Silicon Valley entrepreneur TJ Rodgers said Thursday that tariffs on Chinese solar panels introduced under President Obama were having a negative impact on the industry in the United States.
Rodgers, who is the CEO and chairman of the board of Rodgers Silicon Valley Acquisition Corporation, also argued that the tariffs threatened hundreds of thousands of American solar jobs.
During an interview with “Mornings with Maria” on Thursday, Rodgers argued that China is “not playing fair,” but that “copying top-down socialist methods is not the way to solve the problem.”
“Free markets win,” he stressed.
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Rodgers, who wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled “China Tariffs Shade U.S. Solar Industry,” argued in the piece that while the tariffs are meant to punish manufacturers of Chinese billboards, “Import taxes are crushing American businesses and consumers.”
In 2014, the Obama administration decided to impose steep tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels after discovering that Chinese companies were unduly flooding the US market with government-subsidized products.
The Commerce Department said at the time that Chinese producers had sold solar cells and panels in the United States with margins ranging from 31% to nearly 250%.
The move came after several U.S. solar panel makers, led by Oregon-based SolarWorld, called on the government to punish China for dumping low-cost products in U.S. markets. Companies were battling fierce competition from China as former President Obama pushed to promote renewable energy.
Speaking to host Maria Bartiromo on Thursday, Rodgers explained that during Obama’s presidency, China “made solar panels so cheap and shipped them to the United States that they, in fact, put out of service our solar panel industry”.
“And in retaliation we put a 20% tariff on incoming panels, which the Americans pay, I mean the cost is passed on,” he continued.
Rodgers told Bartiromo that “many major Chinese companies have stopped shipping panels,” which, in turn, “shuts down a lot of the U.S. solar industry” given that if the U.S. doesn’t receive not the panels, they will not be installed on the houses. .
“There are no solar panel makers in the United States that matter, zero,” he added.
Rodgers went on to explain the value the United States derives from solar energy, noting that since last year the Chinese panel has been purchased for 35 cents per watt “and then we get another $2.30 per watt for put it on a roof, do the electronics, which are very complicated and have not been copied by China, and connect it to network operation centers to monitor the panel.”
“So we were getting 87% of the revenue…from the signs that went on the houses,” he continued.
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“And when you cut the panel supply, because you didn’t do what you had to do 10 years ago, you shut down a huge industry in the United States, 230,000 people.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.