Buried in the avalanche of Cuba and North Korea news was this revealing tidbit about the Obama administration's environmental priorities:
The Obama administration will set duties on solar products from China and Taiwan that combined could exceed more than 200 percent, adding fuel to a renewable-energy clash between the U.S. and China.
The Commerce Department also finalized its plan to include in the tariffs any solar panels assembled in China, no matter the origin of the cells.
The department issued final duties on solar cells manufactured in China and Taiwan in a case brought by SolarWorld AG (SWVK), a German company with a factory in Oregon. The U.S. International Trade Commission must rule in the last step before the tariffs are finalized. A decision is due next month.
Now if you believe that climate change is an urgent, nay, eschatological priority, wouldn't you want to encourage as many people as possible to start using solar panels to lessen our dependence on carbon-based energy? How on earth does drastically raising the price of solar panels through government action do that? It doesn't.
Tariffs and duties on cheaper Chinese solar panels do, however, keep more federal subsidies flowing to American alternative energy companies. And those companies spend a fair amount on influence peddling. Note that SolarWorld's annual lobbying expenditures doubled when Obama was up for reelection, and SolarWorld's stock is up a little over 10 percent from yesterday on the heels of the announcement. I don't know if SolarWorld, a German company with a factory in Oregon, is guilty of doing anything more than being on the wrong side of economic history by opposing free trade. I do know that there's a pretty big precedent for solar energy companies getting political favors from the Obama administration.
This late in the Obama administration the name "Solyndra" almost seems quaint. Despite the undeniably scandalous facts surrounding that particular company and its political donations, there was a flurry of stories last month saying that the Department of Energy loan program that enabled Solyndra was actually turning a profit, and liberal journalists took a victory lap. However, the claim the loans were making money turned out to be misleading bunk even though almost no one bothered to correct their previous stories saying otherwise.
I don't doubt the sincerity of many who are sounding the alarm about global warming, even if I do find myself often doubting their facts. I'm more inclined to wonder how cognizant these true believers are that crony capitalists and the Democratic party have turned their cause into a racket. If you believe that alternative energy sources must be adopted as quickly as possible to prevent environmental calamity, what the Obama administration is doing to raise the cost of solar panels is inexcusable. If, on the other hand, you are skeptical of the Obama administration's self-serving priorities, it makes perfect sense.