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Obama’s Solar Fail

Today’s Wall Street Journal has good news from the solar industry. Following major scandals from 2011, the solar industry is set for a record year in 2012, with an estimated 2,500 megawatts of power projected for installation.

This must be good news for Obama, right? Not exactly. Although solar installations are indeed way up this year, the vast majority of these panels were manufactured by foreign companies. Obama’s stated goal of creating a home-grown American solar industry through government subsidies has instead led to a boom in foreign-produced solar panels financed partially through taxpayer dollars:

But the growth isn’t coming from U.S. solar-panel manufacturing, despite the money and rhetoric devoted to the industry by the Obama administration. Instead, it is in installations of largely foreign-made panels, whose falling price has made solar more competitive with other forms of power. . .

China supplied nearly half the world’s solar panels last year, up from one-fifth in 2008. The U.S., which once dominated the solar industry, shipped just 3% of solar panels used globally last year, down from 7% in 2008, according to Paula Mints of Navigant Consulting.

Making matters worse, even these cheaper foreign solar panels are still reliant on government subsidies for most of their profits; many utilities are required by law to pay above-market prices for solar power. This in turn increases energy costs to consumers. Foreign solar companies may come out ahead under these policies, but American producers and consumers of solar power are both looking like losers.

Solar power may one day become an important piece of the American power equation, but Obama’s plans to promote a booming domestic solar industry seem to be missing the mark. Via Meadia warned from the beginning that the “green jobs” shtick was a scam; companies won’t keep manufacturing jobs in the US just because those jobs are ‘green’. Subsidizing solar is going to do more to subsidize outsourcing to China than to build US prosperity.

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