Because when something is working very well, it's time to break it:
Suniva spokesman Mark Paustenbach called tariffs "a step forward for this high-tech solar-manufacturing industry we pioneered right here in America." However, solar installers and manufacturers of other equipment used to run solar-power systems opposed tariffs, which they said will raise their prices and hurt demand for the renewable energy.
The Solar Energy Industries Association, which represents installation companies, said billions of dollars of solar investment will be delayed or canceled, leading to the loss of 23,000 jobs this year. Mark Bortman, founder of Exact Solar in Philadelphia, said the prospect of tariffs, since the trade commission recommended them in October, had already caused him to delay hiring and expansion plans. "Solar is really just starting to take off because it is truly a win-win-win situation" for consumers, workers and the environment, he said. "Tariffs would really be shooting ourselves in the foot."
Environmentalists should not be "torn" on his issue. Make no mistake, it's a bad idea, and very likely will please fossil fuel companies and their advocates. And considering some of the comments I've seen by those who should know better, I guess it's time for another lecture on this complicated issue:
The tariffs were sought last year by Suniva Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection in April, and the U.S. subsidiary of Germany's SolarWorld.
They said that a nearly 500 percent increase in imported solar panels over five years led to a ruinous price collapse. Nearly 30 U.S. solar-manufacturing facilities had closed in the past five years, they said, as China plotted to flood the global market with cheap products to weaken U.S. manufacturing.
First off, understand: This isn't just your standard economics debate, where the main benefits of an industry are the manufacturing jobs themselves. The primary benefit of the Solar PV industry is the clean energy generated, which offsets dirty, often poisonous, and always Climate Change-producing fossil fuels.
And in answer to your next question, "Why can't we have both, Steve? Why can't we have our clean energy, and have these manufacturing jobs we so desperately need?" The short answer is, that would be nice. But the more goals you add to an approach or plan, especially goals which may run counter to each other, the more likely that plan will fail.
Which brings me back (once again) to the underlying and core goals of the REPS (Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards) bills that were passed by various states (including NC). The required percentage of generated renewable energy placed on utilities created the demand, the demand boosted the value and need for more production of Solar panels and wind turbines, and that generated competition amongst manufacturers to capture that business. But the whole point of that formula was to substantially reduce the costs of installing renewable energy. Because that was the only way to jump-start the renewable energy revolution we're seeing today.
Even if Trump's tariff decision was relatively pure, merely an effort to boost U.S. manufacturing of Solar panels, the net result will be a (maybe severe) decrease in new Solar energy installation. Something we simply cannot afford right now. As of yesterday, our atmospheric carbon concentration was at 408.97 parts per million. Meaning, we aren't even close to where we need to be, and should be doing everything we can to increase Solar and wind installation.