More shots fired in the ongoing solar-powered trade dispute between China and the U.S.

posted at 8:41 pm on June 3, 2014 by Erika Johnsen

The United States, the European Union, and China have been caught up in a trade-war-triangle for at least the past couple of years over, apparently, who is “fairly” subsidizing their domestic solar manufacturing industry, and who isn’t. I must confess, I rather fail to see the distinction between the myriad cash grants, loan guarantees, tax credits, and portfolio standards that both China and the U.S. offer the solar industry at various levels of production and installation — but I suppose we’re meant to believe that there is one, since the Obama administration just imposed further duties on our Eastern competitor’s solar market, via Reuters:

The United States slapped new import duties on solar panels and other related products from China on Tuesday after the Commerce department ruled they were produced using Chinese government subsidies, potentially inflaming trade tensions between the two countries.

The U.S. arm of German solar manufacturer SolarWorld AG filed a petition complaining that Chinese manufacturers are sidestepping duties imposed in 2012 by shifting production of the cells used to make their panels to Taiwan and continuing to flood the U.S. market with cheap products.

The new complaint seeks to close that loophole by extending import duties to also cover panels made with parts from Taiwan.

In a preliminary determination, the Commerce department imposed duties of 35.21 percent on imports of panels and other products made by Wuxi Suntech Power and five other affiliated companies, 18.56 percent on imports of Trina Solar and 26.89 percent on imports from other Chinese producers.

Oh, good grief. Protectionism, which happens to be yet another form of special treatment for domestic solar panel manufacturers, is never a good idea, but neither is the subsidization that just keeps on escalating this travesty of free trade. Subsidization is a really great way to discourage the kind of price efficiency and innovation that can actually help newer, less established technologies gain their own competitive merits — which is probably one of the reasons why China’s solar-panel market is a hot mess of over-supply, corner-cutting, poor quality, and environmental self-defeat, via the NYT:

Although China may be a cheaper place than Europe for producing solar panels, the savings come at a higher cost to the environment, a new study says.

Weaker environmental standards and the more highly polluting sources of energy used by Chinese manufacturers are the reasons for the discrepancy, according to research by Northwestern University and the United States Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. …

The environmental cost of Chinese- made solar panels is about twice that of those made in Europe, said Fengqi You, a corresponding author of the paper, which will be published in next month’s issue of the journal Solar Energy.

‘‘While it might be an economically attractive option to move solar panel manufacturing from Europe to China, it is actually less sustainable from the life cycle energy and environmental perspective — especially under the motivation of using solar panels for a more sustainable future,’’ Dr. You, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern, said in a news release last week from the Argonne National Laboratory.


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Although China may be a cheaper place than Europe for producing solar panels, the savings come at a higher cost to the environment, a new study says.

You mean solar panels aren’t made of pixie dust and pleasant daydreams? There’s actually toxic chemicals involved in their manufacture?

But..u..u…utopia!

Bishop on June 3, 2014 at 8:46 PM

Here’s a novel idea: how about no subsidies, tax credits or grants. A simple low tax that applies to all.

rbj on June 3, 2014 at 8:47 PM

0Solar

Bmore on June 3, 2014 at 8:48 PM

shots fired

Who do you think you are? Sarah Palin?

faraway on June 3, 2014 at 8:53 PM

Here’s a novel idea: how about no subsidies, tax credits or grants. A simple low tax that applies to all.

rbj on June 3, 2014 at 8:47 PM

Here’s an even more novel one. If “enlightened” types want Holy Wind and Holy Sun so damned bad, and are so convinced that they are The Way Of The Future, let them bankroll it.

They supply the land.

They pay for the construction and maintenance.

They sell the kWh they generate to the utilities, and pay the adjustment fees for load fluctuations.

They’re so eager to launch “alternative energy initiatives”, I’d think they’d jump at the chance,. It would be their best opportunity to prove that their vision really works, and creates jobs as they keep claiming they will.

