Monday, December 18, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Don't limit competition in solar energy market

Consumers, the environment and global security all benefit from competition in the solar energy market. But a case before federal trade commissioners could crimp the solar market, worsen America's trade and security ties, drive up costs and drive down innovation in the clean-energy sector. It also could cost tens of thousands of U.S. jobs. The U.S. International Trade Commission should put fair competition and the broader interests of consumers ahead of the grievances of two domestic solar manufacturers.

Suniva, a Georgia-based firm that originated the complaint, and SolarWorld Americas are seeking broad relief from the U.S. government for what they claim is a flood of global imports of solar cells and panels that is causing the "near destruction" of the U.S. industry. Despite anti-dumping measures against China and Taiwan, the petition maintains, China and others are still overproducing solar components and avoiding penalties by moving operations to third countries such as India, Vietnam and Malaysia, thereby sapping the price for American-made products.

The commission is treating much of the documentation in support of the petitioner's case as proprietary. But Suniva said the amount and value of imports rose more than 50 percent between 2012 and 2016. And last year, domestic production of solar panels fell 11 percent while production of solar cells fell 38 percent. The petition seeks a tariff on solar cells and a floor price for solar modules for four years. It also requests other measures, including new negotiations by the U.S. government to address the global glut in supply and the "proper functioning" of the solar markets.

Tariffs and price guarantees are, on their face, inconsistent with the "proper functioning" of competitive markets. There are many subsets of the economy where U.S. manufacturers are not competitive globally for all sorts of reasons, many of them self-inflicted. Opponents say the petitioners have only themselves to blame for failing to adapt more successfully to an evolving market, and they warn that any tariff or price guarantees would damage the solar industry more broadly by increasing the price for solar and softening demand. The Solar Energy Industries Association, which opposes the petition, said the tariffs could double the price of solar panels in the U.S. and cost 88,000 jobs in the industry, including 3,700 in Florida, as the panels become more expensive to distribute and install.

The commission, which heard the case last week, is expected to rule on the matter later this year. Any recommendation for penalties would be decided by President Donald Trump, whose hard line on trade and China would seem to promise a sympathetic ear. But this finding must be based on merit and not politics. Lower prices for solar parts have helped invigorate an emerging industry that promises cleaner air and energy, jobs and technological innovation. As the Sunshine State, Florida stands particularly to gain from lower consumer energy costs, greater entrepreneurial investment and the diversification of the energy grid. The commission needs to see the distinction between fair trade and protectionism and be willing to focus on the broad public interest in opening the solar market.

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Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17