Trump slaps tariffs on imported solar panels, washing machines

Most imported solar modules will face an immediate tariff of 30 percent, with the rate declining before phasing out after four years. (AP)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Trump slaps tariffs on imported solar panels, washing machines

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Monday approved tariffs on imported solar-energy components and large washing machines in a bid to help US manufacturers.
The Republican’s decision followed recommendations for tariffs by the US International Trade Commission.
“The president’s action makes clear again that the Trump administration will always defend American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses in this regard,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement announcing the decision.
Most imported solar modules will face an immediate tariff of 30 percent, with the rate declining before phasing out after four years. For large residential washing machines, tariffs will start at up to 50 percent and phase out after three years.
China accused Trump of jeopardizing the multilateral trading system by taking action on complaints under US law instead of through the World Trade Organization.
“The US side once again abused its trade remedy measures,” said a Commerce Ministry statement. “China expresses its strong dissatisfaction with this.”
Mexico said Trump’s decision not to exclude it from the measures was “regrettable.”
“Mexico will use all available legal resources in response to the US decision to apply protections on Mexican washing machines and solar panels,” its Economy Department said in a statement.
The US solar industry was split over the trade barriers.
The tariffs were sought last year by Suniva, which filed for bankruptcy protection in April, and the US subsidiary of Germany’s SolarWorld.
They said that a nearly 500 percent increase in imported solar panels over five years led to a ruinous price collapse. Nearly 30 US solar-manufacturing facilities had closed in the past five years, they said, as China plotted to flood the global market with cheap products to weaken US manufacturing.
Suniva spokesman Mark Paustenbach called tariffs “a step forward for this high-tech solar-manufacturing industry we pioneered right here in America.”
However, solar installers and manufacturers of other equipment used to run solar-power systems opposed tariffs, which they said will raise their prices and hurt demand for the renewable energy.
The Solar Energy Industries Association, which represents installation companies, said billions of dollars of solar investment will be delayed or canceled, leading to the loss of 23,000 jobs this year.
Mark Bortman, founder of Exact Solar in Philadelphia, said the prospect of tariffs, since the trade commission recommended them in October, had already caused him to delay hiring and expansion plans.
“Solar is really just starting to take off because it is truly a win-win-win situation” for consumers, workers and the environment, he said. “Tariffs would really be shooting ourselves in the foot.”
The case for tariffs on washing machines was pushed by Benton Harbor, Michigan-based Whirlpool Corp. The company’s chairman, Jeff Fettig, said tariffs on imported machines would create new manufacturing jobs in Ohio, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee.
“This is a victory for American workers and consumers alike,” Fettig said. “By enforcing our existing trade laws, President Trump has ensured American workers will compete on a level playing field with their foreign counterparts.”
But US Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, said Republicans need to understand that tariffs are a tax on consumers.
“Moms and dads shopping on a budget for a new washing machine will pay for this — not big companies,” Sasse said in a statement.
Suniva, SolarWorld and Whirlpool were helped by a 1974 trade law that lets companies seek trade protection if they can show damage from a rise in imports.
Up to certain levels, imports of solar cells will be exempt from the tariff, while the first 1.2 million imported large washing machines will get a lower tariff, peaking at 20 percent.
Congress has no authority to change or veto Trump’s decision. Countries affected by the decision can appeal to the World Trade Organization.


Energy giants spent $1bn on climate lobbying, PR since Paris: watchdog

Updated 23 March 2019
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Energy giants spent $1bn on climate lobbying, PR since Paris: watchdog

  • Firms under pressure to explain how greener laws will hit business models

PARIS: The five largest publicly listed oil and gas majors have spent $1 billion since the 2015 Paris climate deal on public relations or lobbying that is “overwhelmingly in conflict” with the landmark accord’s goals, a watchdog said Friday.
Despite outwardly committing to support the Paris agreement and its aim to limit global temperature rises, ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP and Total spend a total of $200 million a year on efforts “to operate and expand fossil fuel operations,” according to InfluenceMap, a pro-transparency monitor.
Two of the companies — Shell and Chevron — said they rejected the watchdog’s findings.
“The fossil fuel sector has ramped up a quite strategic program of influencing the climate agenda,” InfluenceMap Executive Director Dylan Tanner told AFP.
“It’s a continuum of activity from their lobby trade groups attacking the details of regulations, controlling them all the way up, to controlling the way the media thinks about the oil majors and climate.”
The report comes as oil and gas giants are under increasing pressure from shareholders to come clean over how greener lawmaking will impact their business models.
As planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions hit their highest levels in human history in 2018, the five companies wracked up total profits of $55 billion.
At the same time, the International Panel on Climate Change — composed of the world’s leading climate scientists — issued a call for a radical drawdown in fossil fuel use in order to hit the 1.5C (2.7 Fahrenheit) cap laid out in the Paris accord.
InfluenceMap looked at accounts, lobbying registers and communications releases since 2015, and alleged a large gap between the climate commitments companies make and the action they take.

 

It said all five engaged in lobbying and “narrative capture” through direct contact with lawmakers and officials, spending millions on climate branding, and by employing trade associations to represent the sector’s interests in policy discussions.
“The research reveals a trend of carefully devised campaigns of positive messaging combined with negative policy lobbying on climate change,” it said.
It added that of the more than $110 billion the five had earmarked for capital investment in 2019, just $3.6bn was given over to low-carbon schemes.
The report came one day after the European Parliament was urged to strip ExxonMobil lobbyists of their access, after the US giant failed to attend a hearing where expert witnesses said the oil giant has knowingly misled the public over climate change.
“How can we accept that companies spending hundreds of millions on lobbying against the EU’s goal of reaching the Paris agreement are still granted privileged access to decision makers?” said Pascoe Sabido, Corporate Europe Observatory’s climate policy researcher, who was not involved in the InfluenceMap report.
The report said Exxon alone spent $56 million a year on “climate branding” and $41 million annually on lobbying efforts.
In 2017 the company’s shareholders voted to push it to disclose what tougher emissions policies in the wake of Paris would mean for its portfolio.
With the exception of France’s Total, each oil major had largely focused climate lobbying expenditure in the US, the report said.
Chevron alone has spent more than $28 million in US political donations since 1990, according to the report.
AFP contacted all five oil and gas companies mentioned in the report for comment.
“We disagree with the assertion that Chevron has engaged in ‘climate-related branding and lobbying’ that is ‘overwhelmingly in conflict’ with the Paris Agreement,” said a Chevron spokesman.
“We are taking action to address potential climate change risks to our business and investing in technology and low carbon business opportunities that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
A spokeswoman for Shell — which the report said spends $49 million annually on climate lobbying — said it “firmly rejected” the findings.
“We are very clear about our support for the Paris Agreement, and the steps that we are taking to help meet society’s needs for more and cleaner energy,” they told AFP.
BP, ExxonMobil and Total did not provide comment to AFP.

FACTOID

$ 28m

Chevron alone has spent more than $28 million in US political donations since 1990, according to the report.