Politico: President Trump to Support US Solar Manufacturing

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

According to Politico author Emily Holden, President Trump may be on the verge of erecting trade barriers against cheap imports of Chinese solar panels, to support strategic development of domestic US solar manufacturing.

U.S. setting stage for solar trade war with China

The White House is preparing to argue that trade barriers are needed to foster solar manufacturing inside the United States.

By EMILY HOLDEN 12/15/2017

An unreleased White House document offers the strongest hint yet that the Trump administration is laying the groundwork for punitive tariffs on Chinese-made solar power equipment — a step that would promote the president’s “America First” trade agenda while sharply increasing the costs of solar power in the U.S.

The prospect of such tariffs, which President Donald Trump could announce in January, has deeply alarmed the U.S. solar installation industry. It warns that it could lose tens of thousands of jobs if the cost of solar spikes, slowing the booming growth that sun-powered energy enjoyed during the Obama administration.

But the White House is preparing to argue that trade barriers are needed to foster solar manufacturing inside the United States, something it calls important to both national security and the economy, according to a document draft obtained by POLITICO. The paper argues that cheap solar imports allow China to unfairly profit from Americans’ use of renewable power and gain influence in the developing world’s energy infrastructure.

Suniva, which is majority owned by a Chinese investor and is in bankruptcy, and SolarWorld, whose German parent in also in bankruptcy, say the flood of solar cells and panels from factories across Asia that are owned by Chinese companies has driven prices too low for them to compete.

Suniva spokesman Mark Paustenbach welcomed the White House’s approach.

“Suniva applauds the Trump Administration for championing American manufacturing in the face of cheating by China and its proxies who want to kill American jobs and make America dependent on China for its energy and security needs,” he said in a statement Friday.

Read more: https://www.politico.com/story/2017/12/15/trump-solar-power-china-trade-barriers-230854

This is not the first time WUWT has reported on this ongoing farce.

As far as I can tell, President Trump is being asked to decide who wins what amounts to a proxy war between different Chinese investors – or maybe the same Chinese investors playing both sides, its difficult to tell.

If President Trump supports US domestic solar manufacturing, manufacturing jobs will be stimulated but prices will rise, which will likely cause a drop-off in solar installation work.

IF President Trump allows cheap Chinese imports to continue, already bankrupt US solar manufacturers will be obliterated, but installation jobs will benefit.

There is a question nobody seems to be asking. Why are the Chinese so easily able to undercut US solar manufacturers? Are the Chinese simply better at manufacturing solar panels, or is there some hidden difficulty such as higher electricity costs which is making it impossible for US solar manufacturers to compete?

Perhaps the real solution is to identify and fix the problem which is preventing US based manufacturers from competing.

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Mark from the Midwest
December 18, 2017 4:12 am

First, if your going to pick a sector for a trade war this is ideal, the markets don’t function efficiently for renewables so why not go to war on a one-off. Second, there are plenty of reasons that China can undercut U.S. manufacturers, the least not being the fact that building solar panels is very ecologically “dirty” and the Chinese are not concerned about the externality of the process.

Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
December 18, 2017 5:33 am

That’s probably most of it…..

Bryan A
Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
December 18, 2017 5:34 am

Another major factor in the cost of Chinese Solar Panels is the cost of manufacturing borne by worker salary. Chinese workers are paid basically Pennies on the Dollar value that Americans earn for the same work.

Reply to  Bryan A
December 18, 2017 6:03 am

“Pennies on the Dollar” is not true anymore, unless you talk in tens of pennies. But this obviously still make huge difference

Bryan A
Reply to  Bryan A
December 18, 2017 10:14 am

more like 10 pennies on the dollar
Chinese manufacturing workers make 59,470 CNY Yuan per year averaage
At 6.6Y-1$, that equates to $9,010 per year or around $2.50 per hour given they aren’t on 8 hour a day 40 hours per week schedule.
Given that American Manufacturing jobs average around $21 – $25 per hour, $2.50 is 10 pennies on the dollar

Reply to  Bryan A
December 18, 2017 10:35 am

Good thing 59k Yuan buys a lot of fish heads for the communal pot of soup. But don’t expect to buy iPhones and iPads for that salary

Reply to  Bryan A
December 18, 2017 6:33 pm

Why should US workers have to compete against third world labor and maybe prison labor.

