Energy SECURITY 17 October, 2022 11:00 am   
COMMENTS: Maria Andrzejewska

Andrzejewska: Elon Musk. Philanthropist or philanthro-troll? (COLUMN)


Elon Musk promised to solve the biggest problems of the modern world, from hunger to deadly carbon emissions. Now he is asking for peace in Ukraine and has answers to the energy crisis. The past shows that the multi-billionaire’s plans, eagerly shared on Twitter, are not always reflected in reality, but maybe that’s the point? – asks Maria Andrzejewska, editor at

There is a reason why the owner of Tesla is called a visionary. His ideas have always been fresh and bold, and him being a multi-billionaire, they also seemed feasible. After the unfulfilled promise about the coming of a modern-day “savior”, The New York Times analyzed Musk from the point of view of the so-called troll philanthropy, because what kind of a philatrophist is he if disorients and in the end everybody wonders what his point really is.

Troll philanthropist

“Troll philanthropist” is a term widely discussed in an article by the The New York Times. Benjamin Soskis, a researcher at the Urban Institute, notes that Musk plays with the image of the founder and savior. “He doesn’t seem to care much about using his philanthropy to curry public favor,” Soskis told The New York Times. “In fact, he seems to enjoy using his identity as a philanthropist in part to antagonize the public,” he explained.

When in 2021 the World Food Program (WFP) director David Beasley said in an interview on CNN that he was calling on Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to donate to the fight against the food crisis, the Tesla owner replied that he was waiting for a specific plan of action. Beasley replied to Musks’s tweet with details and a spending plan. The program needed USD 6.6 billion for 42 million people from 43 countries. Despite promises to sell Tesla shares to raise money, the multi-billionaire has not donated to the World Food Program.
Musk seems to win people’s hearts with groundbreaking visions and direct messaging, but then we are left to ask what is his end goal, because he either pays or kills the topic. This is not a typical behavior of a philanthropist, he is not altruistic and he doesn’t do anything to get recognition, instead he lets himself do whatever he wants, even cause dislike, like in the case of the below tweet.

One on one

Soon after Musk proposed “peace terms” in Ukraine on Twitter, a debate began over whether the entrepreneur had spoken to Vladimir Putin about it. This information was shared by analyst and founder of Eurasia Group Ian Bremmer, who claims that it was Musk who told him about the conversation with the dictator. The multi-billionaire denied this on Twitter and noted that he spoke with Putin only once, about space.

The “conditions for peace” in Ukraine, proposed by Musk, presuppose, among other things, the neutrality of the country and the recognition of the annexation of Crimea. According to Bremmer, Musk was supposed to say that Putin will achieve his goals in spite of everything and this must be prevented.

The analyst maintains that Elon Musk told him about the conversation with the Russian leader.

For the future and for the climate

“We should build more nuclear power plants, or at least not close the ones we already have. There is a strong movement to get rid of nuclear power plants, which I think is not good, especially if they are replaced by coal-fired power plants. There is strong evidence that coal – fired power plants have a worse impact on health than nuclear power plants,” Musk said at Tech Week 2021. After February 24 this year, Elon Musk’s rhetoric about nuclear power intensified. The multimillionaire has become very active at the moment when the European Union added nuclear energy to the taxonomy, that is, recognized investments in the atom as low-carbon and green.

In the following months, discussions continued in Germany over the shutdown of the last operating nuclear power plants, which, according to the assumed plan, were to lose their service life at the end of 2022. Musk has not refrained from responding, and following his earlier way of communication tweeted that it was “crazy” to shut down nuclear power during an energy crisis. In the context of the atom, Musk did not declare a solution to the energy crisis, but twice challenged the most dangerous dictator of the modern times to a duel. Officially, Vladimir Putin left it without comment.

At the beginning of 2021, Musk announced that he would allocate USD 100 million to the development of a technology that would reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The initiative was called Xprize Carbon Removal, and in December, another idea for using CO2 emerged. SpaceX wanted to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it to power space rockets, even though as everybody knows, at this point, they emit tons of harmful carbon dioxide and are still being produced. However, Musk said it would be important for the conquest of space and the colonization of Mars. According to the announcements of the entrepreneur, the first flight to the Red Planet will take place in 2029. As the months go by, there are no new tweets about the venture, and it would seem that Musk is resting on his laurels after being named Time magazine’s 2021 man of the year.

In 2022, Verdox won USD 1 million to develop technology to combat carbon dioxide. In this context, Musk is silent on Twitter, but it looks like he is taking steps towards fulfilling his promise.
“The resources at his disposal are so vast and potentially consequential that we have to engage him, and accept some of that trolling, if we want to try to exert some pressure on him and shape his somewhat inchoate philanthropic priorities,” Soskis concluded.