U.S. officials have begun blocking the import of solar panels that they believe could be products of forced labor in China, implementing a recent ban that could slow construction of solar-energy projects throughout the country.
Industry executives and analysts said solar panels from at least three Chinese companies have been targeted in recent weeks, and a Customs and Border Protection spokesman confirmed by email that the agency has “made a number of detentions” of products under the import ban.
CBP imposed the ban in June on Hoshine Silicon, which produces raw materials used in solar panels. The agency said it had information “reasonably indicating” that Hoshine, which operates plants in China’s Xinjiang region, uses forced labor, a finding that triggered the ban because U.S. law prohibits the import of goods made by coerced workers.
Hoshine had been linked by The Washington Post and human rights researchers to coercive state labor programs targeting Uyghurs and other minorities.
Chinese companies dominate global production of solar panels, with many using raw materials from Hoshine, the world’s largest producer of metallurgical-grade silicon.
Solar is the fastest-growing source of new electricity generation in the United States, according to the Biden administration, which is aiming to boost it from 3 percent of electricity generation today to more than 40 percent by 2035.
The ban brings to the fore the tension between the administration’s human rights agenda and its efforts to address the climate crisis.
“We want to rapidly transition our fuels to solar and wind and other renewables,” said Mark Z. Jacobson, a renewable-energy expert and engineering professor at Stanford University. “Any slowdown of this transition creates a loss of life,” he added, noting that the burning of fossil fuels is the main driver of air pollution that causes 78,000 deaths per year in the United States and 7 million globally.
This is horrible from Jacobson! Yes, we do need a transition to green energy. But you know what, we can’t have slavery to do it!!! This gets at something I often say, which is that green capitalists are still capitalists and hate unions or any labor laws. This is why these energy experts need to be overtly pro-labor. Otherwise, they care more about capitalism than they do saving the world. The other part of this is that American firms can’t exactly compete on making solar panels if they are fighting against the use of slaves. This is why “free trade” is not a position. It’s not about whether trade is “free.” It’s about the conditions of labor wherever they may exist. Free trade is only a position if you literally do not care about whether the labor is enslaved so long as the products are cheap.