Reply to  Bryan A
December 19, 2017 3:38 am

“Why should US workers have to compete against third world labor and maybe prison labor.”
Why not? For a couple of centuries, they did, and did well. And, actually, they still do… trouble is, “third world labor” is not anymore the crap it used to be. They learn, they import machines.

Reply to  Bryan A
December 19, 2017 3:55 pm

“Good thing 59k Yuan buys a lot of fish heads for the communal pot of soup. But don’t expect to buy iPhones and iPads for that salary”

Not necessarily so , there may still be a market at the marginal cost of production. The same cigarettes costs $2.00 a packet in some markets and $35 in another. The cigarette company makes a profit in both places.

Brian McCain
Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
December 18, 2017 6:06 am

Another reason is that the Chinese government pays a 14 or 16% rebate back directly to the manufacturer on all exports. Not sure how it is paid for.

Saw it in action when working as a supplier for a Chinese refrigerator manufacturer. The American employees of that company explained it to me when it was evident they were selling products at 10% below their cost to manufacture.

Reply to  Brian McCain
December 18, 2017 8:33 am

If the Chinese government can be shown to be providing direct subsidies or reimbursements then WTO rules could be invoked. The US could seek redress through the international courts, making tit for tat retaliation both unnecessary as well as unproductive.

Roger Knights
Reply to  Brian McCain
December 18, 2017 6:59 pm

That U.S. is taking some action against foreign fridge imports, though I forget the details.

Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
December 18, 2017 6:30 am

I think you hit the nail on the head with “if you are going to pick a sector for a trade war this is ideal”

Nothing about our relationship with China can be considered without referring to the North Korean situation. Trump is trying to put pressure on China to help, and China has been slightly helpful, but not very. So by spotlighting the solar industry, Trump has picked a sector in which he can put pressure on the Chinese financially, but which he can also drop quite easily if the Chinese do start to give the US more assistance in other areas.

The solar manufacturing industry is just a pawn in a much wider battle. Like a pawn, they’ll be sacrificed if it advances the larger strategic goal.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
December 18, 2017 3:32 pm

And how many labor unions are there in China?
“Right to Work” is one thing. Forced to work is another.

george e. smith
Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
December 19, 2017 12:23 pm

So what is it that is ecologically dirty about a silicon solar panel. Silicon is cheap as dirt (as an ore) so you don’t have to dig far to get all you want; the Arabs are sitting on giga-tons of silicon.

And the aluminum wiring on the silicon is also plentiful so no ecological problems given there is very little wire to begin with.


Reply to  george e. smith
December 23, 2017 9:46 am

Quick google gets an article, A Clean Energy’s Dirty Little Secret, that says solar panels create 300 times that of nuclear per unit of energy output.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/449026/solar-panel-waste-environmental-threat-clean-energy

I didn’t read any further, don’t really care to, At over 60 years of age, and having been open to a wide range of news sources, I now just assume that the unintended consequences of environmental extremist policies create a WORSE environment. I would like someone to tell me ONE counter example of this premise. In any response please note the term Extremist. Since I am conservative, I have always believed in not abusing the environment, you know, the type who picks up other peoples garbage on hikes, always disgusted when seeing rubbish on the side of the road, graffiti on buildings and highway overpasses, etc.

Classic example of conservative values vs liberal extremist values: Google Tea party aftermath and Occupy Wall Street aftermath. Who left all their garbage behind and who cleaned up after themselves?

December 18, 2017 4:17 am

“Perhaps the real solution is to identify and fix the problem which is preventing US based manufacturers from competing.”
Gee, it’s been going on for 40 years – it’s called cheap Asian labor. How you gonna fix that ? Use illegal aliens?
Solar panel subsidies are schedued to expire in the near future – those subsidies basically pay the cost of the solar panels for a typical roof and then some. Solar panel owners electric costs are being paid by their neighbors. And paying solar panel owners retail for their power in a swap, is
very much a never-ending subsidy. Grids should refuse to accept solar generated power, which is dumped onto the grid unannounced, unrequested, and uncontrolled and lowers the capacity of reliable power plants, increasing their power costs for everyone. Solar really sucks the way it is dealt with in this country. And the solar panel owners crow about how they are benefitting the country. T

Gerry Cooper
Reply to  arthur4563
December 18, 2017 4:48 am

I don’t know the manufacturing process of solar panels but surely some of it (maybe most of it) is automated and the labour impact is relatively small.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  arthur4563
December 18, 2017 5:49 am

“Perhaps the real solution is to identify and fix the problem which is preventing US based manufacturers from competing.”

