Why the “Buy American” Solar Requirement is Wrong

Word that the U.S. Military is insisting on a “buy American” policy for solar panels made me laugh out loud.

Their fear is that China is subsidizing its industry and we must fight back. Somehow, if the military gets a little bargain we’re all going to become as dependent for our energy on China as we are now on Saudi Arabia.

Uh, no.

Solar energy shares of all kinds are surging  in value and it doesn’t matter whether the stuff comes from Shanghai or Sheboygan.

Because the solar power “war,” if such a war exists, is a war we all win. Solar technology is plowshares technology.

What happens when China installs panels is the same thing that happens when Americans do it. Subtle downward pressure is placed on the price, and long-term value, of oil.

That’s the enemy. Not China, not really Saudi Arabia. But the price and value of oil.

Here in the second decade of the 21st century we are, in terms of energy, acting no better than cavemen. We’re wandering around the world, clubbing and killing one another, looking for stuff to burn. And then we complain (some of us) that the planet is over-heating.

Heat can be harvested. Just as we can harvest the wind, and the molten core of our planet, and the Sun for our energy needs. Harvest, not hunt. That’s how civilization begins, when you begin transforming a harvest instead of hunting down what you need.

When an Israeli professor condemns current methods for evolving more efficient solar panels  who benefits? Is there some “final” answer to the questions of efficiency, of durability, and of price? No. When you can buy a 100% efficient panel for the price of a pack of cigarettes that will last forever does it matter where it comes from? You’re getting the power from it.

There are breakthroughs happening every day . Having renewables pass the energy share of nuclear power is just a first step.

This is a global market where everyone plays and everyone wins.

Who loses when we harvest more of the energy all around us, no matter where the technology comes from, and no matter who manufactures it?

No one but the oil barons. We need to remember that as the global competition moves ahead.


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Dana Blankenhorn has covered business and technology since 1978. He covered the Houston oil boom of the 1970s, began making his living online in 1985, and launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of e-commerce, in 1994. He has written for a host of off-line and online publications including The Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and ZDNet. He has covered PCs, networks, telecommunications, cable technology, Internet commerce, the Internet of Things, Open Source and Health IT, He began covering alternative energy at his personal blog, Danablankenhorn.com, in 2007.

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