Science

Elon Musk Calls For Increased Nuclear Power, Oil and Gas Production

The Tesla boss tweets about energy needs as the Russian invasion of Ukraine threatens supplies.

Elon Musk says the world must address its energy needs as Russia's invasion of Ukraine threatens energy supplies.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Time

Elon Musk over the weekend highlighted the need for greater oil and gas output and urged Europe to turn toward nuclear power for its energy needs. The Tesla chief's tweets came as US gasoline prices rose and a Ukrainian nuclear plant was seized amid Russia's war in Ukraine

"Hate to say it, but we need to increase oil & gas output immediately," he tweeted Friday. "Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures."

He noted that this could hurt sales of electric cars like Tesla's but acknowledged that sustainable energy output couldn't instantly make up for lost Russian oil and gas exports. 

Russia is among the world's largest producers of crude oil and natural gas, providing 10% of the supply globally and roughly 40% for the European Union. The war has strained relations between Russia and many nations, including those that buy its energy supplies. 

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden banned US imports of oil and gas from Russia and said European allies are working on strategies to reduce their dependence on Russian energy. The European Commission on Tuesday outlined its plan to make the region independent of Russian fossil fuels "well before" 2030.

On Sunday, Musk turned his attention to nuclear energy following the Russian seizure of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe. 

"Hopefully, it is now extremely obvious that Europe should restart dormant nuclear power stations and increase power output of existing ones," he tweeted. "This is *critical* to national and international security."

The US Embassy in Kyiv on Friday, in a tweet, called Russia's attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant a war crime. And the invading forces are advancing toward another nuclear plant, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told US lawmakers over the weekend.

Many countries have phased out nuclear power after accidents like partial meltdown of Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island reactor in 1979, Ukraine's Chernobyl meltdown in 1986 and Japan's Fukushima disaster in 2011. The Chernobyl meltdown happened while Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union; the former plant's site is currently occupied by Russian forces.

Germany is among the European nations turning away from nuclear energy. In 2011, then-Chancellor Angela Merkel announced an energy transition that would phase out nuclear power and coal in favor of renewables. Germany shut down three nuclear plants at the end of 2021, leaving three plants active in the country. 

Meanwhile, Germany has become more dependent on Russia for its natural gas and coal supplies, Bloomberg noted. But after the invasion of Ukraine, Germany surprised Russia by halting approval of Nord Stream 2, a natural gas pipeline running from Russia to Germany.