SpaceX, ocelots and the Mexican war

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk


Photo:

Ryan Lash/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Elon Musk officially defected from the Democratic Party on Tuesday. “I voted for Mayra Flores”, he said on Twitter,

referring to the Republican candidate who flipped a Democratic House district in South Texas. “First time I voted Republican,” Musk added.

Yet, is his political evolution astonishing? The man wants to fly to Mars, but check the government bureaucracy. The Federal Aviation Administration this week released an environmental assessment of SpaceX’s plan to launch its Starship rocket from Boca Chica, Texas. The 40-page document outlines dozens of required mitigation measures, including:

• “Prepare a historical background report (i.e. historical narrative) of the historical events and activities of the Mexican War (1846-1848) and Civil War (1861-1865) that took place in the geographical area.

• “Funding the development and production of five interpretive panels (in English and Spanish) that describe the history and significance of historic properties.”

• “Make an annual contribution of $5,000 to the Adopt an Ocelot program at the Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

• “Provide $5,000 per year to enhance the existing TPWD tackle loan program. This funding can be used to purchase fishing gear (rods, reels and tackle boxes with hooks, sinkers and floats) for use at existing high traffic sites and/or allow the program to grow.

• “Provide enhanced satellite surveillance via solar-powered Starlink for remote wildlife viewing opportunities.”

• “A qualified biologist will perform lighting inspections to eliminate unnecessary lighting prior to nesting season and weekly during nesting-hatching season (March 15 through October 1) and submit inspection results to the FAA. “

We love sea turtles, hawks, and jaguarundis as much as anyone else, and sensible measures to protect America’s natural assets are warranted. But with a document like this, good luck to SpaceX’s compliance team. The government gives no indication that it understands that someone actually has to pay these historians to write a book report on the Mexican War.

Elon Musk can afford it, but what about startups that never take off? It is difficult to imagine the overall cost of this hullabaloo, spread across the entire economy. The Hoover Dam went from legislation to inauguration in eight years. These days, planning a few miles of Interstate highway can take longer than that.

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Appeared in the June 17, 2022 print edition.

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