Obama admin slaps tariff on solar panels from China… because of subsidies
posted at 9:15 am on March 21, 2012 by Ed Morrissey
Yes, you read that correctly. Three years after committing tens of billions of dollars in subsidies to green-energy firms, including massive amounts of subsidies to solar-panel firms like Solyndra, the Obama administration proclaims themselves shocked, shocked! that China subsidizes the production of solar panels in their own country:
The U.S. Commerce Department announced tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels on Tuesday that it said had benefited from unfair subsidies by Beijing.
The preliminary ruling came in response to a complaint from SolarWorld Industries America, a U.S. manufacturer that is a subsidiary of Germany’s SolarWorld. The tariffs were lower than many analysts had predicted, however, boosting shares of Chinese solar-panel makers in Tuesday’s trading….
“Today’s announcement affirms what U.S. manufacturers have long known: Chinese manufacturers have received unfair and [World Trade Organization]-illegal subsidies,” Steve Ostrenga, CEO of Wisconsin’s Helios Solar Works, said in a statement.
But many others say the complaint is counter-productive. Jigar Shah, president of the industry group Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, said in a statement that tariffs on Chinese panels would slow the growth of solar and cost the industry jobs in the U.S., for example in installation.
Shah, as CNN notes in the report, has since changed his position a little in support of the lower-than-expected tariffs, but the complaint is still wildly hypocritical. The US government has spent billions of dollars on solar subsidies over the last several decades, and at least a few billion out of Obama’s Porkulus bill over the last three years. Solyndra sank over a half-billion dollars in solar subsidies in its bankruptcy alone.
Actually, that might be the reason for the Obama administration’s action with these tariffs — as political cover for the collapse of Solyndra. When Solyndra applied for those subsidies through the Loan Guarantee Program, questions were raised about Solyndra’s ability to compete against Chinese competition in the market; the DoE ignored those concerns, and we ended up taking a $535 million bath. Obama will now argue that the bankruptcy got caused by unfair competition, even though (a) Obama used subsidies in exactly the same manner he accuses China of doing and for the same purpose, and (b) that still doesn’t change the fact that the DoE knew that Solyndra couldn’t compete in the marketplace even with the subsidies and tossed over a half-billion dollars in taxpayer money down the drain anyway.
Steve McGough at Radio Vice Online wonders if the White House choked on their words:
The federal government has a website listing tax credits, rebates and savings for all types of equipment including stuff like solar water heaters, solar space heating and solar pool water heating just to name a few.
There is a federal tax credit in place that will cover 30 percent of the cost of a solar energy system, up to $500 per .5 KW of power capacity. The credit expires Dec. 31, 2016 … so you have some time. Is the Obama administration really going to claim they have not been subsidizing this industry?
What the Obama administration did here is increase the cost of solar panels for consumers, making an already difficult return-on-investment decision even more hard to justify. Congratulations.
For another example of U.S. government subsidies for the U.S. solar energy industry, follow President Obama today to Nevada, where he’ll be visiting a solar farm that has five full-time employees, and received “$42 million in federal-government tax credits and $12 million in tax-rebate commitments from the state of Nevada.”
Ah, yes — that would be Sempra:
President Obama will tout investments in “renewable” energy Wednesday at the local Copper Mountain Solar 1 plant, although the plant has only five full-time employees.
The plant, owned by San Diego-based energy company Sempra, was built in late 2010 at a cost of $141 million. Funding included $42 million in federal-government tax credits and $12 million in tax-rebate commitments from the state of Nevada.
Construction of the plant involved over 300 part-time jobs, but currently only five full-time employees operate the plant, a Sempra spokeswoman confirmed. That comes out to $10.8 million in tax-dollar subsidies per employee.
And we’re complaining about China’s subsidies? That calls for a Captain Louis Renault award, which is most propitious timing, as movie theaters across the country will show Casablanca tonight for a one-time-only event: