The Sun is Energy For the Long Run

Emma Farina

January 31st, 2018

The imposed tariff on solar panels will slow the expansion of renewable energy drastically — Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS

On Monday, January 22, 2018, the Trump administration imposed tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels. There is an approved 20% tariff on the first 1.2 million washing machines with 50% tariff on the remaining washing machines in the next two years. There is also an approved 30% tariff on solar panel components that will have a declining rate for the next four years to a then constant 15%.

This tariff is seen as a good thing by only a few major manufacturing solar power companies in the US who have been upset about the products bought primarily from China. However, the majority of the solar power industry is not in manufacturing, but in installation.

The new tariffs are supposed to be a way to encourage American made products because currently about 80% of solar panel parts are made abroad. This forces more solar panels to be produced in America, adding approximately 6,400 jobs to the industry. However, this move will cost 23,000 people their jobs this year alone.

Solar installation is one of the fastest growing jobs in the US, with around 300,000 jobs, and is predicted to continue growing in the next decade. Solar power costs have dropped almost 70% since 2010, making it continually more accessible to individuals. This tariff, however, will once again raise the prices on solar panels making them harder to purchase. This is just another step that the Trump administration has taken that harms the environment. Previously, the US was pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, power plant emission regulations were reduced, and tax reforms were passed making it harder to finance solar and wind power.

Because of these restrictions and taxes on renewable energy sources, the cheapest and often the only available option for many, is to continue using fossil fuels (oil, coal, and gas) for energy. This will deplete the limited natural resources we have even quicker, despite there being fairly simple-to-use alternatives.

It’s hard to correctly guess how long fossil fuels will still exist, but the best guesses are that, within 100 years, gas, oil, and coal reserves will all have been completely depleted. The, arguably larger, problem with using natural resources is the harmful effects they have on the environment.

The UN Paris Agreement states that the global temperature cannot increase more than 2 degrees celsius and the estimated carbon budget (amount of carbon we can put into the environment without raising the temperature more than 2 degrees) is approximately 275 billion tons of carbon. If we used all of the estimated remaining fossil fuels, 750 billion tons of Carbon would be released.

There are sources of carbon emissions that do not come from humans, however, these processes are naturally recycled back into the environment. Human use of fossil fuels for heating, electricity, transportation, and manufacturing has deeply disrupted this natural cycle by adding lots of carbon, but not removing any of it.

The global temperature will surpass what has been established as safe if we do not shift to renewable energy that does not emit carbon. The Trump administration has made it increasingly harder to switch to renewable energy. These restrictions may make it all the more important to cut down on your personal carbon emissions, which is easier than most people think.

Some easy ways to help save Mother Earth are to walk, ridding pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. If each of the 250 million cars in America were driven just 1,000 miles less a year, the US alone would avoid putting more than 1 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere in just one year.

Other easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint are to take shorter showers at lower temperatures than usual, dry clothes using a clothesline instead of an electric dryer, use compact fluorescent lightbulbs, plant shade trees, reduce your daily waste, buy reusable products, and recycle any materials possible.

I can never stress enough how easy it is to reduce your carbon footprint and how impactful it really can be. Turning the lights off and carpooling to work or school can help save the only Earth that we have to live on!

Emma Farina

Opinions Columnist

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