Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Hypocrisy

When Russian Authoritarian Vladimir Putin and Elon Musk crossed paths for the first time, it was most certainly not love at first sight. During the early years of Putin’s presidency, Musk traveled to Moscow with the hope of buying a few old standard issue Russian ICBM missiles. He had big dreams of sending a Hyperloop greenhouse to Mars. Musk met with a group of Russian space scientists to discuss his plans, but he was laughed out of the room after a complimentary round of vodka. To say that Putin people did not take Musk seriously is an understatement.

Fast forward to the present and all that has changed. Elon Musk and his Hyperloop plans are the new darlings of the Russian Ministry of Transport. This, however, isn’t the result of Musk making drastic improvements to his product; rather, it’s the result of crony capitalism’s revolving door finally sprouting open for the tech mogul.

Although Musk first introduced his ultra-high-speed transportation concept in 2013, he still has failed to ever state how it will work. He has only mentioned that his product is not a vacuum, but rather a cross between a Concorde, a railgun, and an air hockey table.

According to Musk, a Hyperloop would allegedly allow people and freight to ride in pods and travel at speeds in excess of 700 mph through an airless tube. By Musk’s estimates, traveling between Los Angeles and San Francisco would take just 30 minutes, while a similar trip from New York to Philadelphia would clock in at a mere 10 minutes. Musk has also made the bold claim that it would be impossible for the pods to ever crash.

How is all of this possible? No one knows – perhaps not even Musk himself.   It is an exciting concept and would be great if it actually worked.

And now for the hypocrisy.  This is the same Elon Musk who campaigned against Putin to secure more government largess in the form of defense contracts for his SpaceX company for funding to build of rockets to launch intelligence satellites into space.

It was reported on June 8, 2016 that Musk’s defense bill earmark that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) inserted into the bill was part of a campaign to stop Russia from providing some rockets to use for years in the production of rockets:

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is pushing an earmark for Elon Musk that would make him, effectively, the sole distributor of rockets to launch new satellites into space. In a battle between two potential defense contractors, McCain is trying to pass an amendment that would prevent the United Launch Alliance from continuing to provide rockets so that his pal Musk can take over that contract.

The McCain Amendment is numbered 4149 to S.2943, the Defense Authorization Bill for 2017. The Amendment would “impose restrictions on the procurement of services of property in connection with military space launch from entities owned or controlled by persons sanctioned in connection with Russia’s invasions of Crimea.”

So on one hand, the Russians are great to work with in an effort to help his California-based Hyperloop company while at the same time he is funding a lobbying and public relations campaign against the use of Russian rockets in the production of rockets to launch U.S. military and intelligence assets into space.  Oh the hypocrisy is thick with Elon Musk.

Although the campaign by Musk allies was to punish and demonize the Russians effort to continue, for a short period of time until alternatives could be secured, providing rockets for use in the U.S.  The United States is estimated to launch about 34 intelligence and national security related satellites into space over the next five years and these efforts would be slowed and hampered if Musk secured the contract.  That would hurt national security.

The effort was sold as a way to punish the Russians for invading Ukraine by preventing the United Launch Alliance (ULA) from using the Russian rockets.  Yet this would have hurt the U.S. more than the Russians.  And we now know that Musk will reward the Russians with new technology if they will pay for it.  It is hypocrisy of the highest order for Musk to campaign against the Russians while trying to make deals with them at the same time.

This news that Musk is working with the Russians on a new project completely undermines his efforts to use the power of government to block off the Russians from providing rockets to the U.S. to increase national security.   Congress should not reward Elon Musk with an earmark in the defense bill this year and should use his own actions as evidence that his attempts to become the sole distributor of rockets is a sham.