Monday, April 22, 2019

Elon Musk's latest sounds "worse than pointless"

At this point, I don't think that Musk actually expects to get any real money out of the DC to Baltimore tunnel proposal directly, but he has got to shore up his visionary credentials and he has to do it fast.

Demand for Tesla cars appears to have stalled. Stores are being closed. Inventory is piling up. Prices are being cut.
Panasonic, the company’s closest business partner, abandoned plans to expand operations at Tesla’s giant battery factory in Nevada unless car sales pick up.
Although Tesla posted consecutive quarterly profits late last year, Musk has prepared Wall Street for a loss when first-quarter 2019 earnings are announced April 24.
The controversial chief executive also faces contempt charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission. He had agreed to settle SEC stock fraud charges after tweeting falsely last August that he had the funding to take Tesla private. In the settlement, he agreed not to tweet material information about the company without prior vetting. A federal judge said the settlement could be clearer, ordering both sides to put on their “reasonable pants” and revise the agreement.
Amid the bad news, Tesla’s volatile stock has fallen from a year-to-date high of $347.31 a share to 273.26 on Thursday, a 21% decline.

 The valuation of the company was always driven primarily by Musk's carefully cultivated "real life Tony Stark" persona, and that persona is starting to fade just as the company's debts are coming due. He absolutely has to keep the show going.

Aaron Gordon of Jalopnik has an insightful review of the latest act.

Elon Musk's D.C. to Baltimore Tunnel Sounds Worse than Pointless

What if I proposed digging two 35-mile tunnels that would begin and end right next to two train stations that currently have service between one another? And this tunnel would be right underneath an existing highway? But this tunnel would be used to skim cars along tracks at speeds no one has achieved yet? And it would move fewer than two trains’ worth of people per direction per day?


This is no small caveat. 35 miles is a really long tunnel, and they’re not just digging one, but two of them. The report claims a digging time of less than two years, which would be an unprecedented achievement orders of magnitude [Not quite, but still a lot -- MP] faster than any other tunneling project to date, as Kevin DeGood, Director for Infrastructure Policy at the Center for American Progress pointed out:

For comparison, a 35-mile twin-bore tunnel through the Swiss Alps took 17 years to build. Yes, digging through the Alps is much harder than the soil beneath Maryland, but not that much harder.

And, for the record, it takes high-speed trains 17 minutes to travel through the tunnel, or only two minutes longer than the proposed travel time in Musk’s DC-Baltimore route.


Instead of talking about those things, The US and Maryland DOTs are investing actual resources to study this pointless tunnel and openly advocate for its construction. In a statement accompanying the report’s release, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao talked up the potential benefits (heavy emphasis on “potential”):

    The publication of a draft environmental assessment for this unique project demonstrates the Department’s commitment to preparing for the future of transportation across all modes.

All modes?! It’s a car in a tunnel! That mode exists!

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