In January, Trump abruptly slapped a 30% tariff on the import of solar panels, mostly from China. His protectionist policy was intended to encourage manufacture in the United States, or so he claimed. Nevermind that most of the solar industry protested Trump’s decision, fearing it would impede one of the fastest growing sectors in America.
“It’s a very big industry and you’re going to have a lot of plants built in the United States,” said Trump.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) June 8, 2018
Just when the renewable energy market was about to take off, it has instead been delayed.
Meanwhile, Trump’s focus on bringing back jobs in coal, to the extent of making it easier for the industry to contaminate the environment, has proven futile as the coal industry is “mired in decline” anyway.
Reuters reported that Trump’s tariff has done exactly what the solar industry feared it would do:
“President Donald Trump’s tariff on imported solar panels has led U.S. renewable energy companies to cancel or freeze investments of more than $2.5 billion in large installation projects, along with thousands of jobs, the developers told Reuters.“
Although we all love the idea of American-made panels, the problem is that most of the jobs in the industry are in installation and development. Now that the tariff has made the cost of panels from overseas much higher, companies are freezing or halting big installation jobs, resulting in a direct loss of American jobs and profits.
Chief Executive Tom Werner, of solar giant SunPower Corp:
“There could be substantially more employment without a tariff.”
On the other hand, the tariff is encouraging more manufacturers to begin making the panels domestically. Companies like First Solar, JinkoSolar, and Korea’s Hanwha Q CELLS will begin making more solar panels in the states of Ohio, Florida, and Georgia.
As great as that is, the industry is becoming more and more automated, meaning that in the long run, it’s the robots that actually benefit from more jobs, not actual American workers.
In the short run, Americans could be installing solar panels across the land, but fewer will be.
It’s a self-inflicted “America First” wound on one of the most promising industries in 2018, thanks to Trump.
Tariffs are how governments pick winners and losers.
Trump loves that.
— Grant Stern (@grantstern) June 8, 2018