Elon Musk’s Texas-Sized Hypocrisy on Reliability

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)
The nation is watching in horror as Texas, the nation’s largest energy producer, continues to struggle through a crisis brought on by a historic winter blast. Millions were without power, and the death count has risen well into the double digits. For Texans, this has become a fight for survival, testing the very ethos of what it means to hail from the Lone Star State.  
  
But while longtime residents struggle with an unprecedented freeze, recent California transplant and the world’s second-richest man, Elon Musk, is taking it upon himself to cast stones at Texas leadership.   
  
Musk has taken to Twitter to decry the Texas power grid as unreliable and accusing the grid’s regulatory body, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), of not living up to its name.  
 
Frankly, this is rich coming from the man who has been investigated for multiple suspected public safety violations and whose name has become synonymous with massive quality control problems. Problems, I might add, that have come despite his significant national security responsibilities and receipt of over $5 billion in public funds and incentives — $60 million of which was recently awarded by Texas officials.  
   
I would argue that Musk’s energy business has a far worse track record in reliability than Texas.  
 
Just look at his solar panels. They’re not hard to spot because they keep bursting into flames. Besides endangering families along the snow-familiar east coast, his solar panel shingles also recently led to a settlement with Walmart after seven different stores caught fire. That’s what we call reliable unreliability.   
  
While some may chalk it up as a series of isolated incidents, Musk’s entire portfolio of companies has experienced similar catastrophic safety failures, at times even endangering national security.   
  
Musk runs a spaceship company, SpaceX, that handles a wide range of missions for NASA, the Pentagon, and private companies. Many of these partners can attest to having lost millions of dollars in cargo from one of Musk’s rockets exploding.   
  
Last month, Musk watched as his Starship rocket exploded for the second consecutive launch. The failure was followed by a Federal Aviation Administration report complaining about SpaceX’s failure to follow proper safety procedures. The report itself wasn’t surprising as past explosions have come with similar declarations from regulators. Yet, despite Musk’s consistent failures, some still find ways to give him a pass, like the excuse that “rockets are hard.” 
  
But even the thing Musk is best known for, his Tesla vehicles, can’t escape being hampered by continuing reliability issues.   
  
Just last year, industry watchdogs declared Tesla one of the lowest-rated cars for all models. With such a high rate of issues, the reviewers had a hard time justifying the car’s hefty price tag. As recent as last month, Tesla made headlines when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent a formal letter requesting the recall of 158,000 vehicles over safety concerns. Tesla responded by trying to fix the issue with a simple software update, but regulators made clear that it was insufficient.   
 
Some have speculated that the low production quality stems from the company’s undeniably poor working conditions. According to public safety records, Tesla has by far the most factory fines and citations. Musk himself seems to admit that the factory conditions play a massive role in reliability issues, warning customers not to buy his cars during high production periods because his factory makes far more mistakes.  
 
But despite knowing of some of these problems, Musk has appeared to do little to correct them.  
 
The frequency and magnitude of these quality control slip-ups seem to suggest that these companies suffer from a CEO who doesn’t make providing safe and reliable products a priority. So sure, the Texas grid might have some inefficiency problems, but Musk shouldn’t be the one to call them out.  
 
Despite receiving so many subsidies and tax incentives, Musk continues to endanger America’s public safety and national security interests. He’s already gone through many public investigations, including with the NHTSA, FAA, and NASA, but it’s long past time for him to come under even closer governmental scrutiny. 
 
Don’t kick Texas while they’re down, Elon. Get your own house in order first.
George Landrith is the President and CEO of Frontiers of Freedom – a public policy think tank devoted to promoting a strong national defense, free markets, individual liberty, and constitutionally limited government. To learn more about the organization, visit www.ff.org.