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June 17, 2014
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Tesla and SolarCity CEO Elon Musk's today announced a deal to acquire Silevo, a solar panel firm based in Silicon Valley. Musk explained the decision in a blog post:

SolarCity was founded to accelerate mass adoption of sustainable energy. The sun, that highly convenient and free fusion reactor in the sky, radiates more energy to the Earth in a few hours than the entire human population consumes from all sources in a year. This means that solar panels, paired with batteries to enable power at night, can produce several orders of magnitude more electricity than is consumed by the entirety of human civilization. [Solar City]

To get there, though, solar energy needs two things — both of which Musk wants to address himself. First, mass energy storage. The sun shines when it's sunny. Storage is necessary for cloudy days and nights. Musk is addressing this with the Tesla Gigafactory, mass battery-manufacturing facilities that Musk projects will drive down lithium-ion battery costs 30 percent in the first year alone. And second, solar needs economies of scale. That's why Musk has acquired Silevo, with the intention to build Gigafactories for solar panel manufacturing:

We are in discussions with the state of New York to build the initial manufacturing plant, continuing a relationship developed by the Silevo team. At a targeted capacity greater than 1 GW within the next two years, it will be one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world. This will be followed in subsequent years by one or more significantly larger plants at an order of magnitude greater annual production capacity. [Solar City]

But that's just the start:

Even if the solar industry were only to generate 40 percent of the world’s electricity with photovoltaics by 2040, that would mean installing more than 400 GW of solar capacity per year for the next 25 years. We absolutely believe that solar power can and will become the world’s predominant source of energy within our lifetimes, but there are obviously a lot of panels that have to be manufactured and installed in order for that to happen. The plans we are announcing today, while substantial compared to current industry, are small in that context. [Solar City]

Of course, solar energy costs were rapidly falling even before this. But this kind of focused project is likely to keep that momentum going for a while yet. It is looking more and more likely that we will soon live in a world where renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels. John Aziz

12:19 p.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

When the markets opened Thursday, Microsoft founder Bill Gates lost his standing as the world's richest man. That honor now belongs to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Amazon shares jumped Thursday morning, pulling up Bezos' net worth by $1.4 billion. As of 12 p.m. ET, Forbes' real-time list of the world's billionaires calculated Bezos has a net worth of $91.4 billion, while Gates' net worth now sits at a mere $90.1 billion.

Aside from Gates and and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, Bezos is the third American to make the list since its inception in 1987 and the seventh person to hold the top spot. The New York Times reported that Gates has topped Forbes' list "for 18 out of the last 23 years."

Of course, Gates could always take back the top spot if Microsoft stock picks up from its slight drop, or if Amazon's takes a tumble. But with Amazon potentially on the path to becoming the first-ever trillion-dollar company, it certainly seems Bezos just might give Gates a run for his money. Becca Stanek

11:11 a.m. ET

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday warned President Trump that there will be serious consequences if he tries to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller without a very good reason. "Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, unless Mueller did something wrong," Graham said, noting that right now he has "no reason to believe that Mueller is compromised" and cannot ably lead the investigation into Trump and his team's potential ties to Russia.

Graham also announced that he's working on legislation that would prevent a special counsel from getting axed without "judicial review of the firing." He hopes to introduce it next week with bipartisan support.

Catch a snippet of Graham's interview below. Becca Stanek

10:30 a.m. ET

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway thinks it's a real travesty that potential public servants are getting turned off from the job because they'd have to fill out a financial disclosure form. "There are so many qualified men and women who wanted to serve this president and this administration and their country, who have been completely demoralized and completely, I think, disinclined to do so because of the paperwork that we have to put forward — divesting assets, the different hoops you have to run through," Conway said Thursday on Fox & Friends.

She hoped that the paperwork aspect of public service isn't "disincentivizing" to White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who is right now fuming that his publicly available financial disclosure form was "leaked." Conway explained that even though these documents are "eventually procurable publicly" — and were indeed reported on after the information was requested and granted — Scaramucci is threatening to get the Department of Justice and the FBI involved because he's convinced the "leaked" documents are evidence "somebody doesn't want him here." "Somebody is trying to get in his way and scare him off from working here," Conway said.

Watch it below. Becca Stanek

9:46 a.m. ET

The "leaked" financial disclosure form that White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci has threatened to go to the FBI about is actually public information. After Scaramucci steamed for hours about the fact that Politico reported details of the financial disclosure form he filed with the Office of Government Ethics and vowed to clamp down on the stream of leaks coming out of the Trump administration, Politico reporter Lorraine Woellert set the record straight:

In Woellert's piece, she revealed that Scaramucci is still able to profit from his stake in his investment firm, SkyBridge Capital, despite the fact that he joined the Export-Import Bank last month as a government employee. He's still listed on the investment firm's website as the managing director. Becca Stanek

9:10 a.m. ET

Whether you're ready or not, here comes Hillary Clinton — with a new book about the 2016 election. The book will be released Sept. 12 and will be a memoir of Clinton's time on the campaign trail.

In classic Clinton fashion, the tome's title is straightforward and unexciting, with the cover deploying a minimalist two-piece aesthetic:

You'll note that the book's title is not punctuated by a question mark, but is rather a declaration that implies the memoir will deal in past events. It does not promise to answer the question of what happened, because, well, we all know that already. Kimberly Alters

9:07 a.m. ET

President Trump's Twitter announcement Wednesday that the U.S. government will no longer "accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military" left Stephen Colbert reeling Wednesday night on The Late Show. "Why the hell would he do this? This isn't even one of his campaign promises," Colbert said.

Colbert recalled how just months ago during the presidential campaign Trump assured the LGBT population that he "will fight for you." "What the hell does he think the 'T' in LGBT stands for?" Colbert quipped. "'Trump'? 'Tomato'?"

This ban takes Trump "from crazy to cruel," Colbert said. He likened Trump's decision to fire "those 15,000 transgender troops" by tweet to "your wife divorcing you by cookie bouquet." And then, to add insult to injury, Colbert pointed out they are "being rejected by a rich guy who during Vietnam, sidestepped the draft with four deferments and a medical disqualification for bone spurs in his foot."

Trump claimed the ban was due to "tremendous medical costs," but Colbert pointed out the costs added would only be "between $2.4 million and $8.4 million per year" — five times less than what the military spends on Viagra.

Watch Colbert's brutal monologue below. Becca Stanek

8:26 a.m. ET

In a Thursday morning interview on CNN's New Day, newly minted White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci invited White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to "explain" to the press "that he's not a leaker."

The previous evening, Scaramucci tagged Priebus in a tweet declaring he would be contacting the FBI about the "leak" of his financial disclosure information, which is publicly available. But Scaramucci insisted Thursday he wasn't accusing Priebus of being a leaker, but rather suggesting the chief of staff is "responsible for understanding and uncovering" the leakers.

However, Scaramucci stopped short of defending Priebus against journalists' "assumption that it's him," instead inviting Priebus to defend himself. "He's going to need to speak for his own actions," Scaramucci said.

Scaramucci did not make any attempt to hide his potentially irreparable beef with Priebus in the wide-ranging interview, commenting that "some brothers are like Cain and Abel." "We have had odds, we have had differences," Scaramucci said. "I don't know if this is reparable or not. That will be up to the president."

One thing Scaramucci did know for sure is that he and President Trump — who authorized his CNN interview — now have "a very, very good idea of who the leakers are." Becca Stanek

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