That’s an easy problem to identify, …. To wit:

Wages in Manufacturing in the United States increased to $21.10 USD/Hour in November from $21.07 USD/Hour in October of 2017.

That is $21.10/hour being paid directly to the employee …… and does not include the cost of employee entitlements, government mandates, etc., etc., that employers must pay in order to remain in business, ……. thus the total CO$T per employee being in the neighborhood of $30/hour.

And that $30/hour/employee is what determines the “wholesale” cost of a solar panel. And the “retail” cost is even higher, …… like 10% to 30% higher.

And on top of that, there is the “installation” cost that the homeowner/business owner has to pay.

Reply to  arthur4563
December 18, 2017 9:33 am

“Cheap Asian labor” is but one component of a much larger set of issues. As was mentioned above, Chinese labor is not nearly as cheap as it used to be. Living standards in China have risen dramatically over the last couple of decades. Today, in absolute numbers China has a larger middle class than that of the U.S. That Chinese middle class is every bit as rich as its U.S. counterpart.

But yes, less expensive labor is a factor, just not the only one. Operational costs in the U.S. are significantly higher, with more expensive ‘green’ energy and higher corporate taxes, not to mention Government reporting requirements up the wazzo, which saps efficiency and the bottom line. But the kicker here is the western obsession over the sacrosanct minimum wage.

Proponents say that without a minimum wage it would be an economic race to the bottom in the U.S. and every other western country. But one look at China’s meteoric economic rise belies that notion.

Even if you are of the opinion that relatively low wage factory line jobs are not terribly desirable in the U.S., increasing the costs of low-skill labor only incentivizes companies to seek technology solutions that replace that labor. And one must recognize that each one of those low wage jobs will also require higher wage jobs.

Imagine that all those factories in China had been built and staffed in the U.S. instead. Imagine the infrastructure that would have been built to support those factories and the workers (both low and high wage). Imagine all the design and engineering jobs that would have been needed to build and maintain these factories and the products they manufacture. Imagine how much bigger existing businesses would have been that supported that infrastructure. Imagine that entire new markets would have been developed to cater to the large numbers of assembly line workers with inexpensive food, health care and housing, because if there’s a way to make a buck filling a need some enterprising individual will find it. Imagine what kind of tax base the U.S. would have.

That is the grand opportunity lost for the misguided want of a minimum wage. The U.S. still has its share of the desperately poor. Yet, the minimum wage has done nothing to fix that. Makes ya think huh?

Roger Knights
Reply to  arthur4563
December 18, 2017 6:57 pm

“Solar panel subsidies are schedued to expire in the near future – ”

As of today they are retained in the final GOP tax bill.

Reply to  arthur4563
December 19, 2017 1:42 am

arthur 4563

100% agree
Donald, if you are reading this PLEASE act now !

george e. smith
Reply to  arthur4563
December 19, 2017 12:33 pm

Well automation works just as well in China as in the USA.

Of course China does not have the punitive corporate taxation the USA has. US politicians have Americans believing that corporations are their worst enemies, to be taxed to the hilt.

The corporations don’t pay those taxes anyway; they simply hand it down to customers, shareholders, and employees.

Taxing corporations is akin to buying an annuity. The crook who sold you the policy in the first place took his profit right out of your pocket, instead of investing it in a gainful enterprise. So before your hand warmth has dissipated from your check, the salesman, is off looking for another chump to fleece.
Taxing corporations is like burning up the kindling wood, or cooking and eating the seed corn.


December 18, 2017 4:23 am

Chinese manufacturing has been like the wild west. Laws and regulations were regularly flouted. Nobody cared about pollution and working conditions.

The regulatory burden on American manufacturers places them at a distinct disadvantage. Petty bureaucrats are among of America’s worst enemies.

The other problem is that supply chains are increasingly centered in Asia. American manufacturers have a hard time getting parts. They might not even know who makes them because the information isn’t in English.

Exporting our manufacturing jobs to Asia was stupid in the first case. Getting them back won’t be that easy. Factories are coming back but the jobs aren’t as workers are being replaced by robots.

