Update: Musk confirmed on June 1 that he would be leaving the White House’s business advisory councils following Trump’s rejection of the Paris Climate Agreement. He was the last Silicon Valley technology executive on the Strategic and Policy Forum after the departure of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick earlier this year.
Elon Musk’s strained relationship with US president Donald Trump may be nearing the breaking point. After months of defending his decision to serve on Trump’s business advisory board, the Tesla CEO said a US pullout from the Paris climate agreement would effectively end their official ties.
Musk took to Twitter to say that he had done everything possible to lobby the White House to keep the US a party to the accord, but it may not be enough.
Trump is reportedly still deliberating whether to remain in the accord, which is designed to slow the trend of climate change now rapidly warming the planet. More than 190 nations signed onto the deal in 2015—including the US, under then-president Barack Obama—and 147 countries have since formally ratified the agreement, the first to unify both developing and developed nations. If the US leaves, it will join Nicaragua, Syria, and a tiny number of other countries that have rejected it.
On May 31, Reuters and Axios cited two unnamed sources saying Trump planned to exit the agreement and was finalizing the details of a withdrawal with US Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, a staunch oil industry advocate (never mind that the oil industry itself is pushing for the US to stick with the accord). White House officials said Trump has yet to decide although he is leaning against staying, the Washington Post reports.
Musk previously argued that remaining on the White House’s Strategic and Policy Forum and its manufacturing council gives him leverage with an administration overtly hostile to his own clean energy agenda, which is heavily intertwined with Tesla’s electric-car business and its push into solar power. After taking heat for his role on the advisory boards, he released a statement on Feb. 2 saying that his participation serves the “greater good” and that his “goals are to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
During the presidential campaign, Trump promised to promote coal and other fossil fuels over renewable energy, while questioning the seriousness—and reality—of climate change, although he often expressed contradictory positions to different audiences.
Musk may now be discovering what almost all his aides and advisors already know: Trump heeds the advice of few experts or advisors. Perhaps he will do what White House aides are already doing to get his attention: making their statements on Fox News.