Musk Says Selling Cars Is Good, But Saving the Earth Is Better

  • Billionaires muscle in on Paris's climate conference
  • France's Bollore parades electric trams on Champs-Elysee

Selling all-electric sports cars is good, but what billionaire Elon Musk says he really wants is to save the planet.

In a Paris presentation about climate change, the 44-year-old Tesla Motors Inc. co-founder argued that regulators need to discourage carbon emissions -- and not just because it would help him sell more of his cars with price tags of $75,000 or higher.

“Am I asking for rules that favor my company? Is this because I want to get richer?,” Musk asked a crowd of a few hundred students at La Sorbonne University in Paris on Wednesday. “If what I really cared about was maximizing my net worth I would never have created an electric car company. It has to be one of the dumbest ways to invest money.”

As delegates from 195 countries meet a few miles north of the French capital at the United Nation’s climate conference and struggle to agree by Dec. 11 on a plan to curb global warming, Paris is buzzing with talk of going green. And businessmen are trying to elbow their way into the conversation.

Musk isn’t the only electric-car-advocating-billionaire-turned-climate-activist in Paris this week. France’s own Vincent Bollore, whose Blue Solutions makes batteries used in electric vehicles, sponsored the COP21 climate conference and had his fleet of electric trams ferry attendees both around the site of the gathering and up and down the capital’s famous Champs-Elysees avenue.

Billionaires’ Club

“We’ve shown we can provide solutions that fit the environmental concerns that the COP21 aims to talk about,” Blue Solutions said in a statement.

Bollore, whose investments range from freight in Africa to media and advertising companies in France, has a net worth of $5.4 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He’s the country’s 11th richest man.

Musk, the world’s 85th-wealthiest person -- with a net worth of $11.7 billion -- made his fortune from selling PayPal to eBay Inc. and used the money to found rocket launching company SpaceX and electric car-maker Tesla Motors. Musk is also chairman of the U.S.’s largest installer of solar panels SolarCity Corp.

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