Reply to  commieBob
December 18, 2017 4:46 am

I wish I could find a reason and a way to believe otherwise but I don’t think there is a snowballs chance in the Okefenokee that the manufacturing that has gone offshore will ever return to the U. S. for as long as our manufacturing concerns are being loaded with the additional overhead cost of our 27,000 or so local, state and federal governments. Forget who’s paying taxes. Take the time to develop a ‘holistic’ or ‘systemic’ view of this nation that includes all of it’s dependencies along with those who are providing the material support, not just the finances using Federal Reserve fiat funny money. I think it will have to be the unburdening that will come with “R. I. P. Uncle Simple” before the country’s productive people and productive economic enterprises will have a chance to restore prosperity.

Reply to  thomasjk
December 18, 2017 4:52 am

I think Ronald Reagan was right when he said, to the effect, that “government is not the solution, government is the problem.” Nothing’s changed in the almost 40 years since he said that and any positive change that happens in the future WILL NOT be coming from Fantasyville on the Potomac. It will have to be the states — otherwise, forget about it.

Reply to  commieBob
December 18, 2017 7:34 am

“Exporting our manufacturing jobs to Asia was stupid in the first case. Getting them back won’t be that easy.” This is the answer in a nutshell. The whole Globalization narrative is nothing more than allowing China to be the new industrial center of the world. It was sold to us just like AGW is being sold. False propaganda and lies to hide the real intent which is to defeat the West economically then allow the UN to become the center of the New World Order which will be patterned after Communism/Marxism. The UN has told us this but few are listening.

Don K
Reply to  commieBob
December 18, 2017 9:02 am

Exporting our manufacturing jobs to Asia was stupid in the first case. Getting them back won’t be that easy. Factories are coming back but the jobs aren’t as workers are being replaced by robots.

Right on both counts. If you weren’t around for the debates, the free-traders, across the political spectrum assured us that losing manufacturing jobs wouldn’t be a problem because we’d create oodles of new, better, jobs to replace them. The few voices who pointed out that was unlikely — Ross Perot, Bernie Sanders, and a few others were simply ignored.

And the second point is also correct. Even if/when we get the factories back, there will be far fewer jobs associated with them. And if you think that’s a problem for the US and Canada, think about how big a problem automation is going to be for China

george e. smith
Reply to  commieBob
December 19, 2017 12:39 pm

Increasing efficiency does not create more jobs; it makes less jobs; but those might be higher skill higher paying jobs. In the future the won’t be much in the way of jobs. There will be work to do, and people will be paid to do it, but they will have to take care of their own other needs by themselves.
The “free stuff ” generation is in for a rude awakening.


Bruce Cobb
December 18, 2017 4:48 am

Honestly, if the solar industry died tomorrow, the US would be better off. In a sane world, it wouldn’t even exist. I suppose though, that one way of killing it faster is to drive up prices, which this move will do. Perhaps that is Trump’s strategy all along.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
December 18, 2017 4:57 am

There are places where solar makes economic sense. My favorite example is parking meters right in the middle of the city. It’s cheaper to power them with a small solar panel than to pay the expense of wiring them to the grid.

Reply to  commieBob
December 18, 2017 5:39 am

Yeah, there’s no reason solar should die — it should simply be limited to the small locations here and there where it actually makes sense. Everywhere else, solar should compete (and likely lose) on a level playing field. Those who buy into the environmental myth will pay whatever it takes to get it.

Let it thrive as a niche, preferably with US manufacturing.

Don K
Reply to  commieBob
December 18, 2017 8:53 am

Sure, Illuminated road work signs — e.g TRAFFIC SLOWED TO A CRAWL 9:00AM-7PM WEEKDAYS JUL7-LONGER THAN YOU CAN BELIEVE POSSIBLE — around here are powered by solar panels and batteries. When you consider the difficulty and cost of the alternatives — generator, mains hookup — solar seems a really good choice. As batteries improve, I imagine more niches for solar will open up. In a few decades, we’ll probably be using a fair amount of solar and possibly, in some places, starting to worry about how to pay the costs of maintaining the power grid from ever decreasing utility revenues. But it’ll be a while I think.

A C Osborn
Reply to  commieBob
December 18, 2017 4:13 pm

In the UK we have solar charged speed advisers, a couple of cloudy days and no advice, even 1 really overcast day can be enough for the signs to stop working.

george e. smith
Reply to  commieBob
December 19, 2017 12:43 pm

Well no need to power those parking meters at all, because I won’t be coming to where they are.
Parking meters are why online shopping was invented.
If city politicians want to keep people out of their cities and businesses, just install more parking meters.


