Labor Versus Clean Energy

Today the United Steelworkers filed a complaint alleging that China is unfairly (and illegally) subsidizing clean energy exports, such as wind turbines and solar panels.  China has become one of the world’s largest producers of such technologies, but the Steelworkers allege it has gained market share through unfair trade practices.  The Obama Administration has 45 days to respond to the complaint and determine whether it will take formal action.  The NYT reports on the story here.

This filing places the Obama Administration in an awkward position. On the one hand, the Administration would like to support its union allies.  On the other, the Administration has sought to promote the deployment of clean energy technologies, including solar and wind.  The legal merits of the steelworkers’ case aside, China’s actions have made the purchase and installation of wind and solar technologies less expensive in the United States.  Given that cost is the greatest barrier to the proliferation of wind and solar power, China’s allegedly unfair trade practices have been a blessing for clean energy development in the United States.

Bradford Plumer has more here.