Thursday, September 29, 2011

Twenty Times

Report from Bloomberg really says it all. Solar manufacturers in the U.S. are preparing a trade complaint to be filed with the Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington in an effort to retain jobs in the industry here. But looking at the numbers, you start to wonder if that can be any match against a country that's willing to go all in on the investment they are making to rule this industry, especially when we have a small faction in our own midst that is dedicated to seeing us fail so they can gain.

There is this:

China provided $30 billion in credit to its biggest solar manufacturers last year, about 20 times the U.S. effort, Jonathan Silver, executive director of the Energy Department’s loan program, told a congressional panel Sept. 14.

Which led to this:

In the first seven months of this year, China shipped $1.4 billion of solar panels to the U.S., more than the $1.2 billion of panels it sent in all of 2010, according to U.S. International Trade Commission data. Imports from South Korea, the Philippines and India also jumped.

Which led to this:

SolarWorld Industries America, which is lobbying lawmakers such as Wyden to help protect its 1,000 jobs in Oregon, is owned by SolarWorld AG of Bonn, the biggest German maker of solar modules. The company said Sept. 2 that it was cutting almost 200 jobs at its facility in Camarillo, California.

“There is no cost advantage in China,” Santarris said. “But it is difficult for a Western company to compete with a centrally planned economy in China.”

Especially when it seems the only thing we can manufacture are phony political scandals like this:

The purpose of the hearing — indeed, the point of manufacturing a Solyndra investigation in the first place — is to embarrass the president. That’s how Washington works in the modern age: the party out of power gins up phony scandals aimed at hurting the party in power.

Trying to remember the phony scandals the Democrats ginned up during the Bush years when there were so many real ones to choose from. No matter. The American public isn't buying this:

We have seen nothing to indicate an impact on views of clean energy broadly, or solar specifically. In dozens of focus groups we have conducted this month across the country on a wide variety of subjects, when voters are asked where they would like new jobs in their state to come from, the first words out of their mouths are almost always the same – clean energy and related technology.

If Democrats fight for this industry, Democrats will win. But they better do it fast, and they better make sure they point out who is stopping progress.

It's been said that if you have good policy, the politics will take care of itself. And that is generally true. But if you don't take care of the politics, you won't get to do that policy - and in this case, that will be a huge loss to us all. Remember, one country has bet 20 times the amount we have, while we fuss over a small minority of politically-motivated Republicans who are clamoring for us to fold altogether.

Will we? The auto loan stand was a good start. We need to see the same effort made on behalf of the other renewable energy industries, because if this keeps up, eventually we will lose the wind and batteries, too. Mark it.

What worked once will work again - but only if we let them. That goes for foreign competition as well as the Republicans who create phony scandals for their benefit alone.