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James P. Hoffa

James P. Hoffa

Posted: September 13, 2010 02:35 PM

Millions of traditional American jobs have moved to China, and now China is thwarting our efforts to create new, renewable energy jobs to replace them.

China has a million people working in its clean energy industry. It makes half the world's wind turbines, supplies half the world's hydropower projects and fabricates three-quarters of the world's compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Meanwhile, manufacturers of solar paneling and wind turbines are cutting jobs and closing factories in the United States.

China isn't beating us fair and square. China is breaking the trade rules that the rest of the world follows in order to dominate production of clean energy. It's killing our ability to create new jobs. And if it keeps up, China will replace our dependence on foreign oil with a dependence on foreign clean-energy technology.

Unfortunately, we haven't done much about it -- until recently. Our brothers and sisters at the United Steel Workers are prodding the government to take action against China. Last week they filed a 5,800-page petition asking the U.S. Trade Representative to restrain China from five sets of unfair policies and practices.

The steelworkers say the Chinese government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidized loans and cheap land deals to promote their clean-energy industry illegally.

China also breaks the rules by severely restricting the export of rare earth materials essential for renewable-energy technology. That forces foreign clean-energy manufacturers to move to China in order to get access to the rare earth.

Once there, China illegally requires foreign manufacturers to transfer their technology to Chinese partners. That means research and development paid for by U.S. taxpayers ends up in China, creating Chinese jobs.

It gets even worse. China sells its products overseas at artificially low prices. Every day, the Chinese government spends $1 billion a day on currency in order to make Chinese products more affordable to the rest of the world. Undervaluing the yuan makes U.S. exports more expensive -- and difficult to sell -- in China. That's why Americans bought $18 billion more from China than we sold to them last month.

This week, two congressional committees will hold hearings on China's currency manipulation. Other countries are likely to challenge China for undervaluing the yuan at upcoming meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the G-20 nations.

But talk is cheap and China hasn't shown much interest in backing down. It also has plenty of allies among multinationals like BP, who just shut down its solar panel manufacturing in Maryland and Spain, laying off most employees. Those jobs will go to China as BP and its partner enlarge their joint venture there.

Cheating works for China, but not for the American worker. Five years ago, China was making hardly any solar panels. Now it makes half the solar panels in the world. Two hundred fifty million Chinese take showers heated from solar panels on their roofs. In contrast, fewer than 1 million Americans now use solar panels to heat water.

President Obama has committed $80 billion for clean energy -- including generation of renewable energy sources, expanding manufacturing capacity and advancing vehicle and fuel technologies.

That is laudable. However, we must now get our trade policy straightened out so that the $80 billion will create jobs right here in the United States and not in China. The U.S. government should bring this case before the World Trade Organization. American workers deserve no less.

 

Follow James P. Hoffa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TeamsterPower