Elon Musk, King of Electric Cars, Calls for More Oil | Opinion

As gas prices soar, it is not surprising to find growing calls for increased domestic energy production. But one key figure with a direct stake in how cars are fueled raised some eyebrows on Twitter on March 5. "Hate to say it," he began, "but we need to increase oil and gas output immediately."

Why would this important voice "hate to say it?" Because it is Elon Musk, billionaire developer of the signature electric car of our age, the Tesla. Musk addresses his mixed feelings in a subsequent tweet: "Obviously, this would negatively affect Tesla, but sustainable energy solutions simply cannot react instantaneously to make up for Russian oil & gas exports."

A social media free-for-all soon unfolded, as fossil fuel supporters suggested Musk is a wiser voice than the familiar chorus of climate extremists who fill their days telling us our gasoline engines are dooming coastal cities to an underwater future. Musk made clear that he was not politically or financially aligning with anyone with his observation, but that he was simply stating the obvious: "Increased oil and gas action in the short term is critical or people around the world will be placed under great duress," he argued. "It's not a question of money, it is a question of having enough energy to power civilization."

While automakers all over the world signal a slow migration of their fleets toward electric vehicles, it is clear that the marketplace conversion will be gradual. Plug-in electric vehicles have indeed doubled their numbers in the last couple of years—from just over two to almost five percent of all cars sold in America. Tesla and other electric makes can expect a bright and lucrative future. But for at least a generation to come, the internal combustion engine will continue to propel the majority of American cars and trucks.

And vehicles are just one facet of our fossil fuel diet. Oil, coal and natural gas run the engines of our lives and livelihoods, from homes to businesses to power plants. Renewables are making inroads in all of those areas, and markets should always remain open to alternative fuels that work. But in this historical moment, Musk is spot-on in identifying the need for bold new exploration and production of energy the old-fashioned way.

It may not even cost Musk that much. Teslas were flying out of virtual online showrooms well before gas prices spiked into the stratosphere as a result of Joe Biden's reckless energy policies and Vladimir Putin's Ukraine misadventures. The gas price spikes of 2008 surely ignited demand for hybrids and full-electric cars, but they continued to sell even after pump prices returned to their prior norms.

Elon Musk attends TIME Person of the
Elon Musk attends TIME Person of the Year on December 13, 2021 in New York City. Theo Wargo/Getty Images

So while we're giving Musk credit for a well-rounded view of energy policy, it is worth noting that over the weekend, he extended his advice to the world on another power source: nuclear. "It is now extremely obvious," he wrote, "that Europe should restart dormant nuclear power stations and increase power output of existing ones."

And not just for consumer convenience: "This is critical to national and international security," he concluded. And once again, he is correct. Nuclear power, once the whipping boy of the environmentalist Left, now enjoys broader favor as it builds a track record of safety and cleanliness.

Putin's unpredictable Ukraine gambit has offered a wake-up call to the wisdom of an all-hands-on-deck approach to energy. This is no time for zero-sum gamesmanship, featuring the punishment of oil consumption toward a goal of government favoritism of alternatives and renewables. Everyone who wants to park an electric car at a home topped with solar panels should be free to do so. But Americans preferring to live in a coal-powered home with a diesel pickup in the garage deserve a voice in the marketplace, as well.

It is consumer choice, not the government, that should guide the availability of energy options in our lives. Convenience and environmental concern will continue to guide some of us toward green energy. Reliability and a lifelong habitual comfort zone will determine the degree to which we keep one foot in the world of oil and other fossil fuels.

The Biden administration has sought to brace us for higher prices at the pump, as if Putin is solely to blame. Sanctions have surely upended Russia's participation in global oil markets, but America would be less susceptible to such hazards if we had not reduced domestic production and introduced policies clearly punitive to the fossil fuel industries.

Elon Musk seeks to lead the world into a future filled with as many electric cars as he can sell. If he can recognize the objective sensibility of bolstering the oil economy in a time of obvious need, perhaps others will recognize that all of these diverse types of energy have their benefits and drawbacks, and that no single corner of the market should be unduly favored or banished by mere political whim.

Mark Davis is a talk show host for the Salem Media Group on 660AM The Answer in Dallas-Ft. Worth, and a columnist for The Dallas Morning News and Townhall.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.