Former Vice President Al Gore did something he, admittedly, rarely does and defended a recent Trump administration decision to impose tariffs on solar cells and modules.
“I don’t typically defend him,” Gore said during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
President Donald Trump announced on Monday a 30 percent tariff on imported cells and modules used to make solar panels that would decrease over time. The solar industry largely opposed the move, but admitted it was not a somewhat moderated decision.
“I will say in this case it did not start with him,” Gore said. “This was a trade action brought by private companies. They chose a kind of a midpoint in the range of alternatives.”
“Could have been handled differently, should have been handled differently, but it’s not an utter catastrophe,” Gore said.
Indeed, the White House approved tariffs lower than the 35 percent tariff recommended by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in 2017. The ITC took up the tariff issue based on complaints filed by two solar panel manufacturers, Suniva and SolarWorld.
The now bankrupt Sunia is Chinese-owned and SolarWorld is German-owned, though both have manufacturing operations in the U.S. and have been complaining for years about cheap Chinese solar imports.
China is the world’s largest solar panel producer, fueled by government subsidies and subsidies in the U.S. and Europe to make solar installations more affordable. Analysts predict the tariffs would decrease solar energy growth 11 percent over the next five years.
While Gore did not agree with the tariffs, he did admit that generous Chinese solar panel subsidies have forced U.S. business to go under.
For example, both Solyndra and Abound Solar blamed cheaper Chinese panels for their demise. Both companies got taxpayer-backed loan guarantees from the Obama administration before going bankrupt.
“The large subsidies from China for exporting solar panels has put some other companies in the world out of business,” Gore said.
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