Friday Dec 09, 2022

Joe Biden wants to jump-start solar energy — a great idea, in theory. But will it work? – Salon


Whatever you make of Joe Biden as a man, a public figure or a chief executive, his presidency has been unlike any other in modern American history. He has quite likely faced more simultaneous crises than any president since Franklin D. Roosevelt, and one illustration of that fact is that Biden has already invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) — a Cold War law that grants the executive branch broad authority to mass-produce resources necessary to mitigate domestic emergencies — at least six times. 

Last year, the Biden administration drew on the DPA twice to boost the production of COVID vaccines and supplies, and later did the same to prepare for the Western wildfire season last fall. Between March and May of this year, the president again invoked the law to expand production of baby formula as well as critical minerals for electric vehicle production.

Regardless of their individual merits, these executive actions passed through the news cycle with little to no pushback from conservative pundits and Republican politicians, who are generally eager to criticize Biden’s every move. That emphatically changed this week following the president’s sixth DPA authorization, which left Democrats and Republicans bickering over whether Biden was extending his presidential powers outside their acceptable range. 

RELATED: A major player in solar energy leaves some customers seething

On Monday, the administration authorized the use of the DPA to bolster the domestic production of solar power and other green energy sources with loans and grants, according to Reuters. At the same time, the president also invoked an obscure section of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, a once-controversial protectionist trade policy enacted in 1930, to exempt tariffs on solar panels imported from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam for the next 24 months.

This was all part of necessary “advance planning” meant “to ensure electric resource adequacy,” the White House said in a press release. “Electricity produced through solar energy is also critical to reducing our dependence on electricity produced by the burning of fossil fuels, which drives climate change.”

Sounds like a relatively uncontroversial statement, right? Not these days. Biden’s waiver has sparked the ire of many Republicans (and even some liberals) by effectively freezing a federal investigation into whether China’s solar industry has been diverting production to Southeast Asia in order to circumvent heightened duties.

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Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a longtime beneficiary of the fossil fuel industry, argued this week that Biden’s move to loosen rules on solar imports was “the wrong policy at the wrong time.” Using an abbreviation for the Chinese Communist Party, a noted trigger-phrase on the right, Portman wrote on Twitter: “This rewards the CCP for their unfair trade practices, doesn’t hold them accountable for their human rights abuses, and will not spur economic growth.”

RELATED: U.S.-China trade deal: 3 fundamental issues remain unresolved

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., likewise accused Biden of being in China’s pocket, saying that the president “wants Americans paying $6 a gallon for gas and American energy workers jobless — but he will break the law to allow Chinese solar panel imports.”

“Joe Biden sold out American solar panel manufacturers to China,” echoed Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark, a known foe of renewables. “This weakness is dangerous.” (It may be worth noting that both Cotton and Hawley are clearly considering presidential campaigns in 2024, especially if Donald Trump …….


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