Reply to  commieBob
December 19, 2017 4:11 pm

We live outside a major city, the road to our village leads through a national park for a about twenty minutes. Very scenic , lots of tall trees and tree fern forests. There is a solar powered warning sign leading into a problematic downhill corner that occasionally catches people out. It senses your speed and warns that you are going to fast (in the eyes of the authorities).

It is solar powered, in the middle of a forest. I imagine someone got an award for it. It works for about two weeks every year when it gets its annual service and then just sits there blank the rest of the time once the battery discharges.

Solar has its place, we use it for a couple of niche things, but you have to think about what you are doing. That last bit seems missing in the headlong rush to be seen to be doing something.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
December 18, 2017 6:17 am

I guess I meant solar power as supplied to the grid. Obviously, whatever niches it has where grid power is unavailable can make sense.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
December 18, 2017 9:04 pm

Solar power makes complete sense for hot areas with many AC units, as the electricity production goes parallel with the demand.

george e. smith
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
December 19, 2017 12:46 pm

Solar works in small remote areas where it just doesn’t make sense to run grid wires. You only need a small amount of solar either as electric or heat (for drying food for example) to make life better for many more people.


Keith J
December 18, 2017 4:55 am

The barriers are cost of doing business domestically. Corporate tax rates, labor costs and NIMBY attitudes with respect to heavy industry.

PV requires high purity silicon which starts out as metallurigurical grade. Yes, it can be done economically but with large investment. These plants must run 24/7 otherwise thermal stress drastically shortens life. This isn’t unlike a blast furnace or cement kiln. Unlike these two, demand is not certain. So a large investment for uncertain demand means little benefit.

Yes, Asia is dumping. But in the same light, domestic production must develop superior technology to create a superior product. How? Look at the largest consumer of grid power, that being HVAC and cooling side of that service. The idea of residential PV feeding grid tie Inverter is foolish when the low hanging fruit is air conditioning.

Just a modest proposal..modern ductless mini split HVAC systems utilize Inverter drive compressor motors because this varies the speed of the compressor, sizing the cooling capacity to heat gain. The compressor never shuts off, running a speed to match cooling load. This is efficiency. These systems run just fine on direct current and will run perfectly on PV arrays. It just happens the majority of heat gain happens when the sun is shining. Rooftop PV also reduces heat load through the roof. And rooftop PV could eliminate most heat gain since PV efficiency is highest at lower temperature.

Reply to  Keith J
December 18, 2017 5:47 am

What about when it’s hot at night?

Reply to  F. Leghorn
December 18, 2017 6:09 am

Well, if keep your home cool in day, that will be a lesser problem

Reply to  paqyfelyc
December 18, 2017 6:23 am

Maybe where you live. In Alabama it can be sweltering. Though if the system were cheap enough, reliable enough and would last a lot longer than the payoff, I guess I could see it helping.

Caveat emptor.

Reply to  F. Leghorn
December 19, 2017 4:14 pm

“Well, if keep your home cool in day, that will be a lesser problem” dont live in a very hot climate do you?

Reply to  yarpos
December 20, 2017 3:41 am

Not a desert like California. Hot and humid. Soft winters.

Reply to  Keith J
December 18, 2017 7:17 am

Substituting solar panel power for AC systems only when the sun is shining, then switching to grid power when it is not, is less disruptive than back-feeding unwanted solar energy at retail rates, but is still potentially disruptive. When the sun is not shining the AC will still run on the grid, adding to variability in peak demand. This could be handled via a demand pricing scheme for residential customers, but I expect that would be unpopular.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Keith J
December 18, 2017 7:33 am

A man who has never been in Dallas in August.

Stevan Reddish
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
December 18, 2017 10:23 am

PV panels are suitable for certain onsite electrical needs, only. Sites where this type of application is viable is to be determined on a sit-by-site basis. Each appropriate use would reduce loading on the power grid. This is a win-win proposition.

Why object that in other sites it won’t work? The main idea is to use solar only where it does work.


Reply to  Keith J
December 19, 2017 4:17 pm

Nothing particularly wrong with grid tied, just size the system to meet your demands and export very little

Tom in Florida
December 18, 2017 5:18 am

“There is a question nobody seems to be asking. Why are the Chinese so easily able to undercut US solar manufacturers? ”

This is the question, in all manufacturing, that has been asked and answered. The cost of each employee to the company is much higher in the U.S. This is due mainly to government interference by requiring high minimum wages, mandatory health coverage, matching social security payments and a host of other regulations that drive costs up. High corporate tax rates, hopefully soon to be rectified, also contribute to a company being less profitable. And always remember, the only reason for the existence of any company is to be profitable for the owners.

