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New Tesla project sparks controversy online: '[It] provides little to none of the benefits'

"This is a nice first step, but this sort of seems like this is Tesla throwing a bone to environmentalists."

New Tesla project Gigafactory

Photo Credit: Getty Images

As a company, Tesla's stated goal is to "accelerate the advent of sustainable transport." And with this sustainability-oriented focus in mind, it may be somewhat surprising to learn that the company will be deforesting a 4,200-acre area of land to build its new "Gigafactory" outside of Monterrey, Mexico.

However, in an effort to offset the damage caused by its new factory, the company has made a pledge to plant twice as many trees as is required by Mexican law.

This news comes via Samuel García, the Governor of the Mexican state of Nuevo León, where Monterrey is located. 

García's tweet (translated into English) reads: "Tesla will arrive by setting an example. I spoke with its director and he guaranteed me that they will reforest the area of Santa Catarina, where the Gigafactory will be installed, with double the number of trees required by law on 1,600 hectares of land."

More specific details of this promise — how many trees will be cut down, how many would be required by law to be planted, and where exactly the replanting will occur — are not known at this time.

Tesla is working toward getting the necessary permits to break ground on the Gigafactory Mexico, which will be twice the size of its Gigafactory Texas. Electrek predicts that they could come through as soon as late March.

Not all the commenters on the Electrek post were impressed by Tesla's promise of planting new trees to replace the existing forest the company is destroying. As one pointed out, the language makes it seem, at first glance, like Tesla is promising to plant twice as many trees as it removes. However, this is not what García's tweet actually says — it says that Tesla will simply plant twice as many trees as it is required to.

"This is a nice first step, but this sort of seems like this is Tesla throwing a bone to environmentalists rather than actually preserving the environment," they write. "Unless the law is written in a way that has a meaningful number of trees (and the law makes native trees to the area a priority), then we could be left with sterile ornamental trees that provide little to none of the benefits that an actual native habitat provides."

As another commenter pointed out, "Reforestation is not the same as habitat restoration. It's like the timber industry 'reforesting' after they cut swaths of habitat. They replant with the most economically viable species — basically, a giant tree farm having next to zero biodiversity in flora and fauna."

Hopefully, Tesla is sincere in its efforts to preserve the ecosystem they are disrupting as much as possible, and the Mexican authorities will be able to hold the company to its promise in a meaningful way.

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