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Editorial: Elon Musk jilts California

And this is the thanks we get.

We Californians are stoic. Our skins are thick. We are accustomed to being used, taken for granted, and, yes, laughed at.

We’re not blind. We saw the writing on the wall. We knew Elon Musk had a wandering eye when he broke ground in July in Storey County, Nev., all the while trying to lull us by saying, honest, he hadn’t decide to leave.

Then on Thursday, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval broke the news that he had wooed Musk. The billionaire would be building his “gigafactory” outside Virginia City. The fancy batteries will be used to power Musk’s sleek electric Teslas, and store electricity produced by his SolarCity solar arrays and rooftop panels.

Simon Sproule, a Tesla vice president, said in an email that Musk will remain a California resident, keep Tesla headquarters in Palo Alto and continue to employ about 6,000 people in California cities. As the Nevada factory makes batteries, the production line at the Tesla assembly plant in Fremont will expand.

But is there no place for monogamy? We hoped Musk would not play around, even as he created a beauty contest among Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and, as an afterthought, California.

He asked each state to give him their best lines to win over the $5 billion gigafactory. He expected the winning state would pony up 10 percent, or $500 million of the costs.

That’s quite a dowry, though California lawmakers are giving $330 million to Hollywood to persuade producers not to run off to Georgia or Louisiana, and up to $420 million to defense contractors so they will build bombers in California.

You can bet the freebies that Sandoval is lavishing on Musk will be more than watered-down drinks at the Bucket of Blood Saloon and a cut-rate room at the Comstock Lodge.

We do know that California has given its all for Musk. For starters, we love Teslas, at least those of us who can afford them.

According to R.L. Polk & Co., Californians bought 10,833 Teslas in the 18 months concluding at the end of June. That equates to 44.3 percent of the 24,452 Teslas bought nationwide during that period. Nevada residents bought 218 Teslas. That equates to 0.89 percent of the national total.

California taxpayers have given Tesla buyers $24.4 million in rebates, courtesy of a program administered by the California Air Resources Board. Nevada has no rebate program. California’s budget includes $200 million for rebates for electric vehicles. Nevada’s budget includes zip.

Legislation by incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature envisions California will have at least 1 million electric vehicles on the roads nine years from now, in 2023. Nevada requires nothing of the sort.

California requires that auto manufacturers doing business in California produce zero-emission vehicles. If they can’t meet the standard – and only one does, Tesla – they must buy credits from the one that can, Tesla.

The amount that Ford, Toyota and the others pay Tesla for the credits is not public. But the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says the credits range in price from $12,000 to $20,000 for each Tesla sold.

In addition to his position as founder and chairman of Tesla, Musk is chairman of SolarCity, the leading solar panel company. The California Public Utilities Commission, which administers the California Solar Initiative, reports it has paid $125 million in subsidies for SolarCity. There is more.

But it wasn’t enough; it never is for some people.

Musk tried to soften the blow early in the competition by saying California’s strict environmental law might delay construction of the battery factory too long, though legislators seemed perfectly willing to waive those requirements if only Musk would stay.

Oh, the irony. Musk’s business model revolves around California’s environmental laws. But maybe California is a little too green, even for Musk. Our guess is that he won’t be returning any of the baubles taxpayers have given him. But we’re tough. We’ll get over it, in time.