President Obama, Governor Jerry Brown, and countless other leaders have touted the creation of green-collar jobs as a way out of the recession; but, 800 of those jobs just got shipped to China. Evergreen, a solar panel manufacturing plant based in Massachusetts, is moving to China, citing the decreasing price of panels and the Chinese government’s subsidies as its motivation.
The New York Times reports: “Chinese solar panel manufacturers accounted for slightly over half the world’s production last year.”
So while the federal government is talking big about greening U.S. manufacturing, the subsidies just aren’t there in the way they are in China.
Key advantages for companies based in China:
- the ability to partner with local banks and obtain loans at much lower interest rates than in the U.S.
- government subsidies!
But China’s lead in the global green jobs race is not really news. More than a year ago, in August 2009, China Daily reported that China had already captured a third of the solar manufacturing market in 2008.
The U.S. is fighting back, reports China Daily. This past September, the Steelworkers Union filed a petition with the Obama Administration, claiming that China had violated WTO agreements on exports by providing Chinese companies with substantial business incentives and grants. The U.S. is now in the midst of settling the dispute with China at the WTO.
Ohio’s Senator Sherrod Brown pointed out that we can’t replace one dependency (foreign oil), with another (clean energy from China), and in order to really compete, we need a “level playing field.”
But is the U.S. really in an economic position to offer a friendly environment for solar manufacturers? It might be better to cede that responsibility to the economically stronger China and focus on green installation and repair jobs on the home front.
What do you think? Is the race over? Could and should the government do more to make solar manufacturing in the U.S. competitive?
Photo c/o J.N.Stuart