U.S. Customs has started to detain solar panels believed to be manufactured by workers forced to work in Chinese factories, The Washington Post reports.
The move comes less than a month after the U.S. Senate adopted a proposal by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, that would prohibit any renewable energy project using materials produced in China from receiving federal funds and subsidies.
''If we are going to build out our domestic renewable energy industry, we need to have an honest conversation about where we are sourcing these materials,'' Sullivan said on Aug. 11. ''We cannot continue to be dependent on China for critical minerals — resources that are crucial to our economy and national security, and which we have in abundance in the U.S., particularly in Alaska.
"By developing our national supply chains and processing capabilities, we can create thousands of good-paying jobs, protect our national interests, deny economic support for violators of basic human rights and build out America’s all-of-the-above energy sector.''
U.S. Customs in June banned U.S. imports of a key solar panel material from Chinese-based Hoshine Silicon Industry because it had information ''reasonably indicating'' that the company uses forced labor.
The ban comes as the Biden administration has taken steps to incentivize renewable and solar energy — the Department of Energy in early August projected that solar power could account for up to 40% of U.S. power generation nationwide by 2035, an increase of more than tenfold from early August.
''Meeting these goals will require billions in investment and market opportunities through 2050 across clean energy generation, energy storage, electricity delivery, and operations and maintenance — including in low-income and community solar,'' the Department of Energy memo states. ''Investments that lower both the hardware and soft administrative costs of solar will save consumers thousands of dollars on their residential systems and help lower their utility bills.''
The ban potentially slows down the administration’s efforts to address the climate crisis, according to Mark Z. Jacobson, a renewable-energy expert and engineering professor at Stanford University.
''We want to rapidly transition our fuels to solar and wind and other renewables,'' he told the Post. ''Any slowdown of this transition creates a loss of life,'' he added.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who oversees Customs and Border Protection, said in June that the administration remains committed to renewable energy but would root out forced labor ''wherever it exists, and we’ll look for alternative products to achieve the environmental impacts that are a critical goal of this administration.''
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