Another greentech battle brewing between U.S. and China

By Email author - Thu, 29 Sep 2011 14:30:01 GMT
Another greentech battle brewing between U.S. and China

It looks like the United States is gearing for another trade battle with China. And if history is any indication, China is likely to invoke the environment to justify its policies.

Bloomberg reported Wednesday that U.S. solar manufacturers are preparing to file a trade complaint against China. The complaint, according to the Bloomberg article, is centered around the enormous subsidies China gives its solar manufacturing industry.

"We are actively conversing with our federal contacts in seeking help on how to prevent China from decimating another U.S. industry," said Ben Santarris, a spokesman for U.S.-based SolarWorld Industries America Inc.

Jonathan Silver from the U.S. Energy Department said earlier this month that China anted up $30 billion in credit to its solar manufacturers last year, about 20 times the amount the U.S. offered.

This is part of an increasingly constant tiff between the U.S. and China on environmental economic policies.

In the last year, the U.S. has lodged complaints about Chinese subsidies for its wind energy industry, as well as China's restrictions on the exportation of rare earth materials.

If history is any indication, China is likely to cite the environment to rationalize its heavily-subsidized greentech industry.

In December, when the U.S. protested a special fund designed to subsidize China's wind power industry, China's Ministry of Commerce issued a statement that read:

"Measures to develop wind energy in China are conducive to energy conservation and environmental protection as well as an important means of achieving sustainable development, and are consistent with W.T.O. rules."

More recently, when the U.S. successfully challenged China's export restrictions of rare earth materials, the Chinese issued an appeal saying:

"The control of the export of high-energy-consumption, high pollution and resource-based products was utterly necessary for the...reduction of environmental pollution...and alleviating the tense relations among coal, electricity, and oil."

Green technology is a recurring theme in the Obama Administration's quest to bolster domestic manufacturing, and China is a recurring theme in explaining why U.S. greentech has failed to thrive.

When Solyndra, a solar manufacturing company that received a $535 million loan from the U.S. government, went belly up a few weeks ago, China emerged as a scapegoat for the U.S. solar industry's woes.

China was also deemed a reason why America's wind power industry has struggled.

"We should not sit back and say we are afraid to start a trade war," Thomas Conway, the United Steelworkers' international vice president, told Bloomberg. "We are in a trade war, and we are losing."

But the environment, China is likely to claim, is winning.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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