President Joe Biden makes remarks during a press conference on the grounds of National Renewable … [+]
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Most states have renewable energy mandates on the books that require utility companies to produce a certain percentage of electricity from wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources. To complement this state-level support, congressional Democrats have proposed more than $500 billion in renewable energy incentives in the Build Back Better bill. Yet, thanks to President Joe Biden’s continuation of Donald Trump’s protectionist approach to trade policy, the renewable portfolio standards found in 30 states, as well as the more aggressive national targets for renewables proposed by the White House, will be much more difficult and costly to meet.
Right now, a small group of bureaucrats who are unaccountable to elected officials are making unusually aggressive targeting decisions within the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), holding up solar panel components at U.S. ports as a result of trade restrictions imposed by the Biden administration over the summer. In June 2021, in response to the reported use of forced labor in Xinjiang, China, the Biden administration issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) blocking the import of silica-based products from Hoshine Silicon Industry Co. In accordance with Biden’s June WRO, shipments suspected to contain Hoshine’s silica-based goods, as well as solar panels from other companies that are suspected to be manufactured with Hoshine’s silica-based products, have been detained at U.S. ports for nearly half a year.
The fact that imports from the world’s top solar panel makers have been held by U.S. CBP due to speculation that they contain Hoshine silica-based products means that as much as 65% of the U.S. solar supply chain is presently cut off from the U.S. market. The threshold of suspicion to detain is low, critics of the WRO contend, while the threshold of evidence to release goods is high. This “guilty until proven innocent” standard gives the CBP unparalleled discretion to essentially make policy without the involvement of elected lawmakers, possibly even acting against the Biden administration’s intentions. Meanwhile President Biden appears to be doing nothing to stop it.
All of this is especially tragic for the solar industry, since many of the world’s top solar panel makers had already pivoted supply chains from Xinjiang and contend they do not have the offending material in their panels. The CBP’s move to restrict the supply of integral solar panel components will cost companies billions of dollars. “Any detainments are expected to drive up the cost and demand for solar panels in the U.S.,” Roth Capital Partners warned in note sent to clients on November 2. These additional costs are passed along to consumers in the form of higher electric bills. That is why this border stoppage makes it more expensive and difficult to meet state renewable energy mandates.
Many Americans have no objection to holding China accountable for human rights abuses, but critics of the manner in which Biden’s June WRO was enforced contend that the White House’s trade restriction is counterproductive to the administration’s renewable energy policy goals, which call for moving to 100% renewables by 2050. Aside from driving up prices and making existing state renewable portfolio standards costlier to comply with, critics of the …….