Understanding the harm behind Pres. Trump’s new solar tariffs

solar tariffs

Solar tariffs causing trouble for green energy

One of Pres. Trump’s biggest campaign promises was to “Make America Great Again.” Encouraging industrial growth is essential to do that, but has President Trump’s recent decisions on solar tariffs paved the way for that or steered U.S. investments back toward fossil fuels?

Solar panels are a multi-billion dollar industry. Demand for panels is growing in the United States like never before, but this trend didn’t start overnight. China readied for the boom two decades ago! In fact, they caused it.

Despite solar panel technology being pioneered right here in the United States, no one followed up on it like the Chinese. They amassed the factories, equipment, resources, skilled labor and contracts at a time when European countries were beginning to offer their citizens tax breaks based on private solar installations.

“Buy American products,” is not as easy as it seems in an industry reliant on ultra-low prices to fuel growth. Homeowners are not the driving force behind the expansion into solar power in the U.S. market. Utility companies are. The largest motivating factor is the risk presented by ultra-low-cost systems capable of taking consumers off-grid.

Threat of customer loss drives major solar power installations

Utility companies, like Alliant Energy and CIPCO in the Midwest, traditionally generate electricity from burning fossil fuels, like oil and natural gas. These resources don’t just create a massive amount of pollution as a byproduct. They’re limited resources. Once they’re gone, they’re all used up!

For that reason alone, we’re better off using renewable energy sources whenever possible.

Unfortunately, the collection of fossil fuels also go a long way to destroying the environment. From disturbing precious topsoil needed to grow food to contaminating ground water whole communities rely on for driving water, a massive amount of damage is regularly attributed to the fossil fuel industry.

Solar panels can generate energy from sunlight and store that energy for later use. Through the years, China has created panels that are more and more efficient, leading industry think tanks to forewarn utility companies about the potential for customer loss.

In response, they began to invest in their own solar farms. Called “solar utility installations,” these massive projects cost millions but – due to low-cost, high-efficiency materials from China – they’re capable of producing cleaner, cheaper energy than fossil fuel alternatives.

Customers get access to “green” ecologically-friendly energy sources without having to invest in private solar arrays. Utility companies keep their customers. Until Pres. Trump stepped into the ring with new solar tariffs, this was a win-win situation.

U.S. Facilities can not meet the demand for cheap solar panels

Cheerios “Save the Bees” campaign

Cheerios recently kicked off a campaign to “Save the Bees.” You know, the same bees their growing practices are slowly killing. In an effort to help the problem, they’ve invited folks to order and plant their wildflower packets. The problem, according to LifeHacker, is several of the seed types are considered invasive species in areas all over the United States:

Forget-me-not is banned as a noxious weed in Massachusetts and Connecticut, for example. The California poppy is nice in California, but listed as an “invasive exotic pest plant” in southeastern states. And many of the flowers on this list are not native to anywhere in the US, so they are not necessarily good matches for our local bees.

What the brand is really doing is attempting to improve its reputation without really making a positive impact.

We don’t want your #BeeWashing

The move is similar to the greenwashing several oil companies, auto and chemical manufacturers started to do in the mid-2000s. Companies like General Motors began to promote hybrid vehicles to improve the company image. In truth, the hybrids didn’t lead to significant changes in pollution rates or gas use, and their production numbers didn’t scratch the surface of the gas guzzling models.

In short, they were faking it, just like General Mills is faking now by putting together this unhelpful campaign. If the company really wants to save the bees, it can invest in alternative farming practices, plant region-appropriate wildflowers on a massive scale, lobby for legislation that protects pollinators and the like. Feel free to point it out.

Contact them, and say so today at http://www.cheerios.com/contact — Don’t worry. You don’t have mail a letter or make a phone call. You don’t even have to wait while your email loads. The page has a convenient online form. Take a few seconds to fill it out. This green move couldn’t get any lazier. 😉

Save the bees to save ourselves?

save the bees
For those who don’t understand why Cheerios – or anyone else – would want to save the bees and keep these little beasties buzzing around our gardens, it all comes down, not surprisingly, to self-preservation.

Bees, and other pollinators, help pollinate many different types of foods. Humans have not designed an efficient means for pollination aside anywhere near being on par with honey bees and butterflies.

If we don’t protect these insects, humans risk a very real food shortage and the driving up prices of food production exponentially around the world.

Pollution is known to be part of the problem. Specifically, one of the most popular types of pesticide in use today – neonicotinoids – is killing off pollinator populations. Worse, pollinators are particularly drawn to it, as it stimulates them much in the same way nicotine stimulates humans, despite being bad for us.

The introduction of invasive species and the disappearance of native wildflowers pollinators need to enjoy a healthy diet are also causing big problems. Some scientists claim global warming is also playing a role.

Cheerio’s campaign touches on these issues, but it does little to help the problem. It’s a feel-good program meant to make themselves look good. The kicker is they could be doing so much more with that investment. General Mills has the sway to make real changes and put real protections in place. Obviously, this campaign is a sign they’re worried. Now, we – the consumers – must convince them to act in the right directions. Thankfully, getting companies to listen to the people buying their products is relatively easy.

What we can do to save bees and butterflies

Shop at Aldi’s. If you have an Aldi’s near your town, use it. The company is based in Germany, which is excellent news for green consumers. Europe’s higher standards have a way of trickling over to their oversea franchises. For instance, the chain has sworn off foods grown using specific pesticides, including three types of neonicotinoids. Your investment in Aldi’s products sends a clear message to other grocers. Buying organic produce from local farmers at a farmer’s market would cut out the pollution from shipping goods, but it might not be as easy as just going to the store when something is needed.

Plant native wildflowers. The wildflower packets shipped by Cheerios aren’t local to your area, which means they might not be healthy choices for your area’s bees. Talk to your local extension office about the best plants for pollinators in your area before you plant anything. By providing bees and butterflies with a rich diet, you naturally improve their health — and the quality of their honey!

Buy local honey. Switching over to local food purchases is easiest when you replace one product at a time. It might be that making a conscious choice to replace your honey with local fare is the perfect first step. This is helpful for more than just bees too. In some cases, ingesting local honey reduces allergy symptoms. More importantly, buying local honey encourages local beekeeping.

Start a hive. Now, this is not the lazy option. In fact, keeping bees is labor intensive–and costs a pretty penny. Just purchasing bees for your own hive costs over $100. However, if you want to go the extra mile to save the bees, look for your state’s beekeeping association. They provide lots of good information, along with local contacts. Beekeeping clubs are on the rise across the U.S. and these groups have gear and experienced beekeepers ready and willing to share their knowledge.