Nothing could be more at stake

A group of US senators from both parties urged President Joe Biden to raise duties on solar imports manufactured in China last month. They contend that American efforts to revive domestic manufacturing are hampered by China’s highly subsidized goods. But putting further tariffs on would be a step backward, endangering the US’s thriving clean energy sector and green jobs. At this critical juncture, when solar power is necessary for an expeditious and just transition, it runs the risk of undoing global collaboration and climate gains. Rival clean tech superpowers should put the common aim of rapid decarbonization ahead of confrontation.

 

Cheap Chinese photovoltaic imports, according to the influential US solar lobby, have put US manufacturing and energy security at risk. They minimize the enormous economic potential of reasonably priced solar panels to reduce carbon footprints in important industries and electrify the US with sustainable energy. In addition, they minimize the fact that tariffs are like quicksand, as the US-China trade war has demonstrated, as they incite retaliation endlessly until everyone is pulled down.

 

First and foremost, US consumers and the uptake of green technologies will suffer greatly from rash levies. Chinese solar is quite affordable. US panels typically cost about 40 cents per watt, compared to 15 cents in China and 30 cents in Europe. Solar tariffs run the risk of undermining US President Biden’s goal of using 50% renewable energy by 2030 since they will increase costs at a time when adoption is most dependent on affordability. Second, tariffs destroy jobs in the US’s rapidly expanding clean economy. The number of higher-value solar construction, maintenance, and design employment in the US is rapidly increasing due to low-cost imports from China. It makes no sense to destroy this golden goose in order to increase a tiny percentage of industrial jobs.

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