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January 21 2014

22:43

U.S. Solar Trade Group Protests China’s Polysilicon Tariffs

chinawtoChina’s Ministry of Commerce on January 20 imposed punitive five-year duties as high as 57 percent on imports of polysilicon – the raw material for solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules – from U.S. and South Korean manufacturers.

An association of U.S. solar energy installers, producers and other businesses that employs some 25,000 Americans, the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) is protesting China’s trade action, asserting that the Chinese government’s action is in retaliation for the U.S. imposing illegal subsidies and anti-dumping tariffs on imports of PV modules made in China, a complaint that was initially filed by CASM’s founding and lead member, SolarWorld Americas in October 2011.

Trade disputes erupt amid booming solar energy growth

Growing at above-average rates, international trade in solar energy technology and equipment has been booming for well over a decade, supported by a variety of incentives and subsidies offered by governments, including the European Union, the U.S., China and India.

Those subsidies have been the source of a growing number of international trade disputes in recent years, particularly between China, the world’s predominant manufacturer and exporter of solar PV cells and modules, the E.U. and U.S., the two largest importers of Chinese PV cells and modules.

According to CASM, the Chinese government has imposed the tariff on U.S. polysilicon imports “to divide U.S. finished-products manufacturers against polysilicon manufacturing suppliers, punish the U.S. government’s adjudication of SolarWorld’s cases in favor of the domestic industry and increase leverage for all manner of trade issues with the U.S. government.”

In addition, the Chinese government not only continues to illegally subsidize Chinese solar manufacturers, CASM says, it has stepped up its financial support in order to stave off defaults and failures and save jobs in companies that, up until recently, have been among the world’s largest manufacturers of PV cells and modules. According to a CASM press release,

“U.S. solar-panel manufacturers continue to suffer layoffs, bankruptcies and other harms and China keeps propping up its own producers as both industries suffer from China’s steps to designate the industry as a strategic target within its Five-Year Planning Process, support its industry with export-directed subsidies, trigger enormous factory overcapacity, price products below production costs in the U.S. market, harvest U.S.- taxpayer-funded solar incentives and enjoy access to the U.S. market, including military bases, while keeping its borders closed to foreign competitors.”

China’s solar trade action violates international law, according to CASM. “China keeps flooding the U.S. market with state-underwritten solar products that increasingly are cited as the source of sharply higher defect rates,” CASM states. “China’s precipitous industry entry and the ensuing rise in faulty panels came in the wake of America’s decades of pioneering and optimizing the industry.

“China’s retaliation against the U.S. industry violates international trade rules,” Mukesh Dulani, SolarWorld Industries America’s president was quoted as saying. The company, a subsidiary of Germany’s SolarWorld AG, has been the largest manufacturer of PV cells and modules in the U.S. for over 35 years. “Time and time again, these retaliatory cases have been found to be without merit.”

The post U.S. Solar Trade Group Protests China’s Polysilicon Tariffs appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 29 2013

