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Suntech America President Concerned About Harm to Solar Industry, Depending on Who Wins U.S. Elections

3 min. read

As we all know, this is an important election year - for president and control of Congress - in the United States, one with the potential to create significant changes in federal government policy towards clean energy starting in early 2013.  Along those lines, the following article at AOL Energy caught our eye:

John Lefebvre, the president of Suntech America, said that he was especially concerned about potential Republican attempts to revoke the Investment Tax Credit, which returns 30% of the cost of a solar project, and state-level renewable goals.

The US president of the world's largest PV manufacturer said this week that he was more concerned about a change of administration in the White House that could revoke incentives for solar than he was about controversial trade tariffs on Chinese suppliers.

In addition, Mr. Lefebvre notes that there are "concerns about the ITC regardless of administration," but "more so if the Republicans are in the administration."

What strikes us here is that extension of the ITC shouldn't be a partisan issue at all, given the growing importance of the solar industry in terms of job creation (click here for evidence from the National Solar Jobs Census for 2011), positive economic impact, and environmental benefits.  Yet the president of the American arm of the world's largest PV manufacture very much views the risks to his industry as higher with one party (the Republicans) in control than with the Obama Administration staying in office.

Presuming that Mr. Lefebvre is correct, and we have no reason to believe that he's wrong, we find this to be a puzzling and, frankly, frustrating situation. Given the fragile state of the U.S. economy, and the fact that job creation is the top issue in U.S. elections this year, why would one party - in this case the Republicans - aggressively oppose the growth of successful, job-creating American industries like wind and solar?

It's even more baffling when one considers that clean energy sources like solar and wind have been far less reliant, historically speaking, on government support than the (fossil fuel) industries they would be disrupting. Presuming that you're in favor of free-market capitalism, shouldn't you be cheering the bootstraps technologies that are the job creators of today, as well as of the future, instead of attacking and opposing those technologies? The answer to that question seems glaringly obvious to us.

Ideally, clean energy would not be politicized in the sense that one party supports it and the other opposes it. To the contrary, this should be one issue on which both major U.S. political parties, along with the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, largely agree -- or better yet, fight to out-compete one another in their level of enthusiastic support for wind, solar, etc. Beyond being smart economic policy, there is  tremendous support for clean energy politically in this country -- voters who want clean energy to succeed, and who want the government to help it succeed.

Given such broad-based support, there's little if any political upside for politicians to oppose clean energy in this country.  It certainly makes no rational sense that one major U.S. political party (the Republicans in this case), or their candidate for president (Mitt Romney), would be proposing policies that would actually hurt U.S. clean energy industries. About the only reason we can come up with why any political party or candidate would ever do something so foolish is that they have been heavily influenced by fossil fuel money flowing to their party and their campaign.

As  OpenSecrets makes it clear, however, the evidence is overwhelming that Republicans, including Mitt Romney, have been the overwhelming recipients of oil and gas industry largesse over the years (they're outpacing Democrats by approximately an 8:1 ratio in the current cycle). Money may not be able to purchase love, but in politics, it often has the ability to buy support for an agenda. That certainly appears to be what appears to be happening in this case, that agenda being an all-out assault against the growing threat - from fossil's perspective - of the burgeoning clean energy industry.