The Obama administration called Thursday for hefty tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels and cells, arguing China has been illegally "dumping" under-priced products on the U.S. market.The preliminary ruling by the U.S. Department of Commerce seeks tariffs ranging from 31 percent to 250 percent on solar products imported from China. A final decision is expected later this year, according to USA Today.
The trade case has divided the U.S. solar industry. Some manufacturers say China's subsidies have made it difficult for them to compete, causing several bankruptcies such as Solyndra's. Other U.S. solar companies say tariffs could hike solar panel prices, inflame trade tensions and stunt the industry's growth.
Commerce's ruling "is a bellwether decision," Steve Ostrenga, chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based Helios Solar Works, said in a statement. "It underscores the importance of domestic manufacturing to the U.S. economy and will help determine whether the country will be a global competitor in clean technologies or outsource them China. It is also critically important for thousands of U.S. workers."
Other U.S. solar companies said they would push for much lower tariffs. They argue most solar-industry jobs are in sales, marketing, design, installation, engineering and maintenance of solar projects and higher solar prices could result in layoffs.
"This decision will increase solar electricity prices in the U.S. precisely at the moment solar power is becoming competitive with fossil fuel generated electricity," Jigar Shah, the president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, which opposes the tariffs, said in a statement.
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