President Trump has a big new idea for a way to pay for the wall between Mexico and the United States, the cost of which could reach $70 billion by one estimate: cover it in solar panels.
According to an Axios report on Tuesday, Trump proposed putting solar panels along a 40-to-50-foot-high border wall so that it generates enough electricity to pay for itself. According to three people with knowledge of the meeting, Axios reported, Trump said the solar panels would be “beautiful structures”–and that lawmakers could only talk about the idea if they gave him credit for it. Sounds like classic Trump, since the architecture firm Gleason Partners proposed the idea months ago, with the projection that selling electricity generated by the wall could cover the cost of construction in approximately 20 years (based on their cost estimate of $6 million per mile).
Especially in the context of Trump’s recent decision to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, his advocacy of a solar-paneled wall seems like a diverting and pandering tactic. No, climate change isn’t real, nor will the U.S. adhere to international policies to reduce its effects by investing in clean energy like solar panels, even though the solar industry provides more jobs than the coal industry. But let’s stick them on the border wall, because that will help pay for it and make it look pretty.
It’s a classic case of greenwashing, an attempt to spin the wall as environmentally friendly in what seems like an attempt to distract from its true purpose as well as the environmental destruction it would likely cause–and the fact that it just doesn’t make any sense, economically, geographically, or politically.
Slapping solar panels on a wall that will have dire ecological consequences seems like greenwashing, but in its own backhanded way, Trump’s proposal is an acknowledgment that solar is a lucrative way of generating electricity.