In the international solar-panel trade war, the Obama administration just won’t quit

posted at 1:21 pm on February 19, 2014 by Erika Johnsen

Sadly — mind-blowingly, even — this is real life. Stay with me here.

Last week, the Obama administration announced their plan to revive their latent efforts in taking India to task over their subsidized domestic solar industry. Via Reuters:

The United States on Monday said it would take India to the World Trade Organization to gain a bigger foothold for U.S. manufacturers in its fast-growing solar products market, adding another irritant to an already strained relationship.

The Obama administration said it was filing its second case at the WTO over the domestic content requirements in India’s massive solar program, which aims to ease chronic energy shortages in Asia’s third-largest economy.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said making Indian solar developers use locally made equipment discriminated against U.S. producers and could hinder the spread of solar power.

“Domestic content requirements detract from successful cooperation on clean energy and actually impede India’s deployment of solar energy by raising its cost,” Froman said.

In other words, the Obama administration really wants India to open up their solar-panel market to more imports (in meeting their new renewables targets, India requires that 50 percent of the requisite solar panels are manufactured domestically) — specifically, to open up their market to more imports from the United States. After all, free trade is absolutely not a zero-sum game, and opening up markets to the widest array of competition possible is a mutually beneficial practice that enriches everyone involved. Buying cheaper solar panels from the U.S. would help you keep your costs down, so what’s your deal, India?

Huh. Funny they should mention that.

The Obama administration is simultaneously threatening to slap further import duties on solar products from China, as well as other goods, if China doesn’t stop trying to pull a run-around on the duties the Obama administration previously imposed by manufacturing solar panels with cells made in Taiwan. The United States is upset, and I quote, that China’s solar panels are still “too cheap.” …But didn’t you just say…? Via Reuters:

China urged the United States on Monday to “objectively and fairly” handle an ongoing trade dispute between the two countries after Washington signaled last week it could extend import duties on Chinese solar panels to a wider range of products.

The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled on Friday that Chinese solar panels made with cells manufactured in Taiwan may harm the American solar industry, bringing it closer to adding to the duties it slapped on products from China in 2012.

The U.S. arm of German solar manufacturer SolarWorld AG had complained that Chinese manufacturers are sidestepping the duties by shifting production of the cells used to make their panels to Taiwan and continuing to flood the U.S. market with cheap products. …

China has retaliated by introducing anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on imports of U.S. polysilicon, the key raw material in solar cells.

But, but, but — the Obama administration will sputter in lame defense — China so heavily subsidizes their domestic solar industry, the United States obviously needs to impose more tariffs in order to compensate for that heavy subsidization. …I.e., protectionism. I.e., the exact same thing of which the Obama administration is accusing India in trying to get them to buy our own heavily subsidized solar panels. American solar installation companies are actually upset with the administration’s move to slap new duties on Taiwanese-manufactured components, because they rely on cheap Asian manufacturers to help keep the price of solar arrays low — which is the precise argument the United States is using to try to convince India to import more.

Can the Obama administration hear itself?


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Duh! Oh!
Bishop/

LeftCoastRight on February 19, 2014 at 1:25 PM

If someone invented a free electricity generating perpetual motion machine Pharaoh would oppose it

ConstantineXI on February 19, 2014 at 1:29 PM

I loathe obaka….

ladyingray on February 19, 2014 at 1:33 PM

If someone invented a free electricity generating perpetual motion machine Pharaoh would oppose it
ConstantineXI on February 19, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Well, maybe not directly oppose. But before it could be used, it would need a full-on State Department environmental impact study, that would drag on until… oh… 2017. Or later.

Marcola on February 19, 2014 at 1:36 PM

Whatever they accuse someone of, you know they themselves are doing it.

Flange on February 19, 2014 at 1:41 PM

Is US Solar Manufacturing really worth protecting? If China wants to foot the bill to make Solar power more economically feasible for all the other countries in the world, why wouldn’t we let them?

CaptainJack on February 19, 2014 at 1:42 PM

Being stupid should be painful, very painful, that way people would try really hard not be stupid.

Johnnyreb on February 19, 2014 at 1:42 PM

This should help lift Solyndra’s profits and stock value…..

dentarthurdent on February 19, 2014 at 1:43 PM

This is all about rewarding democratic donors.

The entire progressive green energy initiative is about putting loyal progressives in charge of ostensibly private business and insuring they receive massive government subsidies, which they can then return in the form of political donations. It’s progressive money-laundering with taxpayer money.

BKeyser on February 19, 2014 at 1:44 PM

This is the problem with principleless government. Me, thee, them – there’s no guidance applicable to everyone, simply make it up as you go along to get more, more, more.

GWB on February 19, 2014 at 1:45 PM

Nice country you got here India, be a shame if the Chinese attacked and we stayed home….

itsspideyman on February 19, 2014 at 1:48 PM

Barack always talks out of both sides of his mouth,nothing to see here ….move along.

tim c on February 19, 2014 at 1:49 PM

Hey, it’s so totally not the same thing because, shut up you racist!

rbj on February 19, 2014 at 1:51 PM

Sadly — mind-blowingly, even — this is real life. Stay with me here

…I CAN’T…I’m ready to puke chunks!…and the MSM are all crickets!

