Tuesday, May 8, 2012

U.S. Tariffs on Chinese Solar Cells Fuel Debate About Green Jobs

A simmering trade dispute is highlighting a debate about the kinds of jobs America can sustain in a greening economy.
According to a study by the Solar Foundation, 52,503
Americans worked in the solar installation business last year.
Above, SolarCity workers Daniel Morabito, left, Sal Sanchez
and Victor Zapata install solar panels in West L.A.

The Obama administration's recent decision to slap import tariffs on Chinese solar cells was hailed by some domestic solar manufacturers as a victory for job creation, leveling the field while also sending a powerful message to Beijing about monopolistic behavior in crucial industries.

But a close look at the U.S. solar industry suggests that the tariffs may actually be a job killer because the vast majority of positions in the sector aren't on the assembly line. Instead, upward of 70% of U.S. solar employment is in installation, sales and distribution — and companies that hire those workers argue solar cells must get significantly cheaper to remain competitive with other energy sources.

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