While pandering to an audience of far right-wing politicians in Italy, Tesla CEO Elon Musk made a startling claim: that oil and gas get a bad rap.
The CEO, who has made it his mission to wean the planet off coal and gas by selling electric cars and solar infrastructure, said that our worries over an impending climate crisis are unfounded, as Reuters reports.
"Climate change alarm is exaggerated in the short term," the mercurial CEO told members of the Brothers of Italy party, a neo-fascist and social-conservative group led by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
And "we should not demonize oil and gas in the medium term" either, he added.
It was a bizarre appearance. The Brothers of Italy party, which won the most votes in Italy's 2022 national election, counts Mussolini sympathizers among its ranks. Meloni herself has been accused of xenophobia and Islamophobia and has come out openly against same-sex marriage and LGBT parenting.
In short, it's exactly the kind of audience Musk is seeking out right now.
Musk is no stranger to pandering to an audience. His latest appearance is an excellent showcase of his increasingly populist and right-wing views, which have crystallized ever since he took over Twitter last year.
During the event, Musk claimed that despite his latest comments, he considers himself an environmentalist. However, he argued that environmental groups may have gone too far, undercutting their own cause — a common talking point in right-wing circles.
Last year, Musk told a conference in Norway that "civilization will crumble" if the world would stop using oil and natural gas and called for more drilling and exploration for sources of fossil fuels.
As for his own support for Italy, he voiced concerns over the nation's "low birth rate."
"If the workforce declines then who will work in the country?" he added.
Musk's blatant pandering didn't end there, with the CEO telling the Brothers of Italy that immigration wasn't enough to stop the workforce from declining, leaning into Meloni's staunch anti-migrant views.
It also all reads as a thinly veiled attempt to drum up support in Europe. The entrepreneur's relationship with the continent has been strained as of late, given his EV maker's growing labor dispute with much of Scandinavia.
It's a sad state of affairs. Instead of using his enormous platform to rally behind environmental causes, Musk is willing to renege on those commitments to score political points, even if that means undercutting the very mission of his EV maker, which warns that a delay in moving to renewables could "increase the risk of global climate change, with potentially disastrous consequences worldwide."
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