By Paul Homewood


h/t Patsy Lacey


We already know about the devastating environmental damage caused the world’s hunger for rare earths. But it appears that China’s solar panel industry has other problems, as this report from last October explains:

The solar industry’s growing dependence on China’s autonomous Xinjiang region for a critical raw material poses mounting risks to a wide range of companies as the U.S. government moves to confront Beijing over alleged human rights abuses there.

In 2019, when solar ranked as the world’s top source of new power generating capacity, about one-third of the polysilicon the industry used to make solar panels came from Xinjiang, according to Johannes Bernreuter of Bernreuter Research. China as a whole accounts for about 80% of global capacity. With polysilicon-makers boosting production in Xinjiang, Richard Winegarner, a former industry analyst who retired in late 2019, said the region is poised to become „even more important“ to the solar market in the coming years.

Those deepening ties come as Washington’s scrutiny of labor conditions in the region intensifies. On the heels of a U.S. government report that described rampant abuse of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in September that would ban goods made „wholly or in part“ in the region unless the producers were proven not to have used forced labor. The near-unanimous vote came a week after U.S. Customs and Border Protection ordered officers to seize certain imports from Xinjiang, including cotton and computer parts.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican member of the Committee on Foreign Relations who introduced a companion bill to the House legislation, said in September that the U.S. „must ensure that goods stained with forced labor stop entering our supply chains.“ Rubio’s bill, which has 19 co-sponsors, including six Democrats, was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations in March.

A spokesperson for Joe Biden said in August that the Democrat presidential nominee believed that the Chinese government is committing „genocide“ against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang……

By 2021, five companies in China and Hong Kong will control two-thirds of the world’s polysilicon market, according to Dennis Ip, an analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets Hong Kong Ltd.

Google and Amazon love to brag about their green credentials. As the biggest US purchasers of solar power, however, they refused to comment on their complicity in the abuse of human rights.

Walmart Inc., another top corporate buyer, simply washed its hands saying it buys electricity from solar farms rather than the panels themselves. „However, we have zero tolerance for forced labor and protecting the dignity of workers and addressing forced labor is a priority for Walmart,“ a spokesperson said.

US companies have been trying for years to take back production of solar panels, but as Bernreuter says “I doubt that such an industry would be able to be price-competitive”.

When renewable proponents tell you how cheap solar power now is, remember all of the hidden costs.


February 7, 2021 at 06:18AM