18:07

Enviro News Wrap: Young Americans Reject Denial; the Politics of Solar; Halliburton’s Slap on the Wrist, more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • Young people in America believe in science: when polled 73 percent say that global warming deniers are “crazy, out of touch and ignorant”
  • Solar energy is vulnerable to political attacks. Each state and local area has its own rules and laws that make solar possible. California has lead the charge for solar and also receives the most attacks, including a current round of attacks by lawmakers and conservative interests.  Despite the attacks solar is winning the battle in a dozen states.
  • Utilities hate solarmost utilities and their investors consider solar energy as a risk to their profit margins. Companies and investors respond in a big way when their bottom line is threatened. I just wonder if they will respond by trying to dominate the solar market or crush it.
  • After the Deepwater Horizon blew up in the Gulf of Mexico blew up in 2010 the three companies operating the rig – BP, Transocean and Halliburton – scrambled to prove their innocence and limit their liability. In that scramble Halliburton destroyed documents that were not favorable to their position. The truth has come out and now Halliburton has to pay for their crime, just a little though: three years of probation and a maximum fine of $200,000. A tiny drop in the bucket for the ginormous corporation. Certainly not enough to stop them from what they do best – profiting off of the destruction of the only environment we have.
  • Coal-fired power plants in Australia could be a thing of the past in Australia by 2040 if the current growth rate of the solar market doubles. Good luck Australia!
  • What does a hot America in 2100 look like? NASA is helping us conceptualize the future of global warming.
  • With the popularity of electric vehicles on the rise we need more charging stations. The growing pain of so many other industries, determining industry standards – in the case for charger standards – puts producers, designers, manufacturers – and consumers – at odds.
  • Climate change deniers claim that global temperatures have not increased for 15 years. The fact is that we had a really hot year 15 years ago, but that does not negate the upward trend of global temperatures in the past 50 years. It is sad that articles like this one by Benjamin Zycher push this lie and call it news.
  • China is trying to bring millions of people out of poverty and restore themselves as the superpower of the world. But, this is happening at the cost of their environment. If your economy is dependent on depleting the resources that provide the fuel for the economy then at some point you hit a breaking point.

 

The post Enviro News Wrap: Young Americans Reject Denial; the Politics of Solar; Halliburton’s Slap on the Wrist, more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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July 16 2013

13:22

Enviro News Wrap: Fossil Energy and Safety; Fracking and Earthquakes; China and Air Pollution, more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

 

 

 

 

The post Enviro News Wrap: Fossil Energy and Safety; Fracking and Earthquakes; China and Air Pollution, more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

March 25 2013

18:54

Enviro News Wrap: Growth in US Solar; Changing Perceptions of Global Warming; US Plays Catch-Up in Enviro Policy, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

 

 

 

The post Enviro News Wrap: Growth in US Solar; Changing Perceptions of Global Warming; US Plays Catch-Up in Enviro Policy, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 21 2012

15:45

Glacial Melting, Growing Population and Agricultural Practices Threaten Farmers, Communities in Northwest China


Climate and population pressured combined with unsustainable agricultural practices threaten communities and farmers in northwestern ChinaA crossroads for human migration and trade between Europe and Asia since time immemorial, modern ways of life in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are facing challenges brought about by global warming. Higher temperatures in the high, arid and mountainous region are causing glaciers to melt, while population growth and increasingly intensive agriculture– cotton farming in particular– are draining aquifers at faster rates.

Surrounded by ancient, legendary mountain ranges, the Tarim Basin is the largest arid inland basin in China. Glacial meltwater accounts for 40 percent of the region’s water supply. Glacial meltwater runoff has been increasing as a result of rising temperatures, but that also means the glaciers are shrinking, which, in turn, means they’ll be storing and providing less water in future. That’s going to leave growing communities and downstream farmers “high and dry,” according to a report from Yale Environment 360.

Melting Mountain Glaciers

More than half the 800-mile Tarim River has run dry in four of the last 10 summers, Hanoi-based writer Mike Ives reports for Yale Environment 360. The region’s cotton farmers, who irrigate their crops six or seven times per growing cycle, are among the hardest hit.

The response to date has been to drill more and deeper water wells and to implement a water rationing system. The former, as it further depletes groundwater reserves, only exacerbates the problem, however, and the latter is proving very difficult to manage effectively. The Chinese Army indirectly or directly controls the region’s cotton farms, and they tend to put their own narrow commercial interests above all others.

Researchers participating in a joint, five-year, $9.3 million Chinese-German research project are looking for more sustainable, more equitable long-term solutions. Researchers from 12 German universities are working with Chinese counterparts to enhance regional water security in what’s been dubbed the Sustainable Management of River Oases Along the Tarim River project (SuMaRiO).

Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the SuMaRiO team will “work with farmers, communities, and officials in the basin to plan for a day when groundwater reserves are further depleted and runoff from glaciers may be considerably reduced,” according to Ives’ report for Yale Environment 360.

Shrinking Water Resources

The severe challenges posed by melting glaciers and shrinking water resources extends across borders in the region, as well as to other regions similarly affected, Ives notes. Four former Soviet Central Asian republics border northwest China also rely on the region’s glaciers for much of their water. Communities that relay on glacier meltwater for a signficant portion of their water in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca are facing the same problems.

“It doesn’t mean people in these regions ‘will no longer have a glass of water to drink, but it does mean they will need to considerably adapt how they make a living and their expectations of livelihoods,’” Ives quoted Jeffrey S. Kargel, a University of Arizona geologist not affiliated with SuMaRiO.”

Rain and snowmelt in many mountain ranges around the world, not glacial meltwater, feed river systems. Not so in the Himalyas and Cordillera Blanca, however, Ives notes. About half of Himalayan glaciers lie at elevations above 5,500 meters (17,875 feet), which means they won’t be melting anytime soon. In contrast, populations in the Tarim River basin and those in the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes depend significantly on glacial meltwater runoff.

Runoff from some 14,000 glaciers supply water in the Tarim River basin. The region, which spans an area roughly the size of Vermont, is surrounded by mountains shrouded in history and legend, including the Tian Shan, the Kunlun, the Karakorum and the eastern Pamir. Communities in China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Tajikistan rely on meltwaters to water and feed growing populations.

Glaciers feeding water throughout the Tarim River basin have shrunk about 8% in volume and 7% in surface area during the past forty years, according to Ives’ report. That’s slower than what’s been taking place in many parts of the Andes and Alps. That’s caused glacial runoff to increase—13% since the 1990s due to rising temperatures.

River flows are shrinking in the Tarim River basin nonetheless, however, due to an even sharper increase in irrigation. The growth of water-intensive cotton farming is responsible for much of the increasing demand for water for irrigation. Increasing glacial melting also means they’ll be less water stored in glacial ice in years to come.

Tarim River basin cotton farms account for more than 1/3 of China’s total cotton production. Increasingly intensive cotton farming is also causing other problems that will come to haunt the region’s farmers and communities if left unchecked. Soil quality, and hence yields, are declining due to salinization, and surrounding areas are increasingly suffering from desertification.

Being arid, the region is actually a poor choice for cotton farming. The Tarim River Basin receives an average of only 3 inches per year of rainfall. Substituting other native crops for cotton is one avenue being explored by the SuMaRiO project team, Ives explains.

Working in tandem with counterparts from China’s National Climate Center and local science institutes, they’re also working on more basic and fundamental tasks, such as comprehensively mapping the region’s watersheds. Recommendations are being communicated to Xinjian Province’s Tarim River Basin Water Management Bureau, which is aiming to halt wasteful irrigation practices as well as “investigate strategies that could help people in the basin adapt to an altered hydrological landscape.”

Image credit: livepine, courtesy flickr

August 20 2012

19:57

On Our Radar: Making Clouds From Saltwater

A proposal that uses futuristic ships to spray saltwater into the atmosphere, creating clouds that reflect sunlight and counter global warming.

July 26 2012

12:00

On Our Radar: Tropical Cells in the Arctic?

Researchers say the invaders were apparently swept up in the warm Gulf Stream, which travels from the Caribbean to the North Atlantic but usually peters out somewhere between Greenland and Europe.

July 24 2012

21:58

Weakness in OECD Economies Doesn’t Stop Global CO2 Emissions from Reaching Record-High


Despite weakness in OECD economies, CO2 emissions reach record levelsTotaling 34 billion metric tons, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reached another record high in 2011 despite an overall reduction in OECD countries, weakening global economic conditions and increasing use of natural gas for electricity generation in the US.

Particularly troubling, rapid, fossil fuel-driven industrialization has put China within “the range of 6-19 metric tons per capita emissions of the major industrialized countries,” according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and European Commission’s Joint Research Centre’s (JRC), “Trends in global CO2 emissions” report.

