Today in Cleantech

As we await next week’s decision from the Commerce Department on whether to slap tariffs on China for dumping solar panels on the U.S. market that were sold below manufacturing cost, a slew of editorials on the topic are being penned. Melanie Hart and Kate Gordon at the Center for American Progress lay out a nuanced argument that takes into account the possibility that production will shift to the U.S. to avoid tariffs and that solar panels are not a manufacturing process where low Chinese labor holds much of an advantage anyway (just 3-4 percent of a solar panel’s production cost is labor). They conclude that if the Commerce Department finds illegal behavior, China should pay the price of tariffs.  On the other side is an editorial today from The Oregonian (Oregon is home to panel manufacture, SolarWorld), arguing that tariffs risk a trade war with China that could kill U.S. renewable energy exports, not to mention the fear that domestically higher panel prices could be rough going for solar installers trying to sell solar to customers. There’s no easy solution here and the unfortunate solution is that any tariff could slow solar growth, and though it’s terribly unfair the, smartest and the least likely to happen solution, is to fight China with its own medicine. Which would be having the U.S. government aggressively finance innovation in renewable energy so that new tech, not easy credit, wins the game.