FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Problem With Elon Musk and the Hyperloop

If you’ve seen or heard any corporate news in the last couple of days, you’ve heard that Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, has just announced his “plan” for an imaginary boondoggle called a Hyperloop.  I put the scare-quotes around the word “plan” here because Musk’s ridiculous proposal is clearly little more than a cocktail napkin fantasy being publicized to keep Tesla’s stock price in the rarified strata where it presently resides so undeservingly.

The Hyperloop imagined by Musk, who is invariably described as “a billionaire” as if that should-be-unspeakable status somehow renders one a technical genius in one’s chosen field of exploitation, would be a giant techno-tube shooting people from Los Angeles and San Francisco in half an hour.  Aside from the obvious question of who would be willing to risk traveling at such a velocity in constant, extremely close proximity to terrestrial solid objects, the rank silliness of the “plan” merely magnifies the three fatal flaws in all of Elon Musk’s over-hyped Rube Goldberg schemes: expense, energy use, and complexity/impracticality.

For starters, take expense.  It’s humorous to watch Musk, whose entry-level Tesla S sedan costs $69,900 and also relies on huge public subsidies and tax breaks beyond those already flowing to all car owners via street construction and foreign oil wars, assure his hapless admirers that his Hyperloop, which would require not only large numbers of extremely specialized forms of the motors used in Tesla cars but an unspecified source of solar self-power for the whole system, could be built for a mere $6 billion.  Cats everywhere ought to be laughing themselves unconscious over this assurance.  Building an L.A.-to-S.F. high-speed railway will probably cost $70 billion–if it ever gets done.  A Hyperloop will somehow come in at under one-tenth of that
dawsonconsumerprice?  You really have to marvel at the gullibility of the mainstream press here.

Even more importantly, the matter of energy use is treated with equal un-seriousness by Musk.  On this front, consider not only the substantial difficulties that plague Tesla car owners trying to make use of their purchases, but remember that “electric” vehicles are really coal, natural gas, and nuclear vehicles, given the fact that 88 percent of U.S. electricity is still made from those sources, with little prospect of serious reduction.

Musk, of course, is silent on this front, not least because selling Teslas depends on keeping targeted buyers suspended in the sponsored childish energy ignorance that underlies the whole of mainstream U.S.
transportation policy and politics.  People who understand Physics 101 aren’t going to fall for preposterous phrases such as “zero emissions vehicles” and “electric cars.”

Musk is also silent about the wild impracticalities of all his products.  Why should tourists be visiting Earth’s low orbit on a planet that has yet to get serious about either poverty or ecological sustainability?  How could 200 million drivers ever possibly recharge electric vehicles in a way that would sustain present time economies, bad as those already are?  What happens when the Hyperloop experiences its first serious malfunction?  Elon?  Elon?  [Crickets chirping…]

The fact of the matter is that Elon Musk is no innovator at all.  On the contrary, knowingly or not, he is a mere shill for the overclass’s project of perpetuating the ecocidal yet massively profitable cars-first transportation order of the United States.  Given the laws of physics and the finiteness of Earth’s resources, to sell “electric” cars is to suggest that having everybody use a 3,500-pound machine, 95 percent idle machine for everyday intra-urban locomotion could ever be environmentally and energetically sane.  That, of course, is a capitalist’s pipedream as well as a geo-physical impossibility.

To peddle Muskian diversions is also to distract attention from the nub of the matter, which is our pressing need for radical reconstruction of our towns and cities to facilitate walking, bicycling, and public transit.  What we really need — and soon — is political courage and innovation, not more capitalist-cornucopian tricks and fantasies.

Michael Dawson is the Portland, Oregon-based editor of www.deathbycar.info. He is the author of  The Consumer Trap: Big Business Marketing in American Life.

More articles by:

Michael Dawson is the Portland, Oregon-based editor of deathbycar.

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail