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    Biden orders emergency steps to boost US solar production

    WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden ordered emergency measures on Monday to boost crucial supplies to United States (US) solar manufacturers and declared a two-year tariff exemption on solar panels from Southeast Asia as he attempted to jumpstart progress toward his climate change-fighting goals.

    His invoking of the Defense Production Act and his other executive actions come amid complaints by industry groups that the solar sector is being slowed by supply chain problems due to a Commerce Department inquiry into possible trade violations involving Chinese products. Word of the White House’s actions caused solar energy companies to gain ground on Wall Street.

    The Commerce Department announced in March that it was scrutinising imports of solar panels from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia, concerned that products from those countries are skirting US anti-dumping rules that limit imports from China.

    Asked at the White House if Biden’s pause in tariffs was not a gift to China, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said he was invoking the Defense Production Act, “to make sure that he’s delivering for the American people.”

    “He is putting the full force of the federal government behind supporting American clean energy producers,” Jean-Pierre said.

    Electricians with IBEW Local 3 install solar panels on top of the Terminal B garage at LaGuardia Airport in the Queens borough of New York. PHOTO: AP

    White House officials said Biden’s actions aim to increase domestic production of solar panel parts, building installation materials, high-efficiency heat pumps and other components including cells used for clean-energy generated fuels. They called the tariff suspension affecting imports from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia, a bridge measure while other efforts increase domestic solar power production – even as the administration remains supportive of US trade laws and the Commerce Department investigation.

    Commerce Department Secretary Gina Raimondo told a Senate panel in May that the solar inquiry is following a process set by law that doesn’t allow consideration of climate change, supply chains or other factors. She said on Monday that she remains “committed to upholding our trade laws and ensuring American workers have a chance to compete on a level playing field.”

    “The president’s emergency declaration ensures America’s families have access to reliable and clean electricity while also ensuring we have the ability to hold our trading partners accountable to their commitments,” Raimondo said in a statement.

    Clean energy leaders have long warned that the investigation – which could result in retroactive tariffs of up to 240 per cent – would severely hinder the US solar industry, leading to thousands of layoffs and imperiling up to 80 per cent of planned solar projects around the country.

    The department counters that rates exceeding 200 per cent for solar products would not apply to the vast majority of imports. They instead typically apply to uncooperative companies that cannot differentiate themselves from China’s government or Communist Party.

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