US solar industry negatively impacted by tariffs on Chinese panels: Silicon Valley entrepreneur

Silicon Valley entrepreneur T.J. Rodgers argued on Thursday that tariffs on Chinese solar panels implemented during the Obama presidency are having a negative impact on the industry in the United States. 

Rodgers, who is the chief executive officer and chairman of the board of directors of Rodgers Silicon Valley Acquisition Corporation, also argued that the tariffs threaten hundreds of thousands of American solar jobs. 

During an interview with “Mornings with Maria” on Thursday, Rodgers argued that China does not “play fair,” but that “copying top-down socialistic methods is not the way to solve the problem.” 

“Free markets win out,” he stressed.  

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Rodgers who wrote an oped in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Tariffs on China Throw Shade on the U.S. Solar Industry,” argued in the piece that while the tariffs are meant to punish Chinese panel makers, “the import taxes are crushing U.S. companies and consumers.”

In 2014, the Obama administration moved to impose stiff tariffs on solar panels made in China after discovering that Chinese companies were improperly flooding the U.S. market with government-subsidized products.

Rodgers Silicon Valley Acquisition Corporation CEO T.J. Rodgers argues tariffs on Chinese solar panels is bad for the industry in the United States.  (AP)

The Commerce Department said at the time that Chinese producers had dumped solar cells and panels in the U.S. at margins ranging from 31% to nearly 250%. 

The move came after several U.S. solar panel makers, led by Oregon-based SolarWorld, had asked the government to punish China for dumping low-price products on American markets. The companies had been struggling against fierce competition from China as former President Obama had been pushing to promote renewable energy.

Speaking with host Maria Bartiromo on Thursday, Rodgers explained that during Obama’s presidency China “made solar panels so cheaply and shipped them to the U.S. that they, in effect, put out of business our solar panel industry.” 

“And in retaliation we put a 20% tariff on incoming panels, which Americans pay, I mean that cost is passed right through,” he continued. 

Rodgers told Bartiromo that “a lot of big Chinese companies stopped shipping panels,” which, in turn, “shut down a major fraction of the American solar industry” given if the U.S. does not receive the panels, they will not be installed on homes.  

“There are no solar panel manufacturers in U.S. that matter, zero,” he added.  

Rodgers then explained the value the U.S. gets from solar, noting that as of last year, panel from China was bought for 35 cents a watt “and then we get another $2.30 a watt to put it on a roof, do the electronics, which are very complicated and haven’t been copied by China, and hook it up to network operating centers to monitor the panel.” 

“So we were getting 87% of the revenue … of panels that went on houses,” he continued.

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“And when you cut off the panel supply, because you didn’t do what you needed to do 10 years ago, you’re shutting down a huge industry in the United States, 230,000 people.”  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.