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Tillis rails against tariff's impact on solar

Senator Collapses

Sen. Thom Tillis

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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina released a statement to remind us that the Trump administration’s tariffs are hurting a significant part of the state’s economy: the solar energy market that has been providing jobs and essential income for North Carolinians.

Good for him to keep light on this important issue.

“The growth of solar energy in North Carolina has created thousands of jobs, generated billions of dollars of investment, and fostered economic development,” Tillis’ statement read. “Since the imposition of tariffs, North Carolina has experienced an exponential decrease in solar investment and projects planned. ... I will continue to advocate for the exclusion of advanced technologies that have the capability to modernize our grid and make the American solar energy industry globally competitive.”

Tillis is right. The tariffs are on imported solar panels, but the imports are matched with mechanics and infrastructure made in the U.S. In North Carolina, solar farms now generate income where textile factories and tobacco farms once did. The industry powers more than 400,000 homes and employs around 7,000 people, WRAL reported earlier this year. “The state ranks as high as second in solar power production (behind California),” WRAL added, noting Duke Energy’s investment in solar.

Duke Energy operates 35 solar facilities in North Carolina with 2,500 megawatts connected to its energy grid.

Tillis calls for “carve-out exclusions” — but the tariffs, which essentially are taxes on U.S. purchasers — should be eliminated in total. President Trump may not have been thinking about renewable energy in particular when he began imposing tariffs on foreign goods, but his policies serve to remind us of a bigger energy picture that can influence our future for good or ill.

On one side we have renewable energy sources like solar and wind that become cheaper and more reliable as innovations and infrastructure are developed more fully, to the point that they’re now competitive with fossil fuels. It’s the direction that much of the developed world is taking, from China to Germany. Any young person who is good with his or her hands and who wants to find stable and lucrative employment should look into wind turbine repair.

On the other is the Trump administration’s commitment to coal production and drilling for oil, even along our sensitive coasts, and its antipathy toward renewable energy. Earlier this month, the administration announced an impending end to subsidies for electric cars and renewable energy sources.

But fossil fuel can be propped up only for so long. As former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote in a Facebook post several years ago: “I don’t want to be like the last horse and buggy salesman who was holding out as cars took over the roads. I don’t want to be the last investor in Blockbuster as Netflix emerged. That’s exactly what is going to happen to fossil fuels.”

We were once poised to lead the world into a clean energy future, but Trump policies threaten to bump us to the back of the line. North Carolina has a bright and prosperous future in renewable energy. It should be nurtured, not hindered.

News & Record of Greensboro

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Humans of Greenville

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