KOOLAID2 on February 19, 2014 at 1:52 PM

@Johnnyreb

What you speak of already exists in theory. It’s called survival of the fittest. You can see it in action. Ignorant and stupid policies often create failure. The ACA, Detroit, and EVERY communistic government. Darwin’s Theories in action.

It’s not painful per say, but failure is very taxing. I believe it’s why you see progressives often lash out at others.

TexasJack on February 19, 2014 at 1:54 PM

It’s probably best to ignore anything these morons say. It’s always just talk and nobody listens.

crankyoldlady on February 19, 2014 at 2:00 PM

We could use a Hank Reardon businessman now.

kirkill on February 19, 2014 at 2:05 PM

And then throw into the story the bit from Ace of Spades about how desperately needed road salt can’t be brought from Maine to New Jersey except in a U.S.-flagged vessel, of which there apparently isn’t one. And the Feds won’t issue a waiver because Protectionism! America! Jeez, one despairs.

Surellin on February 19, 2014 at 2:15 PM

Same old thing; change the topic, the theme remains the same.

Midas on February 19, 2014 at 2:21 PM

If someone invented a free electricity generating perpetual motion machine Pharaoh would oppose it
ConstantineXI on February 19, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Only long enough to find a suitable crony/donor, fund a startup for them, steal the technology, and gush taxpayer funds at them while they squash the actual inventor, all resulting in lots of those taxpayer funds being redirected right back to the correct folks as campaign donations and somehow enriching the politicians personally, of course.

Midas on February 19, 2014 at 2:27 PM

Nothing new here. King Barack just talking out of both sides of his mouth………again.

GarandFan on February 19, 2014 at 2:32 PM

Is US Solar Manufacturing really worth protecting? If China wants to foot the bill to make Solar power more economically feasible for all the other countries in the world, why wouldn’t we let them?

CaptainJack on February 19, 2014 at 1:42 PM

This is a very narrow view of a complicated situation. What is at stake here isn’t the Solar Panel Industry, what is at stake is the entire Semiconductor Industry. The full ramifications of actions taken by the Clinton Administration are just now starting to be felt.

In 1998, the Clinton Administration directed the EPA to close down Molycorp, in Mountain Pass California. Molycorp controlled and dominated the worlds Rare Earth Elements market. China now controls the Rare Earth Elements market, thanks to the Clinton Administration.

To make this 100 percent clear… No Rare Earth Metals equals No Semiconductor industry. No semiconductor Industry equals no computer technology, no cell phones and no solar panels.

Over the last decade and a half, all American silicone wafer/semiconductor substrate manufacturing capacity has left America. We are dependent on foreign wafer/semiconductor substrate manufacturing for what remains of our semiconductor Industry.

What the EPA did at the direction of the Clinton Administration amounted to nothing less than treason against America’s National Security Interests.

The reason that China so heavily subsidies the Solar Panel Industry, is because Solar Panels are silicone based Rare Earth Element products. A robust American Solar Panel Industry would require an increased supply of Rare Earth Elements, and a resurgence of the role played in that market by a once again operating Molycorp.

While seemingly contradictory in their approach to India’s role in the Solar Panel Market, the Obama Administration is in fact sabotaging the American Solar Panel Industry in order to prevent a resurgence of the American Rare Earth Element Market.

A resurgence of the American Rare Earth Element Market would result in a return to America of the silicone wafer/semiconductor substrate manufacturing Industry.

This would once again give America a very significant military advantage in that American made semiconductors would no longer be in the hands of foreign countries who would no longer have the ability to embed hardware level Stuxnet type coding in the chips the American Military uses in all of America’s military hardware.

This is really what is at stake here, not solar panels in and of themselves.

oscarwilde on February 19, 2014 at 2:35 PM

After all, free trade is absolutely not a zero-sum game, and opening up markets to the widest array of competition possible is a mutually beneficial practice that enriches everyone involved.

The problem here is that the people doing the “thinking” only understand zero-sum games. They expect to win only when someone else loses and do not understand basic economics.

DublOh7 on February 19, 2014 at 2:46 PM

Gee, if only Iran were making solar panels…

bgoldman on February 19, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Obama has so many lies floating out there he cannot keep them straight.

albill on February 19, 2014 at 3:39 PM

Back in 2007 and 2008, the “stupid cowboy” (former President G.W. Bush) was trying to form a trade pact and strategic alliance with India, which happens to be the most populous democracy in the world. But “Smart Power” knows better, and wants to pick a fight with India over solar panels.

If we want to improve our trade situation with India, I’ve got a better idea: Reduce the ethanol mandate in gasoline, and sell corn to the Indians.

Steve Z on February 19, 2014 at 3:40 PM

We could use a Hank Reardon businessman now.

kirkill on February 19, 2014 at 2:05 PM

You got it kirkill, and one who can passionately expound on capitalism’s virtues.

itsspideyman on February 19, 2014 at 4:33 PM

Well, at least they’re consistent….

…ly stupid.

xNavigator on February 19, 2014 at 5:44 PM