Reply to  Tom in Florida
December 18, 2017 6:25 am

also consider the relative needs of the two work forces. 10 year old chinese girls don’t eat nearly as much as adults in the US, and as for living costs, they don’t mind sleeping 10 to a room.

A C Osborn
Reply to  wws
December 18, 2017 4:17 pm

You seem to be totally ignoring the cost of living, low wages are useless if you can’t live on the wage.

Reply to  wws
December 19, 2017 7:20 am

A C Osborn: are you arguing for the “livable wage?”
Can you tell us more about this “Communism” economic model? We are all ears. Organize the economy from the top-down, from what each individual “should” earn regardless of whether they actually contribute any effort or not (guaranteed job, livable wage), and also inform each of us what it is we desire, as well as what it will cost us.

Once the propaganda sinks in, and we all fall in line, everything will be just fine. Right?

george e. smith
Reply to  wws
December 19, 2017 1:11 pm

Well A C it is much harder to live on no job at all, than on a low paying job. I talk to people every day who work (hard) at several jobs to get by. They would rather be working than sitting at home watching TV (absolutely everybody can afford a TV; well they all have them, and much much better than mine.
But when others can get all the free stuff that even lower paid workers have to pay for, there is something wrong with the system; and it isn’t called China.


Reply to  Tom in Florida
December 18, 2017 7:20 am

Except for non-profit corporations.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  stevefitzpatrick
December 18, 2017 8:47 am

Non profit is a misnomer. Anyone can show their company has no “profits” but that doesn’t mean they are not profitable for the owners.

Frederick Mackintosh
Reply to  Tom in Florida
December 18, 2017 5:18 pm


December 18, 2017 5:45 am

Tesla swallowed failing Solar City and ate its losses, on top of the huge losses Tesla has simply trying to build and bring the Model 3 to production. So PV panel price spike could put more losses on Tesla.

But Tesla also faces a major competitive problem from a Chinese Electric car industry. So a trade war with restrictive tariffs on a cheap Chinese Tesla model 3 knock-off could save Tesla’s ass down the road.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
December 19, 2017 4:20 pm

Model 3 knock offs? seriously? there are umpteen EV and hybrid options , none of them are Tesla knock offs. Why would they even bother?

December 18, 2017 6:10 am

If Trump is deliberately trying to kill the US solar industry and market, then it all makes perfect sense. However, as a serious policy there are a few problems…

HW Bush tried to protect US TV manufacturing against the Japanese onslaught. How did that work out?

The Chinese are operating at scale in a global market. Trump is defining US solar mfg as US only at higher prices. How can they compete on the world stage against China with lower prices? Especially with the reduced US demand as prices go up and subsidies down.

Maybe Trump is using the law of unintended consequences as a deliberate tool of policy.

George Daddis
Reply to  markopanama
December 18, 2017 8:21 am

If you recall, HW did a faceplant in his soup.

Seriously, that trip to Japan with business, government and union leaders taught the US that the Japanese advantage was NOT government subsidies but rather what would later be called “Lean Thinking”.
A joint plant (NUUMI) and a willingness by Toyota to teach American managers the basics of their philosophy (at the Georgetown Toyota plant and later at the U of K) kick started a significant change in US auto manufacturing methods.

Reply to  markopanama
December 18, 2017 8:46 am

Maybe you should just read more….


December 18, 2017 6:46 am

Rear-guard and already lost fight.
The Chinese worker used to be unskilled and untooled, he now has equivalent or even better skills, and the same machinery than we do (well, surely not all Chinese workers, but those who appear in the global market) . His wage is still lower, so he out-compete every westerner, and his master gets the lion share of the profit.
trump tax solar panels ? No problem. Chinese will act just like Japanese did, and as they already did themselves (with computers just for instance). They’ll buy minimal assembly factories in the USA, importing 99% finished products made in China and adding 1% value to qualify as “made in USA” (/Canada/Mexico and benefit form NAFTA). They’ll even buy whole companies if need be, they already did, and that’s a more sensible use of their dollars than US government bonds.

In its greater time, ~50s, USA made as much as 1/3 of the world GDP. China didn’t even mattered, as some sort of retarded county.
China entered the top ten in the 80s, is now estimated number 1 since 2015, and sheer population numbers will make China’s economy 2x or even 3X USA’s very soon.

