Power & Market

Elon's Boring Line of Bull

Elon's Boring Line of Bull

Something’s rotten under the Las Vegas Convention Center and it turns out it’s a chemical sludge with the “consistency of a milkshake,” reports Bloomberg Businessweek. This sludge is a byproduct of Elon Musk’s Boring Company tunneling from the Las Vegas Convention Center to the Encore and Westgate hotels. These tunnels don’t feature rapid transit but instead individual Teslas ferrying carloads of convention goers at just 40 mph. 

Workers are being burned by the sludge and the Nevada’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating. Bloomberg Businessweek obtained a copy of the report under the Freedom of Information Act.

Leaving aside the worker safety issue, Musk has been, shall we say, aspirational about the Boring Company’s prospects for tunneling underground, which he calls “the hyperloop.” Max Chafkin and Sarah McBride write, “Musk once described this technology as a system of futuristic pods capable of ferrying people between major cities at the speed of sound.”

Nobody has bought Musk’s Boring line of bull except the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority (LVCVA) which forked over $52.5 million in 2019 and $4 million per year for two tunnels less than a mile long under the convention center. Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman was the lone vote against the project. She told Bloomberg, “Everybody turned them down,” she now recalls thinking. “What are we, dumb here?”

Maybe so. During the Trump administration, the President, who should know one when he sees one, called Musk a “bullshit artist” and a suckup. “Elon Musk came to the White House asking me for help on all of his many subsidized projects.” Trump later posted on Truth Social, his right-wing Twitter alternative. “I could have said, ‘drop to your knees and beg,’ and he would have done it.” 

The Boring Company had no track record of success prior to tunneling under the Las Vegas Convention Center. The company had sold a $500 flamethrower and a fragrance called Burnt Hair. 

Despite Musk’s grand digging projections, progress has been slow. There is nothing special about tunneling machine Prufrock or Prufrock 2. Even with tunneling ongoing around the clock, “Including pre-tunneling prep work, it took 18 months to finish the first section of the Loop, totaling 1.7 miles of tunnel, then another year to build the spur connecting the convention center with Resorts World, giving the company a rough speed of 1 mile of tunnel per year,” write Chafkin and McBride. 

The Las Vegas Review Journal reporting the full buildout will include  93 stations and 68 miles of tunnel. Thus, full completion, at the present tunneling rate, will be around 2090. 

The boring company has begun tunnels to the Virgin Hotel and UNLV campus with no timetables promised. Other hotels are rumored to be clamoring for tunnel extensions to their properties. But, perhaps they should think again. During a conference in February, the Bloomberg reporters write, “an attendant explained that although the conference floor itself was reasonably busy, few were taking advantage of the Loop. Boring had started that day with 20 drivers, but had sent six of them home—they didn’t have anything to do.”

One former employee told Bloomberg, “I will never, ever drive in one of those tunnels.” To that point I quoted someone from Twitter (now X) who wrote “so I rode Musk’s loop at the convention center just once to see it. Never again. Total Death Trap. Can anyone else see the problem with having a tunnel that’s too small to fit a fire engine, filled with Teslas, which have huge batteries in therm (sic)? The plan if one catches fire, I shit you not, the cars behind are to reverse back down the tunnel out.” 

In a town built on suckers, the LVCVA is at the head of the line. 

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