Average CO2 emissions per capita in China increased by 9 percent, to 7.2 metric tons per capita. European Union (EU) CO2 emissions fell 3 percent, to 7.5 metric tons per capita, while per capita CO2 emissions in the US, at 17.3 metric tons per capita, far outdistance them, according to PBL-JRC’s 2012 annual report, which is based on “recent results from the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) and latest statistics on energy use and relevant activities such as gas flaring and cement production.

Rapid industrialization in China, India… Now driving increases

The rapid pace of industrialization in China and other emerging/developing market economies, such as India and Brazil, now overshadows that of the world’s most industrialized countries as represented by OECD membership, PBL-JRC found. CO2 emissions in OECD countries overall now account for only 1/3 of the global total.

Weak economic conditions, a mild winter and energy savings spurred by high oil prices led to CO2 emissions declines of 2 percent in OECD members Japan and the US, as well as the EU’s 3 percent decline. Taken together, CO2 emissions in China and India– where CO2 emissions increased 9 percent and 6 percent respectively in 2011– account for the same share of overall global CO2 emissions as all 34 OECD member countries.

Ongoing construction and infrastructure development lead to significant increases in Chinese fossil fuel consumption last year, in turn driving China’s CO2 emissions higher. Driven by growth in cement and steel production, China’s coal consumption increased 9.7 percent.

Putting 2011′s global CO2 emissions into longer term context, PBL-JRC noted that 2011′s 3% increase is greater than the 2.7 percent average over the past decade, which includes a 2008 decrease and a 5 percent jump in 2010. Total estimated cumulative global CO2 emissions as a result of human activities amounted to 420 billion metric tons, according to the report.

“Scientific literature suggests that limiting the rise in average global temperature to 2°C above pre-industrial levels – the target internationally adopted in UN climate negotiations – is possible only if cumulative CO2 emissions in the period 2000–2050 do not exceed 1 000 to 1 500 billion tonnes,” the report authors’ point out. “If the current global trend of increasing CO2 emissions continues, cumulative emissions will surpass this limit within the next two decades.”

Given 2011′s total CO2 emissions of 34 billion metric tons, the following is PBL-JRC’s list of top CO2 emission countries in the world for 2011:

  1. China – 29%
  2. The United States – 16%
  3. The EU (EU-27) – 11%
  4. India – 6%
  5. The Russian Federation – 5%
  6. Japan – 4%

Encouragingly, they added, the upward trend is mitigated, at least in part, by rapidly growing deployment and use of renewable energy sources, solar energy, wind energy and biofuels in particular.

“The global share of these so-called modern renewables, which exclude hydropower, is growing at an accelerated speed and quadrupled from 1992 to 2011,” they wrote. “This potentially represents about 0.8 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions avoided as a result of using renewable energy supplies in 2011, which is close to Germany’s total CO2 emissions in 2011.”

 

Image credit: thewritingzone, courtesy Flickr

July 23 2012

19:22

Enviro News Wrap: Tipping Points; Climate Change and Food Prices; Heat Waves and Denial, and more


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

 

May 09 2012

12:40

April 27 2012

15:45

April 24 2012

17:27

Drying Up: How Should China Deal with Growing Threat of Water Scarcity & Drought?


China grapples with water scarcity With its massive population, China’s focused on massive infrastructure projects to address what remain growing problems of water scarcity and drought. In the spirit of a grand scheme that dates back to early medieval Chinese times, China’s government is now looking to build the South-North Transfer, a vast new water pipeline that would transport massive amounts from the country comparatively water-rich south to its more water-starved north, according to a ClimateWire report (subscription required).

Pressed by population growth, climate change and rapid industrialization, China’s now facing a water crisis, one that feats of large-scale engineering alone will not solve, according to “Drying Up,” a new Asian Development Bank report.

The incidence of frequent and severe droughts is on the rise in China, yet it is China’s increasing demand for water, over-extraction of water and its inefficient use that pose the greatest threats to sustainable management. “Over extraction and inefficient use of water resource is creating water shortages in cities and putting large populations at risk when a drought occurs, the ADB notes in a press release.

