When it comes to energy policy, President Biden has become a master of doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons. His policies on solar panel production and imports are prime examples.
Everyone agrees that we ought to be good stewards of the planet. That’s why it’s critical that we get energy and environmental policies right. Unfortunately, Mr. Biden hasn’t.
Instead, he is pushing for a rapid, government-mandated transition to a society powered by wind and solar energy that he promises will deliver zero greenhouse gas emissions. This is neither responsible nor reasonable. Rather, it is a political fantasy agenda that will reduce access to reliable, affordable energy, damage our economy, harm the environment, and undermine our security program.
Striving to satisfy green activists, the White House recently proposed two new initiatives to jump-start solar power adoption.
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The first involved a novel application of the Defense Production Act, a law that allows the president to require businesses to accept and prioritize contracts for materials deemed necessary for national defense or to respond to natural or man-made disasters.
Former President Donald Trump invoked the act to provide critical medical supplies and spur domestic manufacturing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, a real emergency. Now Mr. Biden has invoked the act to force businesses to increase production of solar panel components to avoid “severely impair[ing] national defense capability.” Last we checked, American battle tanks, aircraft and warships don’t run on solar panels.
Biden’s anti-fossil fuel policies have sent oil and gas prices skyrocketing and caused the U.S. to lose its strategic advantage of being a dominant global energy exporter. Those are real national security issues that impair our defense capability. But forced solar panel production will do nothing to meaningfully address those problems. It will also have no noticeable effect on global temperatures, another false pretext for invoking emergency powers.
What we have, instead, is a phony emergency declaration designed to prop up solar energy use that U.S. consumers reject as inferior. This is not just wasteful and inappropriate; this initiation is harmful to the paychecks and livelihood of everyday Americans. Mr. Biden’s move will add yet more policy distortions to an energy market already twisted beyond recognition by government mandates, protectionism and cronyism.
In using the Defense Production Act to bail out domestic solar manufacturers, the president clearly abused his limited special authority to pursue a political crusade. But it gets worse.
At the same time Mr. Biden invoked that act, he also ordered a two-year pause on new tariffs on solar panels that could be coming from China—ostensibly because U.S. companies won’t be able to keep up with the wholly artificial demand for panels created by his decree.
Tariffs were implemented 10 years ago to protect Americans from China’s malicious efforts to undercut the U.S. solar power industry by flooding the market with cheap products. The Commerce Department is currently investigating complaints that Chinese solar panel producers have evaded the tariffs by shipping effectively completed versions of their panels to third countries where they are trivially assembled and shipped to America tariff-free—a ruse known as “transshipping.” But with Biden’s tariff moratorium, even if violations of U.S. trade laws are proved, China won’t have to pay any of the unpaid tariffs.