It was, or rather it should have been, no surprise that Donald Trump lied when he announced a tariff on solar panels early this week, especially his claim the move was an integral part of a new aggressive trade policy. The move had little to do with trade policy and everything to do with Trump and Republicans’ love affair with, and indebtedness to, the Koch brothers’ fossil fuel industry and the Republicans’ decades-long assault on renewable energy.
Although Trump is the culprit in putting a tariff on solar panels, Republicans in Congress have maintained a relatively steady assault on renewable energy since another dirty Republican, Ronald Reagan, declared war on clean power sources. That Republican war on solar power was gaining steam at about the same time China realized that the future of energy independence and a highly profitable and job-creating industry was in solar power. While Republicans were blocking progress on solar power, one forward-looking advanced nation took the number one solar energy spot away from the world power that invented and developed solar panels while it was embracing more costly and dirty fossil fuels. Over two decades later, nothing has changed except an escalation in the Koch-Republican war on clean renewable energy.
First, Trump said imposing steep tariffs on solar panels was solely to “helps to create jobs in America for Americans.” That was a bald-faced lie and only a moron would believe otherwise. The only result of Trump’s action will be crippling the solar industry by raising the cost of solar panels “in the years ahead and drastically slow adoption of the renewable energy technology and kill thousands of jobs.”
Experts in the solar energy field report that in America; “solar manufacturing now represents just a tiny fraction of the overall jobs that have developed around the solar industry.” The numbers don’t lie, and although way more than a quarter of a million Americans are working in the solar energy sector, far fewer than 2,000 of those employed in the United States are working manufacturing solar cells and modules.
The great majority of those solar jobs, about 258,000 of them, are highly-skilled and manual labor installation and maintenance projects that the Solar Energy Industries Association say require expertise, are labor intensive and impossible to automate; unlike the manufacturing process. It is also noteworthy to mention that the two companies reportedly lobbying Trump for the high tariffs are subsidiaries of foreign companies. The two companies, Suniva and SolarWorld said they needed high tariffs on primarily Malaysian and South Korean competitors to help preserve the less than 2,000 solar panel manufacturing jobs in the United States. Trump has no interest in preserving the quarter of a million solar jobs affected by the higher cost panels, because the tariffs were not to preserve or create jobs; they are an escalation of the Koch-ALEC-Heritage Foundation war on renewable energy.
For some time now Republicans, with valuable aid from the Koch brothers’ American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heritage Foundation, have been waging state-level wars against what is known as “renewable portfolio standard” (RPS). Those RPS have helped create tens-of-thousands of new renewable energy jobs, fill state coffers, and grow state economies as well as combat anthropogenic climate change. In states that attempted to expand RPS and create more jobs and bring in more revenue, Republicans have blocked the moves to earn hearty congratulations from ALEC and Heritage.
It is noteworthy that Trump, Republicans in Congress and state legislatures are attempting to do exactly what the Koch brothers tasked ALEC and Heritage Action to do; end renewable energy’s expansion by any means possible. Trump imposing tariffs on solar panels is part of the Koch war on clean and renewable energy, the environment, jobs, and economic growth to further enrich the fossil fuel industry. In fact, the Heritage Foundation has been touting victory for the fossil fuel industry and celebrating “the death of the renewable energy movement” for a few years. In fact, Heritage recently praised the “colossal coal comeback” even as renewable energy, particularly solar power is a raging success in providing cleaner, cheaper, and ridiculously abundant energy from the Sun.
The war on renewable energy began when President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the White House roof in the midst of an oil shortage; Ronald Reagan removed the solar panels as a nod to big oil that renewable and inexpensive energy would not be allowed to impact fossil fuel profits. Republicans have never supported renewable energy because Koch brothers and their ilk cannot claim ownership of, or profit from, the Sun. If the Kochs could charge Americans to use the Sun, then every building in America would be fitted with solar panels and they would be furnished by the Koch brothers.
When Jimmy Carter unveiled the White House solar panels to the press, he said:
“No one can ever embargo the sun or interrupt its delivery to us. A generation from now, this solar can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people; harnessing the power of the Sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.”
It is likely that President Carter never imagined in his wildest dreams that American politicians would deliberately block access to the Sun’s energy. Nevertheless, that is what Trump’s imposition of tariffs on solar panels was meant to do precisely like the Koch brothers’ attacks on voter-approved renewable energy standards. For their part, Republicans in Congress have religiously blocked national renewable energy standards while doling out a healthy $21.5 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies (corporate welfare) to fossil fuel every year.
It is a sad commentary that in a crusade to serve the interests of one specific industry, a technologically advanced nation like America is reverting to inefficient, costly, and dirty power sources. Of course it is tempting to blame Trump, but like nearly everything disastrous that happened over the past year, he is just a typical Republican doing the bidding of the Koch brothers and the Heritage Foundation.