“The country’s traditional approach of building more infrastructure is not enough to fill the widening gap between water supply and demand,” said Qingfeng Zhang, ADB’s Lead Water Resources Specialist and one of the authors of the report. “An integrated water resources management approach is needed to bring balance and prepare safety net supplies for droughts.”

The Chinese government has been trying to reduce Chinese society’s water use, but doing so is proving very difficult. Local governments are not taking advantage of opportunities to mitigate the impacts of these extreme weather events. Meanwhile, the rapidly industrializing country is experiencing “increasingly frequent and intense droughts.”

“Between 2001 and 2006, over 400 cities in the PRC suffered perennial water shortages and 11 suffered severe water shortages,” the report authors point out. “The 2011 drought which affected the Yangtze River left 3.5 million people with minimal drinking water. The 2009 drought affected 60 million people and compromised 6.5 million hectares of land. Between 2004 and 2007, droughts cost the PRC an estimated $8 billion of annual direct economic losses.”

Mitigating the Effects of Drought, Shortages: Disaster Preparedness, Demand Management, Efficient Use

Drawing on experience inside China, in “Drying Up” the ADB water resources team proposes a three-pronged approach for reducing the impacts of drought in China.

  • Strengthen its disaster preparedness, including risk monitoring and early warning systems, to reduce response time and costs incurred by losses, damages and rebuilding.
  • Manage demand through water savings, building better capture and storage facilities, re-evaluating tariffs, and boosting water efficiencies in agriculture, industry, and cities.
  • Take an integrated approach to water management at the municipal level based on water allocation schemes and monitoring that ensure nature, people, and the economy have secure supplies.

The authors draw on the experience of Guiyang residents in the southwestern Guizhou province to illustrate the social, economic and ecological benefits such an approach offers. A severe drought affected the city in 2010, leaving people without drinking water. Some 170,000 needed rations of grain to survive.

The municipality would have had 20% more water during the drought had Guiyang government officials taken the step of requiring the use of water-saving fixtures in residential and commercial buildings, imposing higher industrial water efficiency standards and reducing system leakage.

“Demand management alongside a system that monitors flows and water allocation can propel the country to greater resilience,” according to the report. “This would significantly close the supply-demand gap, which cannot be done by infrastructure alone.”

*Graphic courtesy: ADB – Water for All

April 19 2012

17:39

On Our Radar: Rising Seas

After heavy pressure from some Republicans, President Obama has apparently decided to renominate a member of the often-divided commission.

April 16 2012

23:22

Enviro News Wrap: Solar Struggles in the U.S.; NASA’s Climate Skeptics; Koch Bros. Want Control of Cato Institute, and more…


