Senators ask Biden administration to increase tariffs on Chinese solar panel products

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Three Senate Democrats joined Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) Tuesday to call for increased tariffs on imported Chinese solar panel components. 

Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rubio specifically asked President Biden to hike the duties on the modules, cells and wafers used in panel production, arguing Chinese products are undercutting the American solar industry.

The senators cited a 2023 study indicating Chinese-made panels are as low as 15 cents a watt, less than half that of a panel produced in the U.S.

“By 2026, China will have enough capacity to meet annual global demand for the next ten years,” the quartet wrote. “This capacity is an existential threat to the U.S. solar industry and American energy security.”

The Biden administration has set ambitious goals for renewable energy development and specifically promoting domestic development and deployment, with the White House presenting the transition as a major job creator. However, much of the existing supply chain for solar power is dominated by China or subsidiaries of Chinese companies.

Last year, Biden paused tariffs on the solar imports for two years, leading to a bipartisan Congressional Review Act resolution ending the pause — which the president went on to veto. Brown was among the votes for the resolution. 

Georgia in particular has seen a solar manufacturing boom under Biden, and an Ossoff-written solar tax credit was part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Recent polling shows Biden trailing former President Trump — seen as his likely challenger in the November election — in the state, despite his victory there in 2020, at a time when the White House has touted Biden’s economic policies as part of his reelection message.

The letter also puts the senators at odds with a coalition of Democrats in the western U.S., where solar is a major industry that trade associations have said cannot survive a tariff crackdown.

The Commerce Department in 2022 announced an investigation into eight solar panel component manufacturers in southeast Asia on suspicion of circumventing Chinese tariffs, eventually making a preliminary determination that five of the companies engaged in circumvention.

The solar energy industry sharply opposed the investigation, as did western Democrats led by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), who said it would “directly affect our nation’s solar economy.” 

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.

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