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Trump’s solar panel tax threatens future generations

By Sabrina Chow

Section: Opinions

January 26, 2018

President Donald Trump has begun to tread into unmarked territories. Consistent with his reputation as a businessman rather than a politician, many of the recent executive decisions Trump has signed have been strictly business. A key example occurred earlier this week, when Trump placed a 30% tariff on imported solar cells. Solar cells are the main materials that go into the making of solar panels which convert sunlight into usable energy. This tax, though passed, was opposed by most members of the renewable energy industry.

The tariff, imposed on an almost $30 billion industry, will cost thousands, if not tens of thousands of jobs. A majority of the people within the renewable energy industry are employed to install things like solar panels, and around 20% of the industry are employed in manufacturing them. The tariff could damage the industry because of the significant increase in prices for solar farm projects, which would stunt employment growth within the industry.

The renewable energy sector is expanding around 20% each year and creating tens of thousands of jobs. Why limit one of the largest growing industries in the world? During his inaugural speech, our president promised to create an astounding 25 million jobs, more than any president preceding him. However, the tariff is putting more people out of work than it is employing.

Because solar panels require the use of solar cells to be functional, this tariff will cause the price of other solar panel materials to increase as well. In turn, the price of solar panels will increase, decreasing consumer demand. This domino effect continues on down the chain until companies determine they no longer require as many workers, costing thousands of jobs.

The decision to institute the tariff goes back to business. The major reason why the tariff was even considered was the bankruptcy of two U.S. solar panel companies, SunWorld and Suniva. The majority of our imports come from China, and the solar industry is no different. With the Chinese producing cheaper versions of the same products, American manufacturers have no way of competing. Even though the tariff was touted as a plan to increase jobs, Trump is just maintaining the assets of specific companies while undermining the economy within the renewable energy sector.

Too much of this administration is focused on short-term business success at the expense of larger progress, but this is not unexpected. We elected a president who has little to no prior political experience, so it is natural that he would draw inspiration and most of his objectives from a short-sighted financial perspective.

It is no question that our current administration is full of climate skeptics. Scott Pruitt, the current administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a climate skeptic himself. It is very much an oxymoron that the person in charge of protecting the environment does not believe that we are harming the environment in any way.

Trump’s allegiance to climate skepticism has been apparent throughout his presidency. First, Trump pulls the United States out of the Paris Agreement. Additionally, his plan to repeal the Clean Power Plan, a plan that the former Obama administration worked on for Barack Obama’s entire presidency, blatantly shows Trump’s desire to maintain the fossil fuel industry as the pinnacle of energy source in the United States. But what happens when all the fossil fuel is used up? Though fossil fuels won’t run out during the Trump presidency, or likely during any of our lifetimes, the President should be encouraging the survival of our country in more than just the short-term financial sense. Instead, he passes legislation that might benefit certain companies, but deeply damage the country in the long term.

So what’s next for solar energy? Maybe the Trump administration will start taxing solar panel users on days when the sun is out. Start praying that we get a lot of rain and fog in the near future.

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