Trump's 30% solar tariff takes 1st casualty: SunPower has put a hold on a $20 million expansion

Trump's 30% solar tariff takes 1st casualty: SunPower has put a hold on a $20 million expansion

SunPower Corp., a San Jose, California-based company that makes high-efficiency solar panels mostly in Mexico and the Philippines, announced late Thursday that it will hold off on a $20 million factory expansion that would employ hundreds of people in the United States unless it is exempted from the Trump regime’s 30 percent tariff on solar cells and solar panels.

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The tariff takes effect on Feb. 7. The Solar Energy Industries Association has calculated that it will cost 23,000 solar-related U.S. jobs in its first year. The tariff will be reduced at the rate of 5 percent a year for four years. Supporters of the tariff—including the two foreign-controlled cell- and panel-making companies that made the complaint to the International Trade Commission which led to the it—have argued that imposing the duty would spur creation of solar manufacturing jobs in the United States.

The two-facedness of the Trump regime in this matter would be stunning except that it is the Trump regime. In May, the White House released documents that showed cuts in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to just $636 million in new funding compared with a budget allocation of $ 2.07 billion in 2017. If you don’t have your calculator handy, that’s a decline of more than 69 percent. The idea that the Trump team cares about solar jobs is ludicrous.

Nichola Groom at Reuters reports:

SunPower has argued that its premium-priced panels, which are among the most efficient in the industry at transforming sunlight into electricity, should receive an exemption from the tariffs because their unique technology cannot be compared with that of more conventional models, including those made by the companies that sought the tariffs, Suniva and SolarWorld.

“We have to stop the $20 million investment because the tariffs start before we know if we’re excluded,” Werner said. “It’s not hypothetical. These were positions that we were recruiting for that we are going to stop.”

That investment would create “hundreds” of jobs at SunPower facilities in California and Texas, Werner said. They would include jobs in research and development, manufacturing and sales and would be focused on the company’s next-generation cell technology.

Important matters of trade fairness on a broad range of products exist between China and the United States, and China and Europe. Many U.S. manufacturing jobs have been lost over the past decade to China with its lower labor costs and extremely lax environmental laws. But the imposition of the solar tariff is a counterproductive approach not unlike the steel tariff imposed in 2002 by President George Bush that cost many thousands of U.S. jobs.