Trump’s solar tariffs perpetuate denial of climate change

On Jan. 22, President Donald Trump imposed a new tariff targeting washing machines and, more frustratingly, solar energy. These new taxes, dubbed “safeguard tariffs,” are being framed as an important and necessary move to help American industries while acting as an equalizer to certain trade deficits of the U.S. His recent machinations, however, are not made to help domestic alternative energy. Instead, Trump is only furthering his agenda of populism, climate change denial and the refusal of fact-based legislation.

The president has frequently made it clear he has a certain disdain for foreign trade, commonly decrying the nation’s involvement in international deals and organizations like NAFTA, the WTO and NATO. Therefore, his attempts at hurting foreign jobs in the name of “America First” is not surprising. Nor is it surprising that he initiated this new plan with the tact and nuance of a drunk person. He announced this proposal a mere two days ahead of the World Economic Forum, one of the most prestigious economic meetings in the world, which is inherently odd.

A tariff that many fear could cause a trade war with allies like Germany should not be proposed prior to a forum whose main purpose is to “demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest while upholding the highest standards of governance.” Additionally, doing so does nothing except portray either severe narcissism or pandering to the president’s base. It is a struggle to ascertain which is worse.

This tariff not only harms the U.S.’s relationships abroad, but it also will severely undercut the U.S. solar industry. Most inputs will increase costs by close to 30 percent, which many groups like the Solar Energy Industries Association project could lead to thousands of jobs being lost and some companies being forced to shut down. It makes one question the motives behind this move if it could cripple a booming industry.

Solar companies are not being harmed by accident. This is one of Trump’s many attempts to hurt clean energy and deny reality. In his first year in office, he pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords, repealed a policy protecting rivers and lakes from pollution and appointed Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency despite Pruitt’s hatred for the EPA. The environment is being hurt because Trump is desperately trying to protect the coal industry, despite the fact it is five times smaller than solar energy.

The president’s most astounding feat is his ability to contradict himself in many ways with one political move. Trump once stated that “we can leave a little bit [of the environment] but we can’t destroy business,” which is both absurd and undercut by his attempt at destroying solar business and solar jobs. Additionally, he is a noted fan of supply-side economics, which is known for lower taxes and deregulation. The White House, however, is now increasing taxes and increasing regulation for a specific industry of which he is not a particular fan.

New Orleans is currently the ninth most solar-powered city per capita, and more than 90 percent of its buildings are capable of viable solar paneling. Moreover, its outgoing mayor, Mitch Landrieu, has been one of the most outspoken mayors in favor of the Paris Climate Accords and was a key catalyst and the city’s growing push towards renewable resources. If this tariff so clearly hurts cities across the country, and mayors of those cities are for renewable resources and are still ignored, then this is a sad day for the environment.

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Jonathan is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected].

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