Bipartisan Senators Urge Biden to Increase Tariffs on Chinese Solar Panels

A bipartisan group of four senators, led by two Democrats from Georgia, have requested President Joe Biden increase tariffs on Chinese solar panels, asserting that the market will become oversaturated without substantial change.

The Jan. 26 letter was sent by Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and co-signed by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who is in a tough reelection fight, as well as Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), and urged the president to “increase and enforce tariffs on solar module, cell, and wafer imports from China under the authority granted in Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.”

Specifically, the lawmakers take issue with the key elements of one of President Biden’s proposals for his reelection campaign, which is that his economic policies have started to reshape the energy economy of the United States while simultaneously tackling climate change.

“China’s aggressive subsidies for its own solar manufacturing industry demonstrate its intent to control the industry globally,” the senators said in their letter. “By 2026, China will have enough capacity to meet annual global demand for the next ten years. This capacity is an existential threat to the U.S. solar industry and American energy security.”

Georgia has recently benefited from advantageous tax laws that have prompted investments in new solar panel and electric vehicle battery installations, and these investments have contributed to the state’s economic growth.

However, according to the lawmakers, Beijing’s policies have kept pace with even larger industrial subsidies, which have decreased the price of Chinese solar panels and posed a threat to the American industry, which is still in its infancy.

“In 2023, the price of a solar panel manufactured in China dropped to 15 cents per watt, more than 60 [percent] below the price of a U.S.-made panel,” the letter says. “These heavily subsidized and artificially low prices put U.S. solar manufacturers at an extreme disadvantage during a critical turning point in the development of the domestic solar manufacturing industry.”

In their letter, the lawmakers push the Biden administration to impose more penalties via the tariffs to “avoid dire consequences not only for our economic and national security, but also for the thousands of workers employed by these manufacturers.”

“We must not allow China to destroy U.S. manufacturing and control this strategic energy sector. Therefore, as you continue your Section 301 review, we urge you to increase and enforce tariffs on these Chinese solar products that threaten U.S. economic and energy security,” the letter reads.

Additionally, previous questions have been raised by advocacy groups about the importation of solar panels. There are a number of solar companies that continue to directly or indirectly source materials from Xinjiang in China despite the region being known for human rights abuses like forced labor.

Xinjiang is a key source of polysilicon, an ingredient in solar panels, and the solar industry’s ties to the region have drawn criticism. Around one-third of the world’s polysilicon and the metallurgical-grade silicon required to manufacture it comes from just one area.

A number of labor organizations have recently petitioned the Biden administration to ban solar items made in Xinjiang on the grounds that they violate human rights. A report from Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) in England was released in the summer of 2023, stating that Xinjiang is still exposed to most solar modules made worldwide.

The report looked at the world’s top five solar panel manufacturers and branched out to some of the smaller brands.

Of those 10 solar manufacturers assessed in the report, most had a “high” or “very high” risk of exposure to Xinjiang inputs, indicating a likely contribution to manufacturing by slave labor.

The White House did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.

Naveen Athrappully contributed to this report.

 

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