The Sunvia trade petition, which SolarWorld supported earlier this year, could upend the US solar industry and the hundreds of thousand of jobs it now supports. Now, a coalition of conservative groups, The Energy Trade Action Coalition (ETAC), have joined the fight against the trade petition, arguing that the free market should be allowed to work.
“Voluntary free trade is always a good thing. And it's a good thing for every consumer; not just a few individuals or companies,” said Eli Lehrer, president of the R Street Institute, and an ETAC member. “The solar case is an example of the worst kind of trade protectionism. We're delighted to stand for freedom and free markets.”
At the heart of the issue for the organizations and companies in ETAC, are the trade issues that the Suniva Section 201 “Petition for Global Safeguard Relief – Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaic Cells and Modules” brings up. Beyond R Street other ETAC members include The Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Precision Metalforming Association and Johnson Controls. It’s an interesting move for ALEC and the Heritage Foundation, both of which have previously opposed the growth of solar power.
However, in the recent past other conservative groups have supported solar and renewable energy. For instance, the Climate Leadership Council introduced The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends earlier this year. Previously Barry Goldwater Jr. championed TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar won't be Killed) in Arizona to support the rooftop solar industry there.
“Protectionism is never the solution for an inability to compete globally,” said Bill Gaskin, former President of the Precision Metalforming Association. “Our country’s trade laws should never be co-opted into causing widespread pain for the broader U.S. economy.”
The petition, which the International Trade Commission (ITC) is reviewing, wants to impose a 40 cents per watt tariff on solar cells made outside the US, as well as a base price of 78 cents per watt on foreign-made solar panels. ETAC said that would double the price for most solar panel components. It also would put at risk the jobs of many of the 260,000 solar power workers in the US by making solar power less competitive and attractive with other sources of power.
“Tariffs meant to protect one industry can, and often do, have significant damaging effects on other domestic industries,” observed Tori Whiting, a research associate at The Heritage Foundation. “Imposing tariffs under Section 201, as Suniva and SolarWorld request, would be a step backward by adding another layer of federal subsidies which is something the Heritage Foundation opposes in all instances.”
The organization said it will engage with the Trump Administration as well Congress and the media to raise awareness of the trade case and support free trade and solar industry jobs in the US. The ITC is set to make its determinations and recommendations to Trump on Nov. 13. Trump can then decide whether or not to impose tariffs on the solar cell imports.Tweet