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The answer to global warming: higher solar panel costs

From the “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry” department:

The Obama Administration has revealed the core of its strategy for reducing carbon dioxide emissions: increasing the cost of solar panels to discourage deployment.

The Commerce Department on Tuesday imposed steep duties on importers of Chinese solar panels made from certain components, asserting that the manufacturers had benefited from unfair subsidies.

The duties will range from 18.56 to 35.21 percent, the department said.

Read all about it here.

Note that the U.S. government has had a policy of systematically subsidizing solar panel manufacturers for some time, often with disastrous results, and so far as I can tell (from an admittedly cursory study) the main crime of the Chinese manufacturers is to be more efficient than U.S. producers.

(Whether you think CO2 emissions are increasing global temperature or not, one thing is clear: in politics, cronies are the highest priority of all.)

15 comments to The answer to global warming: higher solar panel costs

  • CaptDMO

    So now that the alternatives have been “nudged” off “the market”, the gub’mint takes a steeper cut from the taxpayers that don’t want them.
    Keep an eye on those converter (solar panel to actually useful electricity) prices in the shadow of copper costs.
    Oh, copper mining is more highly “regulated”, and “licensed”, with higher leases on “gub’mint” land too? Where DID all that copper, formerly in pennies, go?

  • Laird

    Hey, if these import duties had been in effect a few years ago maybe Solyndra wouldn’t have gone bankrupt, thus saving the US taxpayers $500 million.

    But then again, perhaps they couldn’t have been implemented a few years ago because at that time Solyndra was itself the beneficiary of “unfair subsidies”. It makes one’s head hurt.

  • Libertarian

    As Milton Friedman once said, why on earth should we be upset with taxpayers of another country subsidizing goods that we buy?

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Libertarian
    June 5, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    As Milton Friedman once said, why on earth should we be upset with taxpayers of another country subsidizing goods that we buy?

    Because we lose the ability to make the products for ourselves.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    “PersonFromPorlock” writes:

    As Milton Friedman once said, why on earth should we be upset with taxpayers of another country subsidizing goods that we buy?

    Because we lose the ability to make the products for ourselves.

    Indeed, and it is very terrible, too, that I have forgotten how to grow my own food, smelt my own steel, and machine my own bolts.

    And I’ve traded this vital set of abilities, for, what exactly? Material comfort? Wealth beyond the imagination of any Roman Emperor? A healthcare system that will likely keep me alive well into old age? Ridiculous ephemera like aircraft, computers and antibiotics?

    These are trifles, mere bagatelles, compared with the fact that the Chinese now know how to make high-precision plastic castings for computer keyboards and that I do not.

    Even worse, there is no way whatsoever I could figure out how to do any of these things now that I rely on outsiders for them — knowledge of that sort can never be learned or transferred.

    We must end the division of labor now.

    Sure, our children may complain about having to live in mud huts, clothed only in the crude homespun they’ve been able to produce themselves and eating irregularly from the tiny gardens they tend with stone tools, but they will know, truly know, how to make their own shoes, presuming they have enough hours left over in the day to produce any.

  • Runcie Balspune

    The goal in “green” power generation is to generate energy using less resources with lower emissions.

    (Money) cost is not an issue.

    The energy cost of a solar panel is the energy required to manufacture, transport, install and maintain, versus the energy generation over its lifetime. Best estimates for payback are are 1-4 solar years (which is longer in chronological time depending on how much sunlight is available), against a unit lifetime of 25 years, this is assuming they don’t go wrong, don’t get broken, and operate a maximum efficiency.

    The Chinese are notorious for using “dirty” energy and inefficient production methods (due to cheap labour), combined with the transportation (energy) costs and the often substandard manufacturing quality, it is likely these panels will have a very long payback period, if any at all.

    Solar panels have only been efficient for about the last decade, so they’ve got a bit of historical payback to make up, but issues like this make it worse, what governments are really guilty of is promoting this bygone technology, thereby encouraging countries like China and India to exploit the market. Even more energy will be wasted as these solar panels will likely remain unsold and wont generate any energy at all.

    A lot of energy is used to heat air and water, using highly efficient electric motors it has already become vastly more productive to use solar to heat water or air directly and pump it, rather than use the sunlight to electricity conversion of a PV cell, which has a pathetic efficiency especially when you include energy storage (because you don’t need energy for heating it when the sun is out).

    The libertarian angle is justified, this is a situation caused by government, and is being made worse by government, and can only be solved by the government backing off and letting the market work, another proof that free trade is the better option.

  • Dom

    Perry, you’re answering PfP as though he gave an argument against free trade, but he is talking about trade in which one or both sides subsidize their goods.

    We sometimes do that, and the results are catastrophic. For example, we send free food to poor nations. The farmers in these nations lose their farms, and when the largesse dries up, there is nothing to replace it. So the situation is a little more complicated than Friedman realized.

  • Dom

    Perry, you’re answering PfP as though he gave an argument against free trade, but he is talking about trade in which one or both sides subsidize their goods.

    We sometimes do that, and the results are catastrophic. For example, we send free food to poor nations. The farmers in these nations lose their farms, and when the largesse dries up, there is nothing to replace it. So the situation is a little more complicated than Friedman realized.

  • Dom

    Don’t know why that appeared twice.

  • Anon Y. Mous

    (Whether you think CO2 emissions are increasing global temperature or not, one thing is clear: in politics, cronies are the highest priority of all.)

    That’s the point of the whole global warming (aka climate change, since the warming isn’t actually happening) scam. It’s an excuse to funnel taxpayer dollars to their buddies / financial supporters. Graft is always popular with the statists.

  • Nick (Blame Frenchmen) Gray

    Stop saying global warming isn’t real! Australia has just gone through its’ warmest ‘Autumn’ ever- it seemed like summer in Sydney would never end! It is real- so get used to it! When Libertarian means evidence-denier, then I’ll quit being a libertarian for good!

  • frank

    I have built several houses in the USA and in Mexico. I almost always include rain-collection systems, and several have PV electric panels. Several have simple solar powered hot-water systems, consisting of nothing more than a coil of black plastic pipe up on the roof going directly to the shower-head. (you have to bathe in early evening!). In cold climates, use insulation and double-glazed windows; in hot, use overhanging roof eaves…..it ain’t rocket-science, people.

  • Anon Y. Mous

    I will continue to call the scam a scam. As to whether or not you call yourself a libertarian, I can live with your decision either way.

  • Stonyground

    “Australia has just gone through its’ warmest ‘Autumn’ ever-”

    Have you actually taken the time to check previous temperature records to verify this? If you do it is very likely that you will find that there has actually been a warmer one some time ago or that this one does set a new record but by a tiny fraction of a degree. Global temperatures have been flat for about seventeen years, so at the present time it is indeed ‘not real’. In any case there has been an uneven temperature rise happening since about 1700, this rise shows no sign of having accelerated since industrialisation came along. Even if you can identify CO2 as the villain, solar panels and windmills are not an effective way of producing energy. You might as well claim that you can power the modern world with unicorn farts.

  • Perry Metzger (New York, USA)

    It would be nice if this discussion did not degenerate into an argument about anthropogenic warming. Such debates do not seem, in general, to lead anywhere.

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