Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced a 24-month pause on all solar goods tariffs related to the ongoing antidumping/anti-circumvention (AD/CVD) investigation into Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam, which are alleged of shipping tariff-dodging Chinese products.
About 80% of the US supply of crystalline-silicon modules are shipped from the four countries. AD/CVD tariffs can be as high as 50-250%, a level of risk and uncertainty that was too much for the US solar industry to bear. Many projects were cancelled and delayed as a result. After the investigation was announced, it essentially halted utility-scale solar buildout, and the Solar Energy Industries Association cut its deployment forecast for the year by 46%.
The move by the Biden Admin paved the way for supply contracts to get signed, prices to get better estimates, and factories and shipments from the four nations under investigation to get back on track. Concurrent with the two-year pause was a series of executive actions by the White House to boost US solar manufacturing, including invoking the Defense Production Act and giving US solar goods “super preference” status in federal procurement.
“Most people feel this was a positive move and very helpful to managing some of the challenges on the table right now,” Paul Wormser, vice president of technology with Clean Energy Associates told pv magazine.
However, nine Republican senators disagree with this sentiment generally shared by the US solar industry, as they recently sent a letter of concern to President Biden about the effects of this pause on tariffs. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) led the effort. He resides in Ohio, the location of First Solar’s new $680 million, 3.33 GW US solar module manufacturing plant. First Solar was among the loudest voices in the industry’s minority opposition to the moratorium.
Portman was joined by senators Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Mike Braun (R-IN), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) in singing the letter to Biden.
“Already the United States is over-reliant on China for solar power. Currently, 80 percent of our solar panels come from China or Chinese companies, and this reliance is not market-based. China has used a variety of anti-free market practices, such as industrial subsidies, to come to dominate the solar sector,” read the letter.
“We cannot afford to trade dependence on Russian energy for that of Chinese solar panels. It is counter to the national interest to rely on our adversaries for our energy needs,” it continued.
The letter continued that the Department of Commerce’s investigation is a quasi-judicial process and that the pause is “disfiguring” the legal process as a result of political pressure and climate activism. The investigative process was launched when Auxin Solar, a California-based US solar module maker with a very small manufacturing capacity filed a petition.
The senators wrote that the use of an emergency declaration to enact the moratorium was an overreach. They argue that “food, clothing, and medical, surgical, and other supplies for use in emergency relief work,” are the only means for emergency declaration, and that the emergency declaration “translates those words into the language of climate catastrophe.”
The US Department of Agriculture said climate change is likely to diminish continued progress on global food security through production disruptions that lead to local availability limitations and price increases, interrupted transport conduits, and diminished food safety, among other causes. A recent report by Deloitte said the US could stand to lose $3 trillion if there is inaction on decarbonizing our economy. The report said over the next 50 years, nearly 900,000 jobs could disappear each year due to climate damage.
Despite this, the coalition of senators “are disappointed that the climate change agenda has proven to be an effective means to pre-empt and nullify the legitimate claims of U.S. workers and industry before they can be fully considered through the ongoing investigation by your Department of Commerce.”
The letter can be read in full here.
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Thank you President Biden and members of your administration for your moratorium on the tariffs!
So-called Global Economy has been destroying America’s manufacturing jobs since the late 60s. Time to significantly wind down cheap imports and restructure our manufacturing independence and protect our technogical advances that came at great investor risk and expense.
And that especially means banning cheap insourced and outsourced labor, educating our kids with hands on skills in trade and high school years that industry and our military draft once supported heavily.
Industries once provided education assistance to get associates, bachelors and masters degrees in business and technical areas without soaring gov’t backed, but unpayable college loans. Gotta turn that back on full speed as well.
Solar is just the tip of our manufacturing iceberg. Most of it has been underwater for decades and it won’t take a war to have us going begging if critical materials, goods, energy sources and food are cutoff by trading partners like China and neighbors they can easily threaten.
The sun doesn’t shine at night and lunar cells aren’t the answer. Time our current administration woke up to reality and quit patronizing hand-wringers about inches of sea level rise around our 45-million foot diameter earth. Better we all started rowing our American Made boat in earnest, while it’s still floating, ya think?
This is political theater and Cruz, Rubio, Cotton et al. are not operating in reality. President Biden didn’t declare an emergency so we could address the climate crisis; he declared an emergency based on the urgent need to get capacity online and maintain grid reliability this summer. Perhaps these senators have not read the shocking report by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation that indicates that every grid operator from MISO to the Pacific is in danger of blackouts this summer (see p. 5): https://www.nerc.com/pa/RAPA/ra/Reliability%20Assessments%20DL/NERC_SRA_2022.pdf
Also, the statement that the volume of panels coming in is the same as a year ago is similarly disconnected from reality. Both EIA and ITC data show a sharp decline in module imports from the United States starting in H2 2021 – directly following the imposition of the Hoshine WRO.
Those with authoritarian ambitions, either on the Left or the Right, will disregard the facts not as an accident but as part of their political program. If you can get your followers to believe that 2+2=5, you can get them to do anything. And all too many are willing to do that.
“This is political theater and Cruz, Rubio, Cotton et al. are not operating in reality.” So true. But we’ve witnessed how delusional they are for years. Thank goodness the insurrection and attempted coup failed. If it hadn’t, we’d now be under the rule of a dictator who thinks climate change is a hoax and who would be destroying the path to renewable energy in the US and pushing dirty coal and other fossil fuels as hard as possible.
So we now rely on China for 92% of our solar panels.
Panels that China produces cheapest with electricity from coal fired generators that they’re building at a rate that will increase power from coal 30% by 2030. Great move green thumb NIMBY’s.
50 years of outsourcing has ruined American manufacturing, the core of our economy that now depends on cheap imported goods and spiraling wretched excess they’ve spawned.
Blackouts won’t be a problem if fossil fueled power plants and nuclear power sources continue to operate until solar capacity and battery moderated variability is reliably in place. Even so, those sources must remain productive, al beit at reduced levels as solar makes up a greater share of the power mix. Dark skies from severe weather, war or volcanoes could shut down battery stored solar energy in a day.
China is powering their cheap solar cell manufacturing with energy from coal and their pollution is worse than if we had ramped up U.S. production instead of relying on cheap outsourced imports. Same can be said for most of the cheap imports that were once our own manufactured products.
Rebuilding our manufacturing capacity should take priority over zero carbon goals that China and others continue to ignore as they leverage industrialized build-out based on our capacities we once owned and operated.
Expanding nuclear that I’ll bet Germany wishes Angela Merkel had never shut down, should become our parallel green energy priority, including nuclear fuel reprocessing that Jimmy Carter suspended in 1977.
Ironically, in the 70s Democrats were forecasting global cooling that would cause a crop killing ice age resulting in mass starvation world wide.
Reactionary election based politically guided science is doing irreparable harm to our economy that still runs on electricity, not water-wheel powered grist and saw mills.
Time to wake up to reality and undue the damage 50 years of outsourcing has created.
Build Back Batter needs hundreds of millions of fingers doing real work, not just two thumbs twittering slogans with cell phone apps.
You’re right that we need to keep nuclear energy going, even though it’s more expensive, until renewables can supply everything. But don’t try pinning our problems all on one party. Republicans have helped outsource manufacturing and jobs for decades because they’ve helped corporations get massive tax breaks for sending those jobs overseas. The Republicans wouldn’t allow passage of bills the Democrats tried to pass to curtail those tax breaks.
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