President Donald Trump just slapped a whopping 30 percent tariff on solar panel imports.
This policy is bad for our country, moving us further away from, not closer to, global leadership in renewable energy.
This tariff, which significantly ratchets up the price of renewable energy in America, is a clear threat to our economy and environment.
While the White House is framing this policy as good for America, good for U.S. businesses and good for jobs, nothing could be further from the truth.
As a citizen of one of the sunniest places in America, with nearly 310 days of sun per year, the tragic truth about this tariff is that it does nothing to protect Americans and everything to leave our economy, our people, and our planet more vulnerable, and I’m not alone in my concern.
Small business owners trying to build our renewable energy economy here in New Mexico have come out against the Trump tariff, saying it will kill jobs and slow installation of solar systems.
Forget for a moment the glaring contradiction when free-trade promoters in the Republican Party build barriers to competition. When other countries do this, the U.S. government and U.S. investors quickly cry foul and litigate instantly.
Yes, we should scrutinize industry, and even imports, but through the lens of what’s best for our people and the planet. If we’re going to make it difficult for a solar panel producer to import panels to America, it should be because that company is being socially or environmentally irresponsible, not because the American president wants to play politics and pander to false “protectionist” rhetoric.
Take a look at the impact of this tariff on American industry, for example. It’s devastating.
An analysis by the Solar Energies Industry Association forecasts a near-term loss of 23,000 American jobs, because billions of dollars of investments will be cancelled now that solar panels just got a lot more expensive. That means that the many American workers who are busy manufacturing tracking and mounting systems, high-tech inverters and other hardware here in the U.S. will be out of jobs.
In response to Trump’s tariff, a U.S. energy company, Sun Power, postponed its $20 million U.S. factory expansion project. We can expect more of this.
These are serious hits to a fast-growing U.S. industry that employs almost 40,000 American workers in solar-related manufacturing jobs (only 2,000 of which are focused on actually manufacturing solar panels). Which is why there is nothing protectionist about this Trump tariff. It’s a direct assault on New Mexico workers and other state economies that are solar dependent.
Senator Martin Heinrich testified before the U.S. International Trade Commission in defense of New Mexico’s solar industry that has had a 54 percent increase in 2017. Trump’s political pandering to anti-Chinese sentiments among his base needs to stop. State economies and whole industries are being sacrificed in the process.
The environment is being sacrificed as well. The Trump tariff couldn’t be more poorly timed in terms of its impact on our environment. Last year was just declared the second hottest year on record, and the hottest year on record without an El Nino, but even worse, in terms of trend lines, 17 of the 18 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001.
If Trump wants to appeal to protectionism, the president should be protecting Americans from global warming and the accompanying extreme weather that’s becoming more common.
A more constructive “protectionist” policy would pursue everything in the president’s power to slow the war that much of America is now waging with hurricanes, floods, wildfires and droughts. This extreme weather is wreaking havoc on American lives and local economies. Last year alone, disasters cost our country over $300 billion.
If President Trump wants to protect American economies, industries and workers, he should encourage, not limit, as much solar globally as possible. When the sun is sending more energy to earth in one hour than the entire world consumes in a year, any political play to undermine our ability to harness this energy effectively and efficiently is clearly not economical but it’s also unethical.
We don’t have time to play politics with people’s lives or the planet’s future. I want to double down on our commitment to clean energy into New Mexico – that way we’ll create good paying jobs by harnessing the power of our natural resources.
This is what real protectionism looks like, Mr. President, and we strongly encourage you to pursue it.
Deb Haaland is a candidate running for New Mexico's First Congressional District.