That’s why this whole anti-Russian thing is so retarded. It is all nations best interested to look at China as the current century n°1, and as such next n°1 threat (with India n°2), and to build right now some sort of preventive ring of iron to check it (Just in case; China is not an imperialist expansionist power, so it should be no problem)

Tom Halla
Reply to  paqyfelyc
December 18, 2017 7:05 am

Paqy, I think you might be a bit too optimistic about the ultimate goals of the PRC, as they are more than a bit opaque politically. Xi is apparently currently in charge, but just how his political coalition works is not well known to the Western press, and might not even be known to President Xi.
The situation could be analogous to Europe in the 19th Century, where what Germany was doing in 1900 was not readily apparent from what they were doing in 1830.

Reply to  Tom Halla
December 19, 2017 4:00 am

You could call me optimistic if I relied on PRC benevolence (or any nation, for what it matters), I don’t.
I think it is everyone best interest to understand that n°1 power is to be PRC very soon, not USA, and to organize alliance ring accordingly. Meaning USA should understand that the old enemies of the past, like Russia and Vietnam (just for instance), must be allies very soon.

December 18, 2017 7:24 am

“Gee, it’s been going on for 40 years – it’s called cheap Asian labor. How you gonna fix that ? Use illegal aliens?”

Labor wage rates are a minor incentive. The key incentive is getting away from OHSA, EEOC, EPA, NLRB, M-O-U-S-E.

December 18, 2017 7:27 am

‘according to a document draft obtained by POLITICO’

Possession of state secrets.

Releasing a working document serves no purpose but to incite. Journalism is no longer about informing the readers, it is about inciting them.

Walter Sobchak
December 18, 2017 7:30 am

I am all in favor of anything that screws up the solar panel market. The installation of solar panels that are connected to the grid increases the retail price of electricity. We can’t be rid of the idiocy of “renewables” fast enough.

Chris Hagan
December 18, 2017 8:40 am

The Chinese know that solar ( long term) drives up our cost of production due to expensive and intermittent electricity. So they are dumping solar to get us hooked so to speak while they encourage reliable coal with their allies.

Reply to  Chris Hagan
December 18, 2017 10:41 am

They have been dumping steel and aluminum too. That means they have been burning coal to make electricity to run all manner of over capacity in heavy users of electricity, not just solar panel lines in light mfg. Basically they build whatever the market asks them to build and then some.

December 18, 2017 8:56 am

I think it’s very clever to announce a policy which on the face of it sounds like you are supporting solar industry by killing off the competition but at the same time kills the local industry by making it more expensive. When combined with policies supporting coal generating capacity it should lead to cheaper not more expensive electricity.

Jim Gorman
December 18, 2017 9:05 am

If PV is cheap and a wonderful power generation technology, why is China not covering every roof top in China with their own manufactured panels?

Reply to  Jim Gorman
December 19, 2017 10:12 am

Because a) rooftop solar is the most expensive variation of solar with lowest economies of scale, b) China seeks diversified power with nuclear coal and hydro, and c) Chinese labor cost is more advantageous for exports than for local demand.

Reply to  Jim Gorman
December 19, 2017 4:21 pm

They need a little more than lunchtime power on a good day

December 18, 2017 9:28 am

When I mention to my friends that we Americans built China’s shiny-new middle class at the expense of our own, they say piffle. Then when I say we should erect cost levelings on Chinese imports they howl, but when I ask them what their objections are to weaning them off American markets and enabling us to trade with more likeable partners I get hemming and hawing. We’ve done enough for The People’s Republic of China and I need some new friends.

December 18, 2017 9:44 am

It is happening in a lot of other industries too, not just solar. China is a major currency manipulator, more or less pegging its currency to the USD. This is in itself a massive subsidy on top of actual cash rebates to its own solar manufacturing industry. Not to mention lax environmental and labour issues, which USA has to adhere to while China doesn’t. There is no way the USA can compete with that kind of ‘State’ manipulation that China has become. Well, actually there is, but President Trump has relaxed his position on China being a currency manipulator because China has been effectively using North Korea as a military proxy against US interests all the while pretending to be trying to ‘help’ with the NK situation. It is one of the major election promises that Trump has failed us on, in that he promised to label China as a currency manipulator on day 1 of his presidency. He is sort of between a rock and a hard place, but this is perhaps where Steve Bannon is correct, that China has to be dealt with an iron fist policy, and hurt them most where they fear the most, which is in their pocketbook. Trump alluded to this in a statement he made about ceasing do business with any country that aids and abets the NK nuke problem. Meaning mostly China.

