The latest example of conservative economic philosophy comes courtesy of Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) who stated, “We can’t compete with China to make solar panels and wind turbines,” implying we shouldn’t even try. As the Center for American Progress’s Kate Gordon rightly points out that concession on clean energy production to China is not only untrue, but out of sync with the American ethos of innovation.
Contrary to Rep. Stearns’ statement, his home state is working hard to grow its clean economy, with a particular emphasis on solar. The Sunshine State currently has over 100,000 clean economy jobs. It is the second largest producer of solar energy in the country. Florida is also constructing the world’s first city to be completely powered by solar energy. And, Gainesville, Florida is one of the first municipalities to adopt a feed in tariff policy in the U.S. Under the program, the city pays people for any electricity generated from solar panels that they sell back into the grid.
There is, however, an element of truth to Rep. Stearns claims. Without strong support and investment, we will lose the clean economy race to China. Recently, a solar panel manufacturing company shut down its plant in Florida due to low demand. But, this can be remedied. Demand can be created through renewable energy production targets, prices on carbon that reflect the true cost of carbon consumption, and support for renewable energy innovation.
The U.S. invented solar panel technology. It is misguided to claim that we cannot be the leaders in its production.