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

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WASHINGTON, DC — Some of the measures the Biden administration announced Monday to encourage wider adoption of solar power will benefit China’s state-subsidized solar industry, advocates for building more solar panels in Ohio said Monday.

The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it would authorize use of the Defense Production Act (DPA) to accelerate domestic production of clean energy technologies, including parts of solar panels. 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 US Commerce Department was examining whether Chinese solar manufacturing companies had shifted production to other Southeast Asian countries 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 manufactures solar panels in Perrysburg, Ohio, said the company was “deeply disappointed by today’s announcement.”

“Today’s proclamation directly undermines American solar production by giving China’s state-subsidized solar companies unrestricted access for the next two years,” Samantha Sloan, the company’s vice president of policy, 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 are backed by deep political pressures.”

Sloan’s statement also called the government’s use of the Defense Production Act to encourage solar production “an ineffective use of taxpayers’ money and far short of a sustainable solar industry policy.”

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

Toledo MP Marcy Kaptur also criticized the tariff decision.

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

US Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who served as US Trade Representative during the administration of President George W. Bush, released its own statement on Twitter to criticize the decision.

“The administration’s announcement of lifting tariffs on imports of solar panels from China is the wrong policy at the wrong time,” Portman said. “This rewards the CCP for its unfair trade practices, does not hold it accountable for its human rights abuses, and will not spur economic growth.”

In an interview with Fox News, Portman said US solar panel makers like First Solar told him they had trouble competing with Chinese products because they didn’t play by the rules.

“We don’t want our economy to depend on China for anything again, and right now it’s moving there in terms of solar panels,” Portman said.

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

“Previously announced solar manufacturing expansions since the beginning of the Biden-Harris administration will triple US capacity to manufacture the solar panels we need to quickly achieve true energy independence,” the statement said. “We have urged the administration to quickly resolve the uncertainty for the solar industry caused by a Department of Commerce trade investigation and are pleased with today’s announcement.”

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