Lawmaker urges action against solar panel imports

Oct 14, 2011 Issues: Trade

The United States must take action against unfairly subsidized solar panel imports from China and other suppliers that threaten the future of U.S. producers, a senior congressional Democrat said on Friday.

"There has to be action taken on solar," Representative Sander Levin said at a news conference to call for a vote on legislation aimed at China's currency practices.

The U.S. solar industry has been hit hard by competition from China and other countries, which offer cheap financing and forms of subsidy to support the sector.

Last month, U.S. solar panel maker Solyndra filed for bankruptcy, burdened with $783 million of secured debt and squeezed by falling prices for solar panels caused by an industry glut.

Its downfall has become a political embarrassment for the Obama administration, which had promoted it as an example of how it planned to spur development in clean energy technology and provided a government guarantee on a $535 million that Solyndra has said it may not repay in full.

Levin, who met with solar industry representatives earlier on Friday, warned that without government intervention there could be no American-made solar panels within five years.
Levin, a senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, told reporters one option would be to impose "safeguard" tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels, similar to duties President Barack Obama placed on Chinese-made tires.

However, Levin said he was also concerned about government subsidies that South Korean and other producers receive, which suggests a broader approach could be required.

Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, has also pressed the Obama administration to take action against unfair trade in solar panel imports, either through the World Trade Organization or by using U.S. anti-dumping or countervailing duty laws.