China respects nothing but raw power, and I fear that Trump has now given in to their promise of containing North Korea in exchange for a relaxation of their manipulation of their currency and subsidization and dumping of certain industries. And little has changed with North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. If anything, it has become much more emboldened. If we don’t contain China now, then the relationship will just be more lopsided until they are calling the shots on the global economy, in addition to their proxy NK continuing to threaten us with weapons of mass destruction. They already are controlling some of the global economy, especially in the Third World with massive investments and ‘purchasing’ their political system and loyalty. The West has just let them get away with eroding our economies, one little cut at a time. Death by a thousand cuts…Trump could challenge that, but it appears he has been led astray by some of his current advisors. Maybe this action on protecting USA based PV production is a first start.

December 18, 2017 10:50 am

I think this is a good move. China dumps many goods into the American market below the cost it takes to make them. It creates a completely artificial economy. This move would allow American companies to compete. It would probably reduce solar installation jobs but increase solar manufacturing jobs. It would help America establish a solar industry based on market forces.

Steve Richards
December 18, 2017 11:46 am

It is easy to decide if this is a good or bad idea: if you transfer a business (PV panels in this case) from the USA to PRC or similar, and after the transfer, the PRC company can sell the PV goods back to the USA for a lower than the original price then that is unfair competition and tariffs could be considered a good idea.

With a number of provisos: There must be a number of similar competitive (with each other) companies providing PV goods in the USA. This should ensure that USA companies are competing and producing goods at a reasonably – locally competitive price.

Otherwise, without a Trump type of president, companies will relocate to a cheaper part of the world, putting people in your country out of work, if it is a large company relocating then whole communities can be destroyed.

Free markets are good when they are free and fair.

December 18, 2017 1:52 pm

Throw in rare earth elements. Some are used in production of solar cells. China can mine them; the US can’t. Many of the Chinese mine sites are eco-disasters.

December 18, 2017 1:59 pm

I support Solar too; here’s my nickel.

December 18, 2017 2:00 pm

Trump better consider adding one more trade barrier to the mix, …https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/17/chinas-nio-takes-on-tesla-with-a-car-half-the-price-of-model-x.html

Gunga Din
December 18, 2017 3:41 pm

Eliminate solar and wind subsidies for production and use of “renewables” tax breaks/credits) in the US and let the market decide.
Do that, and who would invest in them?

Warren Blair
December 18, 2017 6:27 pm

Celestica just sold this plant in Chon Buri for nothing.
We know because we tried to buy part of it (not for making solar panels).
There’s no money in solar panels!
These plants can be moved anywhere in the World.
So Trump would have to start a trade war with Thailand as well and perhaps Indonesia or the Philippians.
USA get your own house in order.
The Chinese ‘unfairly’ supports solar panel manufacturers which no one can fight; especially the USA with its our of control political class making all the wrong decisions for the past 40 years!

December 18, 2017 9:34 pm

Solar production produces NF3, which is 17,200% stronger greenhouse gas than CO2.

December 19, 2017 2:31 am

Perhaps the answer is to stop subsidising useless solar power altogether.

Non Nomen
December 19, 2017 11:42 am

A product of top quality, moderate price and of highly advanced technical complexity has no chance in a market where the return on investment relies on subsidies – and a sun that doesn’t shine half the day. So cut the subsidies to zero and the problem will go away without further ado, no matter whether it has a Chinese, European or US label on it. Fossile and nuclear energy are, for the time being, the best of all choices.

December 20, 2017 4:36 pm

“Perhaps the real solution is to identify and fix the problem which is preventing US based manufacturers from competing”
Abolish minimum wage laws, working hours regulations and work safety regulations, cancel mandatory pension and healthcare contributions, as well as outlaw unions, scrap quality control and eliminate environmental oversight? Even then, I doubt US workers would be willing to work twice as hard in much worse conditions for only 1/10th payment.

Retired Kit P
Reply to  Sobaken
December 23, 2017 10:23 am


“Classic example of conservative values vs liberal extremist values….”

While I agree let me point out that the amount of waste from producing power is a silly argument just a safety is.

There are regulatory about protecting people. There are regulatory requirements about protecting the environment.

It is valid to counter one silly argument with another. However, I have a general rule. Don’t eat spent nuclear fuel, don’t eat PV panels.

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