CHERYL W THOMPSON, HOST:
This week, the Biden administration announced a series of actions to reignite the country’s solar energy industry. The president waived tariffs for two years on solar imports from four Asian countries. He also invoked the Defense Production Act to boost American solar panel manufacturing and other clean energy technologies. The administration says it can triple solar energy manufacturing in the U.S. by 2024. To talk more about the administration’s plans, we’re joined by U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. Secretary Granholm, welcome to All Things Considered.
JENNIFER GRANHOLM: Thanks so much for having me on.
THOMPSON: What would such a rapid expansion of solar energy manufacturing mean for consumers in the U.S.?
GRANHOLM: Actually, it would bring down the prices significantly. Solar right now is about half the cost in most places of natural gas. It’s about 40% of the cost and – even if you include storage attached to solar, meaning you want to be able to store the solar power when the sun isn’t shining so that you can dispatch it when you need need to have it. So bottom line is that clean energy, renewable energy is in most places the cheapest form of energy. And ultimately, that would be passed down to consumers.
THOMPSON: So the million-dollar question, will this lower gas prices?
GRANHOLM: Well, we move away – I would say this. We clearly want to be in a place to manufacture our own clean energy in this country. Solar, of course, is for electricity and electricity, it powers electric vehicles, for example, but it doesn’t produce gasoline. Gasoline, of course, is produced by oil, which is sold on a global market. What the president is doing on that, though, is really important. The fact that he is releasing 1 million barrels per day of oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve to add more supply of oil onto the global market is very important. But more needs to be done, obviously, because Russia, as it trades its oil on a global market when all of these countries like the United States and Europe say that they’re not going to buy Russian oil, that means that supply is pulled off of the global market. And we have to increase by another million or more barrels per day to make up for the loss of those Russian barrels.
THOMPSON: Given the widespread supply chain issues we’re seeing right now, how does the administration plan to increase solar production while there are so many other manufacturers who are struggling to meet current demands?
GRANHOLM: Yeah. We want to make sure that we are manufacturing in the United States. It’s one of the reasons why the President has invoked the Defense Production Act and is asking Congress to fund that so that we can build domestic manufactured solar panels. Largely, solar panels are manufactured now in Asia. We used to have a much bigger supply chain of solar, and that was big-footed, if you will, by largely China that came in and really has cornered the market on solar panels. But the president has called for Congress to also pass the CHIPS Act, which would increase the amount of semiconductors built in the United States. His whole effort is on building supply chains in the U.S., both for clean energy, but also for other products, including electric vehicles.
THOMPSON: So I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t come back to this question. As you know, …….