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Elon Musk to donate sliver of net worth for carbon capture

The Tesla CEO tweeted he would be give $100 million toward a technology prize.
Image: Elon Musk Visits Germany
Elon Musk at the construction site of the new Tesla Gigafactory near Berlin, Germany, last September.Maja Hitij / Getty Images file

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and current richest man in the world, announced Thursday night that he would give $100 million, about five one-hundredths of one percent of his net worth, toward a prize to reward the best carbon capture technology.

“Am donating $100M towards a prize for best carbon capture technology,” Musk tweeted. “Details next week.”

Spokespeople for Musk did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

It would be his largest known contribution to date and represents about .05 percent of his net worth, largely derived from his Tesla stock holdings, whose value has soared since 2020.

In 2012, Musk became one of the world’s billionaires to have signed “The Giving Pledge,” promising to give away half of their fortune to charity in their lifetime or in their wills. At the time, his net worth was about $2 billion. Now he’s estimated at about $183 billion.

So far, the pace of his giving has not kept up with his skyrocketing net worth. In September, Forbes reported that Musk had given about $25 million to nonprofit groups and transferred tens of millions of dollars to donor-advised funds, which had disbursed about $75 million in grants over its lifetime.

In days of yore, industrialists like Rockefeller and Carnegie reaped fabulous wealth before turning to philanthropic works later in life.

These days, some of the world’s richest people seem to have more trouble parting with their wealth for charitable efforts. When pressed, the new breed of wealthy says it wants to make sure resources are leveraged for the greatest and most long-term human good.

Outside of work, Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and founder, has put more of his fortune toward exploring space through his rocket company than trying to help solve problems on Earth.

“We humans have to go to space if we are going to continue to have a thriving civilization,” Bezos said in 2019. “We are in the process of destroying this planet.” Bezos has not signed "The Giving Pledge."

Yet in 2020, he still topped the Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual list of donations with a $10 billion gift to the newly launched Bezos Earth Fund with a goal of fighting climate change. He also started the Day One Families fund, gifting homeless charities with $2 billion and few strings attached to how it is spent, a rarity among high-net worth individuals.

The fund was started 15 months after he tweeted in 2017 a “request for ideas” on what to do with his wealth shortly before momentarily becoming the then-richest person in the world.

That indecisiveness is not shared by novelist MacKenzie Scott, formerly married to Bezos, who gave more than $4 billion in 2020 to hundreds of charities helping people impacted by the pandemic’s economic crises. She also gave to social and racial justice-focused nonprofits and historically Black colleges and universities.

Musk’s announcement came the same day the Biden administration appointed Jennifer Wilcox, a carbon capture expert and professor of engineering and energy policy at the University of Pennsylvania, Musk’s alma mater, as principal deputy assistant secretary for fossil energy at the U.S Department of Energy.