Tesla CEO Elon Musk Seems OK With Trump’s Solar Tariffs

Elon Musk is totally OK with Donald Trump Solar Tariffs

Earlier this week, the Trump Administration announced plans to impose a 30% protectionist tariff on imported solar cells and modules in response to a Section 201 trade case filed by Suniva and SolarWorld back in April of 2017. Lots of people- especially the writers over at our sister site, Cleantechnica– seem super worried about the impact this move will have on the US solar industry, saying it could cost as many as 23,000 American jobs this year, alone. You know who doesn’t seem worried about the new tariffs, though? Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

That’s because Tesla is slowly building a massive solar panel factory in South Buffalo, New York in a joint venture deal with Panasonic. For now, they’ll be impacted by the tariffs along with everyone else- but that could change. Panasonic, for example, knows how to make solar cells and, as an American manufacturer, they’d be unaffected by the tariffs. If they do move production to one of the Gigafactories, they’ll get a huge competitive advantage (in the US, at least). It’s no surprise, then, that Tesla executives have largely shrugged their shoulders at the new Trump tariff.

If they do get around to producing solar panels in the US, they’ll probably go from shrugging their shoulders to high-fiving each other in the streets. That’ll be fun.

The tariffs, targeted mainly toward manufacturers in China and the Far East, will start at 30 percent and decline to 15 percent over a four-year period. That sounds harsh, but the first 2.5 gigawatts of imported solar cells are excluded from the tariff each year- and that’s not nothing. Costs will rise, though, with the price of residential rooftop systems expected to rise by about 4 percent, according to analysts at ClearView Energy Partners.

Sharp-eyed observers will note that 4% is barely more than the pace of inflation, however, which seems to indicate- to me, at least- that this is not the doomsday scenario many in the green press are predicting. I’ve been wrong before, though. What do you guys think?

Will the Trump tariffs force the industry into a decline, giving coal a second wind? Or, is this all just a protectionist posturing to cater to Trump’s base that will, ultimately, not amount to anything substantial? Head to the comments section at the bottom of the page and let us know.


Source | Images: Buffalo News.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.