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • 49 former NASA astronauts and scientists have voiced dissent over NASA’s belief in global warming. Their letter argues that the science is not settled on global warming. The most important part about the letter is that of these 49 people none of them are climatologists. These 49 NASA employees include people who held titles such as “Chairman, Shuttle Pogo Prevention Panel, Chief, Aircraft Maintenance and Engineering Branch, Mgr. Motion Simulators, Asst. Manager, Quality Assurance.”
  • Guar Gum: “Its in everything from snack foods to shampoo…” is the favored line by news reporters. The reason why they are reporting on Guar Gum in April 2012 is that the Natural Gas industry is using it in their frickin’ Fracking. This has caused the price of Guar Gum to skyrocket.  Only the Natural Gas industry can buy Guar Gum at the new price so everyone else has to figure out how to adapt. Natural Gas is not a sustainable fuel, Fracking is dangerous and it is impacting our market in unforeseen and negative ways. All that capital going to this industry with no future should switch over to renewable energy.
  • The Pentagon (Army, Navy, Air Force) just set a 3 gigawatt goal by 2025 for renewable energy in its portfolio.
  • The Koch Brothers try to take over the Libertarian think tank Cato Institute  in a lawsuit. Here is an open letter to the Koch Brothers that explains that if they do win the lawsuit then they will in effect own the Cato Institute thus ruining its credibility. Wow, I hope the Koch Brothers do win the lawsuit. The Cato Institute may produce some good arguments but the Cato Institute also supports abolishing food stamps and letting everyone go back in time to the land of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield where the poor are all dependent on Charity Houses. The Cato Institute believes that many of our problems will be magically solved by the Free Market, but we have many environmental problems that are just not being solved by Invisible Hands or Job Creators.
  • OPEC is the global oil price-fixing organization, and they want the price of oil to stay steady at $100/barrel for now. High enough to constrict the US economy, but low enough to keep consumers from quickly switching to other fuel sources. Fox News misreported this situation by truthfully saying that oil prices are declining, but they don’t point out that they are only declining a little bit in a dance that generally moves upwards. Its like boiling a frog by first putting the frog in cold water before you turn on the stove.
  • In the natural gas industry prices are staying low, a warm winter in the US has decreased demand while production is steadily increasing. The low prices are crowding out investment in renewable energy. This means that once again America is making itself dependent on a finite fuel that starts out cheap and then becomes increasingly expensive as supply decreases and extraction and refinement costs increase. Its all just an economic game that we are playing with ourselves.
  • China has created a stable environment for its renewable energy industry to grow, while America and Europe have decided to both support and harass theirs. I wonder which model will prove to be the most successful in the long term? Japan could be the winner with a Free Market Economy and low private debt.
  • BrightSource Energy cancelled its initial public offering (IPO)! This is a symptom of the decrease in private funding for the US renewable energy industry in 2012. This scarcity of investment is occurring during a period of low-priced and over-supplied solar panels. The manufacturing industry is just waiting for the installation industry to pick up, in the meantime the manufacturing industry will consolidate. Reuters.com argues that the consolidation will occur around non-Chinese companies like Kyocera and Hanwa. Maybe the real problem is that without strong investment in installation, manufacturer’s are forced to reduce prices thus undercutting American companies and favoring Chinese companies that can sell at a loss. If the installation industry was healthy then all price-points for panels would be desired. Then there would be no need for a tax on solar panels imported to the US, which is not going to fix the problem for American Solar Manufacturers.
  • Global Agreements on climate change are unlikely, there are too many conflicting interests between countries. Right now India is claiming that there can be no deal in the next round of United Nations talks if the European Union continues to push its support for an airline carbon tax.
  • If the US halved the amount of meat it eats the global environment and health of the American populace would greatly improve. One of the main effects would be the reduction of nitrous oxide emissions (a potent greenhouse gas).

April 12 2012

21:01

Breaking Down Traditional Chinese Medicine

A new method of genetic analysis allows researchers to identify the component parts of traditional Chinese medicine, revealing endangered species, toxic plants and widespread mislabeling.

April 11 2012

18:07

What Do Solar Panel Tariffs Mean For Solar Professionals?


Solar tariffs on Chinese solar panels may cause a bumpy ride in the short term for US solar installers.  This is a followup post to Kriss’ post last week “What Do Solar Panel Tariffs Mean for You?” -ed.

The Commerce Department has found that China provided trade incentives on Chinese made solar panels for the US market, and that this was unfair to US solar panel manufacturers.  The Commerce Department is in turn charging a tariff on all Chinese imports of modules starting this summer.   Here are some answers to help understand the dispute and what it means for solar professionals.

What do trade incentives mean?

The US Commerce Department, through a complaint filed by American solar manufacturer Solar World, charges that the Chinese government subsidized the solar panel market with massive loan incentives, cheaper power costs, and actual cash disbursements.  In the world of international trade, this is considered unfair as it obviously lowered the manufacturing cost for Chinese producers.

Doesn’t the US government give incentives to US solar manufacturers?

