U.S. imposes 30 percent duty on Chinese solar panels

solar industry at work
© John Moore/ Getty Images

It's not protecting U.S. panel manufacturers, it's protecting coal and gas.

If anything, the American government should welcome cheap solar panels. The industry has created thousands of jobs across the country. And who was complaining in the first place about Chinese competition -- bankrupt Suniva, majority owned by the Chinese, and bankrupt SolarWorld, owned by the Germans. This horse had left the barn.

Nonetheless, the USA has imposed a 30 percent surcharge on imported Chinese solar panels. The damage to the industry could be extreme:

Solar panels are only a portion of the cost of a solar installation; about 2/3 of the price is in "soft costs" -- commissions, installation, wiring, labor. So the 30 percent tariff translates to a 10 percent increase overall, which as one expert notes,

But it is still going to damage the industry; as Ramez Naam concludes:

So why is this happening? Ostensibly, to protect domestic panel suppliers, but the ones that brought the challenge in the first place are already gone. But as Vaclav Smil noted in Energy and Civilization: A History, energy is money.

...every economic activity is fundamentally nothing but a conversion of one kind of energy to another, and monies are just a convenient (and often rather unrepresentative) proxy for valuing the energy flows.

American gas and coal can be converted into real American dollars on a continuing basis, at great profit to friends of the current government while driving the current economic boom. Whereas solar power is a one-shot purchase and install, and after that, the source of power is free. It is hard to monetise a sunbeam.

It is just part of the ongoing campaign to kill solar and promote fossil fuels; they are just getting started.

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