Before I get into my opinion here, I do want to be abundantly clear that this piece reflects only my own opinion, and doesn’t reflect that of CleanTechnica or my fellow writers. I know that some of them agree with much of this, but not everybody here does. Those who agree don’t necessarily agree with everything I have to say, either.
I hope that if I ruffle any feathers here (and I know I will), that people reading this choose to take it out on me and not my fellow writers, our editors, or the publication as a whole. Feel free to block me on Twitter or something (here’s my profile) before you decide you don’t like the whole publication.
If you’re a die-hard Tesla fan, someone who works there, or you’re Elon Musk, keep in mind that there are other writers here who are among Tesla’s most staunch defenders. This getting published doesn’t mean they’re going to stop being who they are and writing that sort of content.
I Totally Get Leaving California
If you’ve read my articles over time and/or followed me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’m not a Democrat. I’m not the biggest fan of each and every progressive policy. I’m also really into guns, so there’s that. So, I’m not going to shed any tears over Tesla’s recent decision to move headquarters out of California.
California isn’t a very business-friendly state. Taxes are high. Regulations are many, and strict. Government is always looking for ways to get their hands deeper in people’s pockets, especially when those pockets are relatively deep. Strict Coronavirus measures in the state didn’t give businesses any breathing room to keep production going with safeguards for employees — they just shut companies down completely, and for longer than other states.
On top of that, some of California’s politicians have made this personal. There’s this infamous tweet, for example:
F*ck Elon Musk.
— Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) May 10, 2020
I wouldn’t personally be very interested in that invitation were I in Elon’s shoes, nor would I be interested in staying in a state where politicians like this very specifically made it clear that I wasn’t welcome.
I myself don’t personally feel very welcome in California for a variety of reasons that I won’t get into deeply here. So, yes, I get leaving California and won’t tell Elon Musk he’s Dr. Evil for leaving that state. I totally get it.
Texas Keeps Messing With People Like Me, Though
The real problem is that Texas has also made me feel personally unwelcome. As a woman, as a member of the LGBT community, as an intersex person, as a voter, as a supporter of the rights of minorities, and even as a gun owner, I’m deeply concerned that Tesla chose Texas for its headquarters.
Like I said, I get leaving California, but there are 49 other states in the union to choose from, and in terms of business friendliness, Texas generally doesn’t even appear in the top ten. Utah, Wyoming, and even Nevada (where Tesla has had a significant presence for years) are all more friendly to business. So, the choice of Texas obviously wasn’t about finding the most friendly business environment.
Tesla can obviously choose which laboratory of democracy best fits its needs and wants, but it concerns me that the company would choose Texas over the other, more business-friendly states in 2021. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the strict anti-abortion law that the Texas legislature passed this year. Another new law restricts voting rights, and seems to target the voting habits of minorities in Harris County. The legislature is currently in a highly unusual third special session because the governor wants to further gerrymander the state, pass poorly written anti-LGBT laws that inadvertently put intersex people in the crosshairs while targeting transgender people, and take advantage of federal funds that the state’s conservative politicians often claim to not need.
Even constitutional rights generally favored by conservatives aren’t safe in Texas. For example, you’re probably wondering why I said a few paragraphs up that Texas alienates me as a gun owner when it recently passed a “constitutional carry” law. The answer is that Republican legislators repeatedly tried to kill that bill with procedural trickery, much as they did for the past ten years while states like Utah and Arizona easily passed it. They really would prefer that Texas DPS have the authority to decide who legally carries a gun in Texas, and we know that Texas law enforcement often doesn’t respect the right to keep and bear arms when someone with the “wrong” skin tone wants to exercise that right.
For the last few years, conservatives have made a lot of noise about freedom of speech. But, after Colin Kaepernick chose to express dismay over the shootings of black people in the United States by kneeling for the National Anthem, Texas Republicans made it a crime to not play the National Anthem at sporting events in the state. Seriously.
In other words, if it’s a constitutionally protected right that the “wrong” people might enjoy in Texas, you can count on the Texas legislature to try to take that right away or make the right inaccessible to them. Nothing is as sacred to Texas politicians as discrimination.
Abbott Says Elon Musk Approves Of At Least Some Of This Stuff
I know Tesla’s biggest fans are about to string me up, though. After all, it was Texas legislators who passed this crap, and not Elon Musk or Tesla, right? I’m obviously a fool to think that choosing Texas for Tesla headquarters signals any approval of this.
But then again, keep in mind that Texas Governor Greg Abbott said, “Elon consistently tells me that he likes the social policies in the state of Texas.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tells @SquawkStreet that he "frequently" talks to Elon Musk, who "had to get out of California because, in part, of the social policies in California."
"Elon consistently tells me that he likes the social policies in the state of Texas." pic.twitter.com/NfRNqdOoZ8
— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) September 2, 2021
In response, Elon Musk made a vague tweet about small government, but didn’t deny what Abbott said or come out specifically against any of Texas’ recent laws.
I understand that Elon Musk doesn’t want to become a political figure, but all of this background casts a political light on the decision to move to Texas that ruins what little financial gain that can come from moving to a business-unfriendly state to a state that’s still not in the top ten.
The Most Confusing Thing About This: Texas Messes With Tesla, Too
Let’s assume for a second that none of this political controversy matters, and that Texas really is the best state for Tesla to do business in. Even then, it doesn’t make sense. Why? Because Texas is very unfriendly to Tesla itself.
In California, officials make mean comments on Twitter about the company’s head. In Texas, officials actively make life hard for the company in ways far larger than California ever did.
For one, Elon’s buddy Abbott tells blatant lies about renewable energy. During the deadly freezing event earlier this year, he wrongfully claimed that renewables (including the solar sold by Tesla) were to blame for the state’s power woes. The truth was that a lack of winterization of all types of power plants (including fossil fuel plants) was to blame, but Abbott couldn’t let the truth get in the way of a cool story that his oil company friends would like to hear. He then called for laws that require more fossil fuels to be burned.
On top of that, the legislature voted against allowing Tesla to sell cars in the state. You can read more about that here, but in short, there was a bill that would have allowed them to sell vehicles directly to Texas buyers, but it failed to pass when dealers opposed it.
The Only Conclusion
Texas simply isn’t the best place for Tesla. There’s political controversy that hurts the company’s image. There’s direct government action against the company and its stated mission. There are a number of states that are more business friendly than Texas, too. So, that’s obviously not the real reason for the move.
Given all this, it’s fairly clear that Elon really, really wants to be in Texas. When we consider that Abbott said he supports the states’ awful bigoted policies, and that Elon didn’t deny having told Abbott this, it raises important questions about the direction the company is going and whether it will alienate a large part of its important base of support with this move.
The people who have supported the company over the years, people who have poured their wealth into the stock, people who have poured their blood, sweat, and tears into it, and those who have worked hard to defend it when conservatives unfairly attacked it — all of us deserve better than this.