In case you haven’t heard, SOS has a new committee (headed by John Shaw), that is getting the sustainability message out over radio waves. SIUE has their very own web radio station, and three SOS members have taken on the task of getting their own sustainability-themed radio show. John, Amy, and Maame (or JAM) talk a bit about themselves, play sweet tunes, and present and discuss sustainability topics that interest them. Listeners can tune in every Sunday from 1PM to 3PM, and can even call in or leave a comment on our Facebook, Twitter, or here on our blog that JAM will answer on air.
JAM had their first radio show last Sunday, and it was a huge success. But it’s ok if you missed it! We will be updating you about what you missed last Sunday on JAM!
Opening song: “Gangsta” by tUnE-yArDs
Each member of JAM presented their own topic that they had researched and wanted to discuss, as well as played their own playlist of songs.
Amy went first. She presented facts on solar power panel manufacturers in the United States and China and what issue the United States was facing because of this. The basic points of the topic dealt with tax credits American’s can receive for installing solar panels on their home, and the topic of more American’s are buying the cheaper Chinese manufactured solar panels instead of American-made ones. She looked into, and asked her hosts, how this topic applies to sustainability. On one hand it’s great people are using solar power, on the other hand they aren’t supporting the American economy.
The main points covered were:
-Since 2009 homeowners are able to get a federal tax credit worth 30% of the cost of their new solar system, even if they’re also receiving state of local financing. This is helpful because the initial capital cost for solar systems is the major economic hurdle for installing solar panels. Panels have a very long life though and once installed, they require very low maintenance. The solar tax credit directly impacts this major obstacle when purchasing and installing a solar panel system. (Ex. A typical home solar system generals about 3 kilowatts of power. In California, the typical cost for getting a home solar system is $24,300. The average California state rebate is worth $4,650 which brings the cost down to $19,659. The 30% tax credit would ten be worth $5,895. This cuts the overall cost down to $13,755.)
-Many countries are pushing for ways to find domestic energy sources that are less polluting than fossil fuels. In the United States, despite rapid growth in recent years, solar power accounts for less than 1% of electricity use. The United States only accounted for $1.6 billion of the world’s $29 billion market for solar panels; California is by far the leading state.
-In the last 2 years, China has emerged as the dominant player in green energy, especially solar power. It accounted for at least 1/2 of the world’s production in 2010. But China has achieved this dominance through lavish government subsidies in its solar industry, which is detrimental to American companies and other foreign competitions. While most U.S. companies still have a technological edge, China has a cost advantage.
-The U.S. solar industry is divided over these imports. Panel-makers say their business is suffering and they want a tariff slapped on the imports. But other parts of the industry say these cheap panels are driving a solar boom in the United States.
-Some American panel-makers say that Chinese solar panel imports contributed to the collapse of U.S. manufacturers. 3 went out of business in 2010. These panel-makers want tariffs. They acknowledge that Americans will have to pay more for panels if that happens, but it will create a natural balance in a competitive and legal environment.
-The International Trade Commission reached a preliminary conclusion that American solar panel manufacturers were being harmed by Chinese solar panel imports.
-The Commerce Department still has to determine if Chinese panel makers have been doing anything illegal, like subsidizing panel-makers so they can sell below cost aka “dumping” their products in the United States at prices below the cost of making and marketing them. This ruling would impose offsetting tariffs to bring the price of Chinese panels in the American market up to what the Commerce Department deems their fair market value.
-However, some believe that higher prices are bad for companies that install solar panels, and these companies far outnumber panel manufacturers in the United States. Also, when installing solar panels, you need an inverter. An inverter a device that every solar installation needs to convert direct current to the alternating current in a home. A lot of inverters are manufactured in the United States. With fewer installations, then that would mean fewer inverters sold.
-Solar power is just now becoming less pricey for regular people. Some homeowners in the United States like to buy American, but most just want the best price. Chinese panels are about 10% cheaper, but a tariff could double their price and that could push everyone’s prices up. These sanctions against the Chinese could raise the cost of solar energy in the United States.
-Chinese efforts to dominate renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the United States may someday trade its dependence on oil from the Middle East for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines, and other gear manufactured in China.
John and Maame each took a side on this debate, where do you think you stand? Do you think we should keep buying foreign solar panels for cheap, or supporting the American economy and add on tariffs on the foreign panels? Does it matter where the panels come from as long as people are able to buy and use them, or should we help build national businesses even if it means costing more to be “green”? Please give us your opinions and read the articles to understand more about the topic!
Maame presented her topic next.
She found a blog that says there are many problems with the sustainability movement, and in some cases it’s unsustainable. She presented his arguments and JAM spent a while talking about their reaction to his statements and refuted them as well. It was an interesting conversation for defending the sustainability movement, specifically saying that it’s not a fad and is something we as a nation and a race need to start investing in. The conversation also went off into each hosts’ personal views of sustainability.
John was the last to talk about his topic. He informed the listeners of the great sustainability strides Anheuser-Busch, a locally recognized brand, has been taking here in the United States and abroad.
He first informed us of what Anheuser-Busch has done historically when it comes to sustainability. For those interested in knowing all the things they’ve accomplished in the environmental movement; check out their site.
The main point John talked about was how Anheuser-Busch is recycling water at its factory in China, and using this to support the local Chinese public housing. John got his information from an article on TreeHugger.
All in all, JAM’s first show was a 2-hour, jam-packed (pun intended) event with information and great music. Please tune in for their second show this Sunday, 1PM to 3PM!