Free Markets

Commerce Department Moves to Destroy Green Jobs

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Mr. Burns, the Simpsons, block out the sun, unfair trade practices

Just weeks after promoting its "green jobs" record, the Obama administration may soon destroy green jobs. Led by SolarWorld, a German-based solar manufacturer, the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) has petitioned the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission to do something about "illegal trade practices" by China. More specifically, CASM claims the Chinese government has been unfairly subsidizing and "dumping" (selling them below cost) solar products in the American market. Ergo, CASM is seeking countervailing tariffs, preferably up to 250 percent. On March 2, the Department of Commerce is scheduled to rule on these tariffs.

Unsurprisingly, protectionism would raise the cost of solar in the U.S., causing job losses. According to a new report by the Brattle Group, tariffs could eliminate upwards of 50,000 jobs. Depending on the size of the tariff (the Brattle Group examined the effects of 50 and 100 percent tariffs), costs for solar consumers would increase anywhere from $621 million to $2.6 billion over the next three years. In addition, if China retaliates by imposing its own tariffs on American solar products, another 11,000 net jobs could be lost.

So to recap: Green jobs destroy other jobs. And now the Obama administration may destroy green jobs. It's a government-backed circle of death! (Of course, in Ron Paul's America, there wouldn't be any talk of tariffs or a solar trade war. Hell, there wouldn't even be a Commerce Department.)

Fortunately for free markets, many solar firms have formed the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) to attack this solar Smoot-Hawley. Proving that not everyone in renewable energy is a watermelon, CASE declares:

The Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy is a fast-growing coalition of American solar companies that believe free trade and industry competition are critical to making solar electricity affordable for everyone. CASE is united in its commitment to support the continued growth and development of the solar industry in America…

In a solar trade war, everyone loses. Protectionism is bad for the America solar industry, the economy, and the environment.

After all, low-cost solar panels are crucial to attaining grid parity, i.e., when solar is cost-competitive with traditional energy sources. But by imposing tariffs, CASM would raise prices and hinder progress towards grid parity. In other words, CASM would render solar less competitive in the United States.

Speaking of which, why not let the Chinese subsidize solar panels and then we can import them at dirt cheap prices? Consumers would benefit from lower prices, environmentalists would get a cheaper alternative to fossil fuels, and American taxpayers wouldn't be forced to risk another Solyndra. And if SolarWorld and other manufacturers can't compete by providing a better, cheaper, longer-lasting, and/or more reliable product, then they deserve to go bankrupt.

Here's me on solar subsidies and China envy. Matt Welch on the useless Department of Commerce. Frederic Bastiat on solar tariffs.

NEXT: Chrysler CEO Whines That Uncle Sam Has Not Treated Him Generously Enough

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  1. Why do we have a Commerce Department (other than the Patent Office)?

    1. Because without it there would be no commerce.

      How can anything exist without the guiding hand of government?

    2. It would be a reasonable place to put NIST, too. Weights and measures and all that.

      1. NIST is there, as is NOAA.

  2. Frederic Bastiat on solar tariffs.

    That was over 100 years ago, and they didn’t even speak English….er French, back then.

  3. Speaking of which, why not let the Chinese subsidize solar panels and then we can import them at dirt cheap prices?

    Because if I’m Solyndra and I’m making my own panels, this makes it very hard to stay in business.

    1. No, you are missing the big picture. After Obama slaps down the 250% tariff, he can increase the subsidy himself and make more friends.

    2. Is that why Solyndra failed so miserably? Damn Chinese! I knew it couldn’t have been a bad decision by the Obama administration.

  4. I remember during the Solyndra hearings the two knuckleheads in charge of the DOE loan programs were asked why the loan was approved when they already knew that they couldn’t compete with Chinese solar panel manufacturers prices.

    The answer was along the lines of “the dog ate my homework” and “well, China spent a lot in subsidies to allow them to make them so cheap and maybe if WE had spent MORE money on Solyndra we COULD compete.”

    But what’s hilarious to me is that in order for solar to compete with oil and nuclear and gas, they would HAVE to be made at a cost similar to what China is able to do.

    For some good laughs, take a trip through the time machine to watch Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) explain this further.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grPTJMQh9sU

    1. But what’s hilarious to me is that in order for solar to compete with oil and nuclear and gas, they would HAVE to be made at a cost similar to what China is able to do.

      The subtext here is that China isn’t making them for cheap either, they’re losing as much money and expending as much external resources making this “alternative energy” source as we are, the government’s just picking up the difference.

      Cost is cost. And when people learn that fact, and the importance of price in the equation of whether or not something is using less/more energy, we’ll finally have a sensible “energy policy”.

    2. For some good laughs, take a trip through the time machine to watch Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) explain this further.

      I can’t turn my sound up where I am, but if I recall this video, is this the one where Mike Pompeo keeps using the term ‘skin in the game’?

      If that’s it, I love that one as it’s been posted here on H&R in the past.

      My complaint with it was Mike was too tongue-in-cheek and you could almost sense the economic dimwits straining to understand what he meant.

      1. Yep, it’s that one.

        I want to see more out of this Pompeo fellow in the future. He was outstanding during those hearings.

  5. One branch of government fighting another.

    :)))

    *Makes popcorn & pulls up chair.*

    1. Don’t worry, you will get the bill for the while thing.

  6. THEY TOOK UR JOBS!

  7. BETTER ALT TEXT NAO

  8. CASM vs CASE

    Can I say it?

    SPLITTERS!

    1. Where does the “A” come from in Coalition for Solar Manufacturing?

      1. CoAlition.

        lrn2acronym…wait, what?

      2. First they made the acronym.

        Then they decided to drop the words “of Assholes” from the name and ran out of funds before they could change the acronym again.

      3. It works better in its native German.

  9. Math. How does it work?

    1. Math will have to be outlawed if it hurts one’s feeling.

  10. In other environmentally related news: Heather Peters has won her small claims lawsuit against Honda over the auto manufacturer’s failure to deliver on the Honda Civic’s mileage claims.

  11. Speaking of which, why not let the Chinese subsidize solar panels and then we can import them at dirt cheap prices? Consumers would benefit from lower prices, environmentalists would get a cheaper alternative to fossil fuels, and American taxpayers wouldn’t be forced to risk another Solyndra.

    Because the green agenda has absolutely nothing to do with saving the environment, but with using government to force everyone to fill the pockets of their buddies.

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