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Tesla's Elon Musk Turns on Bill Gates Over Tesla Short

The Tesla CEO questions the Microsoft founder's commitment to environmentalism.

Tesla (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc Report CEO Elon Musk thinks he's saving the world with his electric-vehicle and solar-power efforts (and he might be doing just that).

Microsoft Founder (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report Bill Gates has followed a more traditional path to philanthropy. His foundation, which he runs with his ex-wife, Melinda, has devoted billions to solving inequities around the world. 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has worked on everything from bringing vaccines to parts of the world that don't have them, to making sure people have clean water, and to all sorts of projects designed to protect the planet.

The Gates Foundation has a clear philosophy when it comes to how it plans to achieve its goals.

"We can’t achieve our goals on our own. We work together with businesses, government, and nonprofits, and each partner plays a specific role in accelerating progress," the foundation says on its home page.

Bill Gates was hoping Musk would consider partnering on those efforts and the two were planning to meet, according to a text chain that has been widely reported on and that Musk has since confirmed.

It was a pleasant enough, mundane conversation until Musk dropped a bomb and did the real-life version of when a pro wrestler turns on his partner by hitting him over the head with a steel chair. 

Elon Musk Lead JS

Musk Really Hates Twitter Shorts

Musk has generally taken a very negative approach to anyone who shorts Tesla shares. He repeated that approach with Gates and broke off their planned meeting because Gates has a significant short position against the electric-vehicle company, which he Tweeted about.

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In the text chain, which Musk has confirmed as real, the Tesla CEO questioned Gates's commitment to the environment due to his Tesla short position.

"Sorry, but I cannot take your philanthropy on climate change seriously when you have a massive short position against Tesla the company doing the most to solve climate change," Musk apparently texted to Gates, who has not confirmed the exchange.

Musk then completed his dismissal of Gates by sharing an image of him on Twitter with a mildly profane (and heavily insulting) joke.

A short is essentially a bet against a stock. A short position pays off if the price of the stock drops.

Musk Is More Forgiving of Himself 

Musk tends to publicly take a "you're dead to me" approach to anyone who shorts Tesla. He has made clear that he considers that a bet not just against his company but against its environmental efforts. Tesla lays out its environmental mission in its annual ESG report.

At Tesla, we strive to be the best on every metric relevant to our mission to
accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. In order to maximize
our impact, we plan to continue increasing our production volumes and the
accessibility of our products. In more concrete terms, this means that by
2030 we are aiming to sell 20 million electric vehicles per year (compared
to 0.5 million in 2020) as well as to deploy 1,500 GWh of energy storage
per year (compared to 3 GWh in 2020

Musk has been a leading proponent of not just EVs but also solar power. He has also been an on and off fan of both bitcoin and dogecoin, two cryptocurrencies that have come under fire for their impact on the environment.

The Tesla CEO did (eventually) reverse his stand on both cryptocurrencies, dropping bitcoin as a way to pay for a Tesla.

Musk clearly gives himself room to make multibillion-dollar mistakes but has taken a much less forgiving approach with Gates, 

And while the theater of it may enhance Musk's maverick image, what has actually happened is that the Tesla CEO has passed on an opportunity to work with Gates to further both men's environmental goals.