The US government over the last 6 years has helped domestic solar production with its own incentives.  But they are very different than what China offered its own manufacturers.  The Department of Energy offered loan guarantees and tax incentives, which essentially made the US government a co-signer on loan applications.  And while it while it may seem like splitting hairs, the Chinese government’s actions had a far greater impact on the actual price of the finished product.

How much are the tariffs?

The tariffs are scaled to punish the biggest violators.  There are as such:

  • Suntech, 2.9 percent
  • Trina 4.73 percent
  • All others, 3.59 percent

But this is likely just the beginning of the tariffs.  The Commerce department is not finished with its review and this decision opens the door to more sanctions.  The US government will review the charges of ‘dumping’ (meaning the industry sold its panels at a loss) in May.  Industry insiders believe (and hope) that the final tariffs will be closer to 10%.

How will this affect solar panel prices?

It is anticipated that prices will rise briefly, and then continue their long descent down.  Many suppliers have spoken of raising prices 10% in April 2012.  Those numbers will move closely with the tariffs.  But the long term economics of solar won’t change drastically, as technology and manufacturing efficiencies continue to drive the price per watt down.  Consumers should not be fearful that the prices will continue to rise.

Why will prices rise now?

Many solar panel manufacturers are operating at or near a loss to compete with the Chinese manufacturers.  This rise in price will better reflect the actual economics of solar panel manufacturing and allow some companies to turn a profit and reinvest in research and development.  The US buys over $3 billion in solar modules from China every year, and more of this money could be directed toward American made products.

So overall is this a good or bad thing for solar?

This will be tough on installers and designers in the short term.  With solar incentives and rebates drying up and labor costs on the rise, this certainly won’t help the economics for home and small business systems.  The best a local installer can do is to explain that now American made products will be more in line with Chinese solar panel costs and that the costs were skewed to begin with due to Chinese government interference.

In the long-term, this will probably be just a bump in the road for solar panel prices and they will likely keep falling over the long-term.  Overall the goal is to achieve grid parity with fossil fuels, and solar is on track to do that in the next decade.

The outlook for solar power is still bright, and with global economic recovery on the way, that outlook will only get better.

——————

Kriss Bergethon is a writer and solar professional from Colorado.  Visit his website at Solar Panels today.

 

 

April 09 2012

18:52

Enviro News Wrap: Koch Bros., Climate Change, and the Cost of Oil


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • Momentum is building in Washington D.C. to end oil subsidies. Write your federal representative and tell them to stop subsidizing companies that don’t need the help.
  • The Koch brothers are among the largest contributors to the Anti-Obama campaign.
    These two have endless pockets to influence politics with the goal of making America as friendly as possible for big business and as unfriendly as possible for consumers. The problem with this is that in the long run our consumer economy will dwindle down (as it is currently doing) to what China’s is like today and American businesses will no longer be able to survive off of focusing on American consumers.
    If Americans can not consume then products will be designed, made, and sold elsewhere with all the profits circulating through other countries. American consumers need support too, the consumer as an input into the economy is quite delicate despite how rough we treat them. The environmental connection is that an amply funded consumer has the funds to spend wisely, whereas poor consumers just need to survive and often are forced to buy products that contribute to their poverty (like heating your home with coal fired power plants for cheap, but your kids get asthma and you spend all your money on healthcare).
  • So, what does it cost to prevent climate change? Apparently it doesn’t cost much money. The real cost is the effort to change the power structure behind dirty energy. See the Koch brothers article above for an example of the true barriers to change.
  • Sapphire Energy is going big with algae pools that they hope can produce barrels of oil for $85. With the cost of oil expected to stay above $100 it is profitable to do crazy things like try to develop an industry on oil-pooping-algae. Algae would lessen the impact of extracting the fuel, but do we still want to burn fossil fuels?
  • The economics of the cost of oil is crazy. One of the big influences is that some oil-producing states subsidize the price of oil for domestic consumers almost 100%, causing inefficiency and overuse which raises the global price. Once again, why should we be dependent on an energy source that has an unstable and ever-increasing price?
  • Romney is attacking Obama over the high cost of oil. It is not working too well because, as usual, you can only take Romney seriously if you ignore everything he has said in the past.
    As of 2010 Romney was for persistently high oil prices as a way to stabilize the price for oil companies (they like predictability) and to pave the way for a renewable energy industry. Well, now that Romney needs to beat Obama he is throwing out good policy and honest debate and will slander Obama any way he can.
  • One of Romney’s main lines of attack is that we need more domestic production, well Obama has increased domestic production and decreased exportation. I guess for Republicans any idea is only a good idea if a Republican can take credit. It is the same way with the Individual Mandate for National Health Care, Republicans said that the Individual Mandate was a good economic fix to the problem (During and after the Clinton Presidency), but when Obama did it then the Individual Mandate turned into an attack on Liberty.
  • The outspoken NASA scientist, Jim Hansen, spoke recently about climate change as a great moral issue because if we continue as we are with carbon emission we will be handing our children a climate that they cannot control and cannot thrive in.
  • Learn more about the changes that global warming will bring to our ecosystems.

