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Elon Musk Spars With Historian Over Government Subsidies, Accuses Her Of Rehashing Oil, Gas Industry's 'Propaganda'

Noted historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat found herself in the crossfires of billionaire Elon Musk on Saturday when she called him out for his “faux selflessness.”

What Happened: Following reports of SpaceX writing to the Pentagon asking the latter to foot the bill for providing Starlink internet services to Ukraine, Musk came back to clarify that he would continue to fund the Ukrainian government free of cost.

Commenting on the tweet, Ben-Ghiat said, “the faux selflessness is among the grossest things about @elonmusk who himself received almost $5 billion in government subsidies.” She also included the link to a 2015 Los Angeles Times story that said Tesla, Inc. TSLA, SolarCity and SpaceX have received an estimated $4.9 billion in government support.

Musk fought back with a reply, asking the historian why she was “perpetuating propaganda concocted by the oil & gas industry.” The propaganda, according to the billionaire, is to distract from the $6 trillion per year of subsidies the oil and gas companies receive.

The Tesla CEO also shared an IMF report on fossil fuel subsidies, which said globally, fossil fuel subsidies were $5.9 trillion or 6.8% of GDP in 2020 and will likely increase to 7.4% of GDP in 2025.

Why It’s Important: Although Musk’s ventures provide an alternative to non-renewable energy resources, he has said in the past the world still needs oil and gas.

“Realistically I think we need to use oil and gas in the short term, because otherwise civilization will crumble,” he previously said on the sidelines of an energy conference in Stavanger, Norway.

Musk is of the view it would take some decades for the world to transition to sustainable energy. That said, in the past, he has come out against the subsidies doled out to oil and gas companies.

While speaking at the Wall Street Journal CEO Summit in December 2021, he called for scrapping the Biden administration’s infrastructure package, adding that his EV company doesn’t need subsidy to drive demand. Likewise, support isn’t needed for gas stations or charging networks, he added.

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