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Ohio solar panel manufacturers, lawmakers criticize President Biden’s new solar energy initiative

by Jun 7, 2022Technology

Farmland is seen with solar panels from Cypress Creek Renewables, Oct. 28, 2021, in Thurmont, Md. President Joe Biden plans to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase U.S. manufacturing of solar panels while declaring a two-year tariff exemption on panels from Southeast Asia.

Solar panels

Some of the measures that the Biden administration announced Monday to promote more widespread solar energy adoption will benefit China’s state-subsidized solar industry, advocates of building more solar panels in Ohio said Monday.

The Biden Administration on Tuesday announced that it would authorize the use of the Defense Production Act (DPA) to accelerate domestic production of clean energy technologies, including solar panel parts. It also said it would ban new tariffs for two years on solar panels imported from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to ensure an adequate supply of solar panels as domestic production ramps up.

The U.S. Department of Commerce was examining whether Chinese solar production companies had shifted production to other countries in Southeast Asia to avoid tariffs, and critics of Biden’s decision to ban new tariffs on solar panels from those countries said it would benefit China.

A statement from Arizona-based First Solar, which produces solar panels in Perrysburg, Ohio, said the firm is “deeply disappointed in today’s announcement.”

“Today’s proclamation directly undermines American solar manufacturing by giving unfettered access to China’s state-subsidized solar companies for the next two years,” company vice president of policy Samantha Sloan said in a statement. “This sends the message that companies can circumvent American laws and that the US government will let them get away with it as long as they’re backed by deep-pocketed political pressure campaigns.”

Sloan’s statement also called the administration’s use of the Defense Production Act to boost solar manufacturing “an ineffective use of taxpayer dollars and falls well short of a durable solar industrial policy.

“The administration cannot stick a band-aid on the issue and hope that it goes away,” the statement continued. “Had the administration consulted with America’s solar manufacturers, they would have known as much.”

Toledo Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur also criticized the tariff decision.

“China’s long history of dumping and tariff evasion demands strict scrutiny and appropriate penalties,” said a statement from Kaptur. “While I welcome the Administration’s focus on boosting domestic manufacturing of critical solar components – any effort that further tilts the playing field in favor of China is wrong for the American workers who are fed up with predatory trade practices. We have seen China play this game before on everything from steel to solar. We must invest in the American companies that are working to deliver an affordable, reliable, and secure energy future.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who served as U.S. Trade Representative during President George W. Bush’s administration, issued his own statement on Twitter to criticize the decision.

“The admin’s announcement that it plans to waive tariffs on solar panel imports from China is the wrong policy at the wrong time,” said Portman. “This rewards the CCP for their unfair trade practices, doesn’t hold them accountable for their human rights abuses, and will not spur economic growth.”

In an interview on Fox News, Portman said U.S. solar panel manufacturers like First Solar told him they are having trouble competing with Chinese products because they don’t play by the rules.

“We do not want our economy to be one again dependent on China for something, and right now, that is where it is headed with regard to solar panels,” said Portman.

The League of Conservation Voters released a statement applauding Biden’s actions, arguing they’d immediately “turbocharge clean energy manufacturing and production in the United States, create good-paying jobs, and accelerate our transition to the healthier, more equitable, and more affordable clean energy future our children and families deserve.

“Already, announced expansions in solar manufacturing since the start of the Biden-Harris administration will triple U.S. capacity to crank out the solar panels we need to rapidly achieve true energy independence,” their statement said. “We’ve been calling on the administration to swiftly alleviate uncertainty for the solar industry caused by a Department of Commerce trade inquiry and are pleased with today’s announcement.”

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