Editorial roundup

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

Feb. 1, The Washington Post on the solar power trade war between the U.S. and China:

President Biden wants the United States to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of this decade, an ambitious target that reflects the diminishing amount of time the world has to change its climate course. Meeting this goal will require massive deployment of green energy. That, in turn, will require Mr. Biden to do everything he can to restrain the costs of wind, solar and other clean energy sources.

He can start by finally ending a long-running, ruinous trade war with China over the price of solar power equipment, which has made these products more expensive than they need to be. His first step should be rejecting calls to extend tariffs on solar products such as the cells that make up solar panels, the fate of which Mr. Biden must decide by Monday.

The U.S.-China solar trade fight dates back to President Barack Obama’s administration, when U.S. solar equipment manufacturers complained about competition with cut-rate Chinese products. The Commerce Department agreed, slapping huge tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels, then expanding them in 2014. President Donald Trump in 2018 raised even more tariffs on solar modules and cells coming from any country. Mr. Biden must now decide whether to extend Mr. Trump’s tariffs.

U.S. solar manufacturers claim they need protection from predatory foreign governments that unfairly subsidize their solar industries and permit the use of slave labor in their factories. Tariff backers also argue that the United States should control every step of its solar supply chain to ensure national energy independence.

But the tariffs they favor have done far more harm than good. The duties are passed onto consumers in the form of higher prices for solar panels. This depresses demand. Tariff advocates point out that U.S. solar installations have boomed despite the trade barriers. True, but there is no doubt that, absent the tariffs, the country would have installed substantially more solar panels. Economists Sebastien Houde and Wenjun Wang reckon that U.S. solar panel demand would have been 17.2 percent higher without the solar trade war between 2012 and 2018, avoiding 7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. For all that cost, the U.S. solar manufacturing sector, which these policies are supposed to be encouraging, remains tiny.

Deploying renewables as quickly as possible would have not just climate benefits but national security ones, too. Running more of the economy on clean electric power is an essential step toward freeing the nation from dependence on foreign oil.

This is among the reasons that rapidly transitioning the nation’s energy sector must be Mr. Biden’s overriding priority. That does not mean the president should allow solar panels manufactured with slave labor to be sold in the United States. But across-the-board tariffs, which raise prices for U.S. solar consumers, are far too costly a response. The administration should seek to crack down on Chinese human rights abuses — not to prop up a small, coddled industry pleading for special help.

ONLINE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/02/01/biden-must-end-this-ruinous-solar-power-trade-war-with-china/