January 23, 2018

President Trump’s Tariffs Put California Jobs, Solar Industry at Risk

Statements by John Rogers, Senior Energy Analyst and Laura Wisland, Senior Energy Manager, Union of Concerned Scientists

OAKLAND, Calif. (January 23, 2018)—President Donald Trump today imposed tariffs on imported solar panel materials that are key to America’s booming solar industry. These duties, intended as barriers to benefit U.S. solar panel manufacturers, will hurt America’s renewable energy market.

At more than 100,000, California has the most solar jobs in the U.S. It’s a robust industry that grew by a third in 2016. In a state considering a total transition to carbon-free energy in the coming decades, it is an industry that must continue growing if emission reduction goals are to be met and the worst impacts of climate change are to be avoided.

Statement by John Rogers, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“There’s widespread opposition to solar tariffs across the political and economic spectrum. This issue has united conservatives and liberals unlike anything else I’ve seen during Mr. Trump’s presidency. Sadly, his decision today burdens states with greater economic costs and attempts to derail clean energy progress.

“President Trump says his intention is to save jobs, but the specifics show this decision is a job killer. The first year of tariffs is high enough to blunt the growth of solar energy in the U.S. and hurt domestic solar jobs, but the package is not nearly enough to give U.S. solar panel manufacturers the ill-conceived walls of protectionism they were looking for.

“Tens of thousands of jobs in the solar sector could be stamped out, and it could hurt momentum at a time when we need to massively ramp up clean energy to reduce carbon emissions. It’s clear this administration has no interest in reducing U.S. emissions. The states are going to have to pick up the slack by strengthening regional policies.”

Statement by Laura Wisland, senior energy manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“This decision, under the guise of protecting manufacturing jobs, actually slows down a booming, job-creating industry and pits Californians with solar manufacturing jobs against Californians in solar construction and installation jobs.

“More expensive solar panels mean fewer people will choose solar power. Less solar power means a longer road ahead in California’s transition to clean energy. Is this really about saving a few thousand solar jobs or about stalling meaningful progress against climate change? It mostly looks like another example of why California’s leaders and not the federal government must continue to lead the world on climate change and clean energy policies.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.