is simply not how eroei calculations are made.

            And one does not add in backup and storage for one technology, not for another, and then compare their total energy embeds. That’s simply dishonest.

            It’s like comparing the cost of two cars. For one you use only the purchase price. For the other you add in the cost of fuel, insurance, and maintenance. That would be an idiotic way to compare prices.

          • Corey Barcus

            “And one does not add in backup and storage for one technology, not for another, and then compare their total energy embeds. That’s simply dishonest.”

            So, nuclear requires storage and backup on a similar scale as wind and solar?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Well, that’s what an honest paper would have looked at.

            The grid has to deal with any generator going offline. Utilities have to be ready for multiple reactors going offline. It happens.

            Anything more than modest penetration by nuclear means installing storage. Nuclear can’t economically load-follow. Overbuilding the annual minimum demand means lots and lots of storage.

            Nuclear is so expensive that it just can’t compete even at low penetration.

            Consider a 40% wind, 30% solar, 30% CCNG grid vs. a 90% nuclear, 10% CCNG grid. Wind 4c, solar 7c, CCNG 6c and nuclear 12c.

            Wind + solar + CCNG = 5.5 cents per kWh.
            Nuclear + CCNG = 11.4 cents per kWh.

      • Jouni Valkonen

        Ray Kurzweil predicted in 2008 that by 2028 about 100 % of global energy production comes from solar power. And so far solar markets have evolved exactly as he predicted.

        Those companies and industrial entities, that cannot adapt into intermittent renewables, will go just into bankruptcy. Simple as that. Economic natural selection is quite formidable force.

  • BtotheT

    The older he gets the more he seems to think along my lines. Not sure if he’s getting more honest with age or has thought it awhile but it’s nice.

    • Jouni Valkonen

      I have similar feelings. My own pet idea was that electric cars makes it possible to desing cities as such that most of the heavy city traffic is directed beneath the ground into tunnels as electric cars do not have a fire hazard and pollution problem. This way it is possible to increase car density by a lot.

      Also with autonomous driving and parking, we can have vertical parking towers. Cars can be self-parked into to top floors and more valuable lower floors and basement can be reserved for commercial use.

  • greg212

    Great quotes. Negative feedback? I suspect that if anything kills tesla it will be falcon wings.

    • corkyciv

      Really? I think they’re pretty neat. They’ll figure it out.

      • greg212

        They’re definitely neat…

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