Biden bans solar panel material from Chinese firm over forced labor

On June 24, 2021, the Biden administration announced it would be banning products containing silicon materials from Hoshine, a Chinese company tied to widespread human rights violations affecting ethnic Uyghur Muslims. The U.S. State Department has labeled these abuses as genocide.

According to Politico:

“This order was issued because the Customs and Border Protection agency has information reasonably indicating that Hoshine uses forced labor to produce its silicon-based products,” Mayorkas said, adding that the agency had identified restrictions to worker movement and widespread intimidation.

Hoshine has been a focus of special scrutiny amid rising international discontent over forced labor conditions in solar supply chains. The company was largely the subject of a report on Uyghur forced labor in the northwestern Xinjiang region of China, which provides about half the world’s supply of polysilicon to the solar industry.

The action stops short of a regionwide ban on polysilicon and related materials from Xinjiang, which the agency has considered in recent weeks under pressure from a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

The Biden administration should be applauded for taking steps to stop the importation of solar panels built using slave labor. The administration also deserves credit for making more people aware of the human rights abuses being perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party to build solar panels.

The Chinese Communist Party, predictably, denies that it is using slavery to build solar panels. Politico writes:

The Chinese government denies that forced labor conditions exist in Xinjiang, saying the camps where thousands of Uyghur Muslims toil are actually there to reduce poverty in local populations.

“The so-called genocide and forced labor in Xinjiang are nothing but rumors with ulterior motives and downright lies,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said earlier this week when asked about a POLITICO report on the coming import restrictions. “Its real purpose is to restrict and contain the development of relevant sectors and enterprises in China.”

Banning the use of solar materials produced with slave labor will increase the cost of solar, writes Politico:

Clean energy experts have warned that solar installers in the U.S. may have to raise prices for panels as the industry moves away from low-cost materials from Xinjiang. 

Michael Shellenberger writes the reason solar panels have fallen in price in the first place was China’s use of slave labor, coal-powered factories, and state subsidies to the industry.

Renewable energy promoters often talk about concepts like “environmental racism” and “environmental justice,” but they tend to ignore the glaring human rights abuses occurring right now that prop up their preferred energy sources. Their silence on the issue of forced labor in Chinese solar facilities is deafening.

Solar panels are poor energy sources to begin with, but the Biden administration should be given credit for taking these initial steps to clean up the solar supply chain.