Graph illustrating the relative portion the United States has contributed to annual world solar production.

The world’s second-largest maker of solar batteries plans a massive increase in capacity to meet soaring demand. Bloomberg reports:

The company will raise the capacity to 6 gigawatts as early as 2014, from 1 gigawatt estimated for 2010 …

Sharp, which lost its market-leading position to Thalheim, Germany-based Q-Cells AG last year, is focusing on expanding its solar-cell output through thin-film technology. This uses 1 percent the amount of silicon needed for conventional models …

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One gigawatt of power is enough to light up at least 200,000 households of four people in Japan …

Yes, the United States created the solar cell industry and literally launched it into space 50 years ago. And yes solar PV is going to be one of the largest job-creating industries of the century, projected to grow from “from a $20 billion industry in 2007 to $74 billion by 2017.” And yes today America has precisely one of the top ten PV plants, with plummeting market share, as the figure above makes all too painfully clear

But don’t get all friggin’ sentimental on me. Think of the few billion dollars U.S. taxpayers saved because:

  • President Reagan gutted Jimmy Carter’s renewable energy program.
  • Newt Gingrich blocked President Clinton’s effort to boost funding for solar PV research and deployment programs.
  • Conservatives in general like John McCain and George Bush opposed the kind of funding and incentives that countries like Japan and Germany embraced.

The fundamental tenets of conservative ideology say that if countries like Japan and Germany and China make most of the PV cells it must be because they have an inherent “comparative” advantage over us. You gotta start reading your Ricardo, people. Any card-carrying conservative knows that if other countries manage to get millions of their workers’ hands dirty actually making stuff, it’s only because they are better at it. We’re still the brainiacs who invent the technologies first and then wisely save a few pennies of the taxpayer dollars not promoting American technologies into billion-dollar American industries. We’ve still got all those Internet-related jobs, and it’s not like the government had anything to do with that.

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So please, all you progressives and enviros out there, stop your whining. The plan is unfolding as it should, indeed as it must. Do not argue with the invisible hand. People will think you’re crazy.

Sure those thin films look cool. They seem like something that could generate a lot of jobs for a high-tech, high wage economy.


But don’t be deceived by liberal propaganda. I have it on the very highest authority that real men (and women) who want real jobs drill, baby, drill.

This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

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