China threatens US solar exports

China delivered another jab Friday to the Obama administration in an escalating battle over solar power manufacturing practices.

China’s trade ministry said that it would investigate U.S. solar-grade polysilicon on anti-dumping and anti-subsidy grounds, Reuters reported. The move is the latest in a series of tit-for-tat measures between China and the United States regarding solar power.

ADVERTISEMENT
Obama has political capital invested in the fight. He blamed California solar panel maker Solyndra’s bankruptcy partly on a flood of cheap Chinese solar panels entering the market.

“Obviously, we wish Solyndra hadn’t gone bankrupt,” Obama said in March. “Part of the reason they did was the Chinese were subsidizing their solar industry and flooding the market in ways that Solyndra could not compete.”

The Chinese government heavily subsidizes solar panel makers through cheap credit under a state-centric economic policy that picks winners, Western solar companies have charged. 

The Commerce Department in June slapped a 31 percent tariff on all Chinese solar panel imports, one of the highest tariffs in U.S. history.


Rhone Resch, president and CEO of solar lobby group the Solar Energy Industries Association, urged dialogue between the U.S. and China. Continued volleys from each side will have a negative impact on the solar industry, he said Friday in a statement.

"Unfortunately, these investigations will have an immediate, adverse impact on U.S. polysilicon manufacturers, regardless of the investigations’ outcome," Resch said.


Republicans quickly turned Solyndra, which secured a $535 million loan guarantee from the federal government, into a symbol for Obama’s green jobs initiative. Last week, House GOP energy leaders introduced a bill called “No More Solyndras” that would sunset the program that furnished the firm with the loan guarantee. 

Employing the issue as an election-year rallying cry, Republicans have seized on Solyndra and a handful of other clean-energy firms that failed after getting federal loan guarantees. They say Obama has refused to expand oil and gas drilling that they say would revive the economy because he wants to advance a “green jobs agenda.”