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Mining Mogul Labels Musk a ‘Muppet,’ Claims Tesla’s Bet on Batteries Skews Hydrogen Views

Australian mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest recently reignited his spat with Elon Musk, suggesting that the Tesla CEO’s dismissal of hydrogen as a viable clean fuel is influenced by Tesla’s massive investment in electric batteries. This commentary came in response to a shareholder’s question during Fortescue Metals’ annual meeting, where Forrest reflected on his past exchanges with Musk.

Forrest, the CEO of Fortescue Metals, emphasized the significance of hydrogen in addressing climate change, contrasting his own stance with that of Musk. “The miracle marriage is, as you point out, hydrogen with the battery or fuel cell,” he stated. Despite Fortescue’s heavy investment in battery design, Forrest believes that batteries alone are not the silver bullet for climate change.

Musk has been openly critical of hydrogen as a practical energy source for vehicles, citing its low density and the need for high-pressure storage as major drawbacks. During a Tesla earnings call in January 2021, he referred to hydrogen fuel as a “big pain in the ass.” Musk has also dismissed hydrogen energy storage as “mind-bogglingly stupid,” dubbing fuel cells as “fool cells.”

Forrest, ranking 57th on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index and worth nearly $26 billion, has been a vocal opponent of Musk’s stance. “Anyone, including Elon…who says hydrogen hasn’t got a massive future are muppets,” he declared at a Bloomberg conference in June. Forrest also questioned Musk’s motives in The Australian, suggesting Musk’s criticism of hydrogen indicates a business-centric rather than a climate-focused approach.

Tesla’s substantial growth, nearly an eight-fold increase since the start of 2020, with its market value soaring from below $100 billion to over $700 billion, is partly attributed to investor confidence in its battery technology. In contrast, Fortescue’s shares have doubled in the same period, now valuing the company at over $50 billion.

This ongoing debate between two industry titans highlights the complexities and competing interests in the race to find sustainable energy solutions. As the world grapples with climate change, the tension between battery and hydrogen technologies represents a broader discussion about the future of clean energy and the role of corporate investments in shaping environmental strategies.