Ones like Steyer can’t even claim they can’t afford it. And for the rest, they’re all about “communitarianism”- let them form a co-op.

The fact that there is not one chance in Hell of any of them doing any of the above tells me that they don’t seriously believe their own rhetoric. They just want to abolish civilization, and this is just one more weapon for them to use against same.

And to make the rest of us foot the bill.

clear ether

eon

eon on June 3, 2014 at 8:57 PM

Protectionism, which happens to be yet another form of special treatment for domestic solar panel manufacturers, is never a good idea

I love measured statements that include “never” or “always.” I’d say it’s always a good idea to be cautious when using never or always, lol. I’d also say the average American worker would like to have a word with you about protectionism and how difficult he/she is finding it competing with the wages of third-world workers.

But, you know, because globalization! Because free trade! Because screw decent wages! Because corporate profits and stock valuations!

xNavigator on June 3, 2014 at 8:58 PM

Excellent, eon

rbj on June 3, 2014 at 9:00 PM

If solar power can’t make it on it’s own merit in the free market, buy it a tombstone, don’t fund it with funny money. If you take that tack though you have to either bar imports or put a tariff on them to level the playing field.

I worked in Florida a million years ago pre-stressing concrete forms. Ever piece of chinese cable snapped on us, nearly killing a few guys that were in it’s way when it came rifling out of the blocks. I wonder how many homes and businesses will burn down because of subsidized solar panels from overseas being as crappy as chinese steel.

What is it going to take to get the corruption out of government run trade? (yeah, I know, silly question.)

Diluculo on June 3, 2014 at 9:12 PM

Greenies aren’t really concerned about outcomes, they only want to see solar panels on every roof. No worries as to how they got there.

GarandFan on June 3, 2014 at 9:16 PM

More shots fired in the ongoing solar-powered trade dispute between China and the U.S.

…skeet gun?

KOOLAID2 on June 3, 2014 at 9:25 PM

Solar and wind energy are a huge joke. They will never be a significant part of the energy supply barring major technological breakthroughs – but all we are doing now is subsidizing old inefficient technology.

»»««

I never understand the objection to “dumping” – if someone wants to sell us their surplus product at less than the cost of production, we should encourage it. The only exception would be if it were an attempt to damage a key industry.

But our “green” sector is just a sucking vortex of tax money. The country would be better off if they all closed tomorrow.

Adjoran on June 3, 2014 at 10:56 PM

I never understand the objection to “dumping” – if someone wants to sell us their surplus product at less than the cost of production, we should encourage it. The only exception would be if it were an attempt to damage a key industry.

You DO understand the objection to ‘dumping.’ You answered it above; it damages industries and harms American workers, neither of whom can compete in a market rigged by foreign firms and their governments.

xNavigator on June 3, 2014 at 11:57 PM

plus, china’s solar panels are crap

tlynch001 on June 4, 2014 at 12:30 AM

Now, if the Chinese would stop ‘dumping’ their excess population here.

vnvet on June 4, 2014 at 8:56 AM

Subsidizing the Chinese government at the expense of American oil and gas jobs. Great job Obama.
He cares more about their economy than he does ours.

djaymick on June 4, 2014 at 9:35 AM

To recap:

It is veryvery important that Americans get the maximum power possible from solar panels. However, it is also veryvery important that the maximum possible number of those solar panels be manufactured in the United States by American workers.

Since the Chinese manufacture solar panels more cheaply than Americans and are willing to subsidize them to boot, we can conclude:

It is veryvery important that tariffs be raised on Chinese panels and the manufacture of American panels be subsidized. Therefore:

It is veryveryvery important that Americans pay more for an inefficient and unreliable energy source than could possibly be justified by any rational person. But it can be justified by Obama. All hail the Lightbringer!

wagnert in atlanta on June 4, 2014 at 4:08 PM