Three men standing in a warehouse managing ending inventory counts

In a bipartisan move, three Senate Democrats joined forces with Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Tuesday to advocate for heightened tariffs on imported Chinese solar panel components. Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia, along with Sherrod Brown of Ohio, united with Rubio in urging President Biden to raise duties on modules, cells, and wafers crucial for panel production, arguing that Chinese products are undercutting the American solar industry.

Citing a 2023 study revealing that Chinese-made panels are priced as low as 15 cents per watt, less than half the cost of those produced domestically, the senators emphasized the detrimental impact on U.S. solar manufacturing. They warned of China’s projected capacity to meet global demand for the next decade by 2026, characterizing it as an existential threat to American energy security and the domestic solar sector.

Despite the Biden administration’s ambitious goals for renewable energy development and its emphasis on promoting domestic production, much of the existing supply chain for solar power is controlled by China or Chinese-affiliated entities. Last year, Biden’s decision to halt tariffs on solar imports for two years faced pushback, culminating in a bipartisan Congressional Review Act resolution aimed at ending the pause, though the president ultimately vetoed it.

Georgia, in particular, has witnessed a surge in solar manufacturing during Biden’s presidency, with Senator Ossoff’s solar tax credit initiative forming a part of the Inflation Reduction Act. However, recent polling indicates a potential challenge for Biden’s reelection bid in Georgia, where former President Trump currently holds an edge despite Biden’s victory there in 2020. This dynamic underscores the significance of economic policies in shaping the electoral landscape.

The senators’ appeal for increased tariffs also highlights divisions within the Democratic Party, particularly with a coalition of Democrats in the Western U.S. who argue that the solar industry in their region cannot withstand a tariff crackdown. The Commerce Department’s 2022 investigation into eight solar panel component manufacturers in Southeast Asia, suspected of circumventing Chinese tariffs, further underscored the complexities of the issue. While the investigation resulted in a preliminary determination against five of the companies for engaging in circumvention, it faced strong opposition from the solar energy industry and Western Democrats led by Senator Jacky Rosen of Nevada, who warned of its adverse impact on the nation’s solar economy.