 

 

 

 

 

April 06 2012

17:46

What Do Solar Panel Tariffs Mean For You?


What impact will tariffs on Chinese solar panels have on the US consumer?The Commerce Department has found that China provided trade incentives on Chinese made solar panels for the US market, and that this was unfair to US solar panel manufacturers.  The Commerce Department is in turn charging a tariff on all Chinese imports of modules starting this summer.   Here are some answers to help understand the dispute and what it means for consumers.

 

What do “trade incentives” mean?

The US Commerce Department, through a complaint filed by American solar manufacturer Solar World, charges that the Chinese government subsidized the solar panel market with massive loan incentives, cheaper power costs, and actual cash disbursements.  In the world of international trade, this is considered unfair as it obviously lowered the manufacturing cost for Chinese producers.

Doesn’t the US government give incentives to US solar manufacturers?

The US government over the last 6 years has helped domestic solar production with its own incentives.  But they are very different than what China offered its own manufacturers.  The Department of Energy offered loan guarantees and tax incentives, which essentially made the US government a co-signer on loan applications.  And while it while it may seem like splitting hairs, the Chinese government’s actions had a far greater impact on the actual price of the finished product.

How much are the tariffs?

The tariffs are scaled to punish the biggest violators.  There are as such:

  • Suntech, 2.9 percent
  • Trina 4.73 percent
  • All others, 3.59 percent

But this is likely just the beginning of the tariffs.  The Commerce department is not finished with its review and this decision opens the door to more sanctions.  The US government will review the charges of ‘dumping’ (meaning the industry sold its panels at a loss) in May.  Industry insiders believe (and hope) that the final tariffs will be closer to 10%.

How will this affect solar panel prices?

It is anticipated that prices will rise briefly, and then continue their long descent down.  Many suppliers have spoken of raising prices 10% in April 2012.  But the long term economics of solar won’t change drastically, as technology and manufacturing efficiencies continue to drive the price per watt down.  Consumers should not be fearful that the prices will continue to rise.

Why will prices rise now?

Many solar panel manufacturers are operating at or near a loss to compete with the Chinese manufacturers.  This rise in price will better reflect the actual economics of solar panel manufacturing and allow some companies to turn a profit and reinvest in research and development.  The US buys over $3 billion in solar modules from China every year, and more of this money could be directed toward American made products.

So overall is this a good or bad thing for solar?

Of course everything depends on your perspective, but overall this is likely a good development.  Obviously the US solar makers are cheering this decision, and anyone who is a fan of American manufacturing would do likewise.  In the long term, this will probably be just a bump in the road for solar panel prices and they will likely keep falling over the long term.

The outlook for solar power is still bright, and with global economic recovery on the way, that outlook will only get better.

——————-

Kriss Bergethon is a writer and solar professional from Colorado.  Visit his website at Solar Panels today.

Image courtesy Getty Images 

 

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