A Blackout … and Job Cuts … for the Solar Industry
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A Blackout … and Job Cuts … for the Solar Industry

Trump Pulls the Plug on Cheap, Renewable Power, Orders 30% Tariff on Hardware

Trade wars. Trump approved duties of as much as 30% on solar equipment made outside the U.S., a move that threatens to handicap a $28 billion industry that relies on parts made abroad for 80% of its supply.

The tariffs are the latest action by Trump to undermine the economics of renewables. The administration already decided to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, sought to roll back Obama-era regulations on power plant-emissions and signed sweeping tax reforms that constrained financing for solar and wind.

The import taxes are the most targeted strike on the industry yet and may have larger consequences for the energy world.

The Solar Energy Industries Association projected 23,000 job losses this year in a sector that employs 260,000.

Meanwhile, 11 Pacific Rim nations agreed to forge a new trade bloc that excludes our country as Trump signed an order to block some cheap Asian imports.

A large delegation of American trade negotiators is in Montreal this week to press Canada and Mexico to “rebalance” the North American Free Trade Agreement to steer manufacturing from Mexico back to the U.S. Since Trump’s inauguration, the European Union has accelerated a campaign to sign new free-trade agreements around the world. The EU last year implemented new pacts with Japan and Canada. The EU is negotiating a trade deal with the countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Homeless Puerto Ricans. Dozens of Puerto Rican families displaced by Hurricane Maria and currently living in Connecticut hotels have been told they will no longer get federal assistance to pay for their lodgings, just days after being promised an extension to their temporary housing assistance. Though the housing assistance had originally been set to expire on Jan. 13 for many Puerto Ricans, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had agreed last week to put 36 families up for another month. But just three days after granting the relief, FEMA abruptly reversed its decision and halted payments for the hotel rooms.

Gambling money. An Indiana congressman with no recognized Native American tribes in his district collected more than $160,000 in campaign contributions from gambling interest groups that could benefit from legislation he is sponsoring. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), who was the top recipient of tribal gambling dollars in the House, sponsored the Tribal Sovereignty Act which would end employee protections for tribal casino workers under the National Labor Relations Act. The few federal courts that have looked at the issue have decided in favor of the unions. The measure was included in a larger bill that passed the House on a 239-173 vote earlier this month. Rokita is seeking to challenge Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and has attacked Donnelly and GOP primary rival Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) as elite insiders.  In this election cycle, Rokita has raised $57,200 from casino and gambling interests.

Dark money. A conservative dark money organization tied to the billionaire Koch brothers is hiding the size of its donations from public view. Americans for Prosperity, the flagship political organization of Charles and David Koch, received 81% of its contributions in 2016 from just five donors. But Americans for Prosperity won’t release the Schedule B which shows total contributions from individuals who gave more than $5,000. An AFP official said public disclosure of the document could be used to identify its donors. MapLight, a nonprofit watchdog organization, filed a complaint with the IRS seeking the release of the information.

Grandma arrest. A Jamaican grandmother traveling on a Greyhound bus in Florida was arrested after border patrol officers boarded the bus. She was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Her family has been unable to get in touch with her. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said the woman had overstayed her tourist visa. “Without an official judicial warrant, border patrol agents should not be permitted to board the private property of the Greyhound corporation to harass its customers and violate their civil liberties,” said an official with the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

January 24, 2018