At the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, the former vice president and current climate crusader spoke about Trump’s recent decision to place tariffs on imports of solar energy equipment. That decision was widely condemned by most environmentalists and renewable energy advocates, who argued the tariff would make panels more expensive, and therefore decrease demand for solar energy in America and risk 88,000 jobs in the solar industry.
Gore, however, said the decision could have been way worse. “I don’t typically defend [Trump],” Gore said. “I will say, in this case, [the decision] really did not start with him.” Gore was referring to the fact that Trump’s decision was made in response to a petition by two U.S.-based solar manufacturing companies. Those companies wanted the U.S. to levy steep tariffs on solar imports, and wanted those tariffs to remain in place for a long time. But the administration chose to levy a 30 percent tariff on solar products, and phase out the tariff over four years. “[The administration] chose a kind of midpoint in the range of alternatives,” Gore said. “It could have been handled differently, should have been handled differently, but it’s not an utter catastrophe.”
Gore used the word “defend,” and myriad headlines on Thursday took this literally. “Gore defends Trump solar tariffs decision,” Politico’s story read. Near-identical headlines appeared in CNBC, Fox, and Axios. Axios even called Gore’s remarks “a rare sign of agreement between Gore, one of the most outspoken advocates for acting on climate change, and Trump.” Drudge ran with it as well, and added an exclamation point, because gosh darn, it’s so crazy that Gore and Trump agree on environmental things now.
But this is not a sign of agreement, and Gore and Trump don’t agree on environmental things. While Gore may have used the word “defend,” he explicitly said Trump’s decision was detrimental to the solar industry—he merely added that it could have been worse, and that Trump did not make this decision alone. Gore’s people agree. “In his remarks, Mr. Gore made clear that he disagrees with the outcome of this decision,” Gore’s communication’s director Nick Conger told me in an email. “He believes strongly that American leaders should be embracing the growth of solar energy in the U.S.”