GOOD

Does It Matter Who Makes Solar Panels?

Seven American solar companies say Chinese solar panels are unfairly cheap. But wherever they're made, cheap solar panels mean more solar energy.


The price of solar panels is dropping fast, and China’s investments in renewable energy have a lot to do with that—a little too much, according to seven American solar panel manufacturers. Led by SolarWorld, the seven companies filed a trade complaint this week with the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission, alleging that China had surpassed limits on how much subsidy money could fund its export-driven solar industry, and that the country was “dumping” panels—selling them for less than the cost of manufacture and shipping—in foreign markets.

One of frequently-cited tropes about the clean energy market is about the race between China and United States to dominate the market. Countries like Germany, where the clean energy sector is growing, worry about competition from China, too. It’s clear why American or German solar manufacturers might worry about low-priced solar panels coming from overseas. But for the rest of us, does it matter who makes solar panels? Whether they come from China or America, cheap solar panels mean more solar energy and less carbon being dumped into the atmosphere.


Asking this question cuts to the heart of an important agenda item for American progressives: green jobs. The idea that solving climate change can also help solve economic problems brings together environmentalists and unions, two traditionally liberal constituencies. But what if one of the most effective strategies for tamping down carbon emissions—installing more solar power as quickly and as cheaply as possible—works best when the panels aren’t made in America?

In a way, this is a classic free trade problem. By opening up competition across international borders, workers lose out, while consumers reap the rewards. In this case, not only do individual consumers benefit from cheaper solar panels, but the country enjoys an electricity system that generates less pollution.

On the other hand, competition pressure from China has contributed to the closure of more than one American solar company. With the economy in the dumps, the “jobs” part of “green jobs” is especially important. But most of the jobs in the solar industry aren’t manufacturing jobs, according to a report from The Solar Foundation [PDF]. Last year, about 47 percent of solar jobs were in installation, about twice as many as in manufacturing. Installation jobs are also growing more quickly, in large part because cheaper solar panels have made solar power a more attractive investment for homeowners and businesses. The solar industry is divided over the trade complaint, as well: Executives who sell silicon and solar panel manufacturing equipment to Chinese companies are worried the complaint could harm the industry as a whole.

The most important priority right now is to ensure that clean energy projects keep happening. Policy solutions like cap-and-trade have zero chance of becoming law right now, in part because of the uncertain effects they'd have on the economy. Meanwhile, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is still increasing, with little concern for anyone’s job prospects. So if China's only offense is making solar panels more cheaply than American companies can, it's not worth a fight: American solar manufacturers might lose out, but the rest of us will benefit.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Walmart Stores

Articles
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.

Culture

In the category of "claims to fame nobody wants," the United States can now add "exporter of white supremacist ideology" to its repertoire. Super.

Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, made this claim in a briefing at The Washington Institute in Washington, D.C. "For almost two decades, the United States has pointed abroad at countries who are exporters of extreme Islamist ideology," Travers said. "We are now being seen as the exporter of white supremacist ideology. That's a reality with which we are going to have to deal."

Keep Reading Show less

Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News