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5 Ways Futurist Elon Musk's Enterprises May Change the Course of Our Lives

The visionary, engineer and capitalist is helping to forestall our screwed-up future.

Hey, what are you up to these days? Elon Musk is helping build a future to save our globally warming asses. A gifted visionary, engineer and capitalist, the fortysomething Musk, also a founder of Paypal, has long dreamed of crucial advances in solar power, electric cars and space travel. And then he somehow went out and made them real. And real profitable. 

It's good timing. We're in a planetary emergency careening 67,000mph through space. It's long past time that we electrified Earth's fleet, or created a nationwide solar infrastructure. Or built an emissions-free mass transportation system that can hurl us from L.A. to San Francisco in minutes. Or planet-hopping rockets and pods that launch Earth's populace into a much-needed cosmological attitude adjustment.

We also need more minor and major players like Musk on one hand openly calling bullshit on fossil fools while on the other creating industries to replace their inevitable demise. For all the concern about Musk being a rich boy with rich toys, given what we are up against with climate change, that he is doing all of the below while not being an ultra-hardcore green probably says more about how far doubters, not Musk, have to go to take global warming seriously.

Here are five ways Elon Musk is hopefully helping to forestall the screwed-up future we're building together today.

1. Tesla Motors

Unplugging our entire global fleet from dirty fuels is an absolute if we want anything resembling a fighting chance. Musk's Tesla Motors is fighting back with blowout performances on the street (and the Street) from its pricy Model S, which is subsidizing a coast-to-coast supercharger buildout supporting a more affordable, accessible $35,000 Gen3, arriving in 2015. The argument that zero-emissions Teslas are clean energy for the rich should evaporate after that: Gen3's price point is well within range of popular middle-class cars and hybrids.

But Tesla's green argument is dominant: Pan-class drivers nevertheless pay in gas and blood to haul SUVs, trucks and junkers from one end of the planet to another, going nowhere. Even its luxury Model S pays back its pound of flesh, whether in recouped gas money, higher travel efficiencies and zero emissions. Last week, the Model S tripped from San Diego to Vancouver without dropping a dime on dirty fuel profiteers. Exponentially replicate that feat across the entire nation and you've got a potent solution to the death-bringer crap cars perennially spew into our worsening atmosphere. 

"Tesla Motors have some of the best vehicles on the market," Cleantechnica founder Zachary Shahan told me. "Model S was named best car in the world by some of the largest auto magazines and journalists. Consumer Reports gave it the highest rating of any car it had ever rated. Tesla has completely changed the perceptions of electric vehicles and their market." 

Tesla's current electric car market includes alternatives like the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus and others hovering near the Gen3's $35,000 sweet spot. Even without its mass green appeal, Tesla has energized portfolios, having tripled this year as it motors toward $200 a share and increasingly solar homes. Speaking of....

2. SolarCity

Like Tesla, this leading U.S. home solar systems provider has experienced a meteoric rise in cultural and economic capital this year, despite only going public at the end of 2012. Chairman Musk and cousins, SolarCity founders and chief officers Lyndon and Peter Rive have plumbed their well-connected investor rolodexes to create partnerships with corporations, governments, banks and whoever else they can find—like Google, which dropped $280 million in 2011, its biggest clean-energy investment at the time—to finance much-needed nationwide residential and commercial solar installations, audits, retrofits and upgrades. Solar City's capitalization on a no-brainer infrastructure has made it a massive solar player in an increasingly crowded field in a very short time. 

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