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Biden EPA Pick: ‘Most’ Solar Energy, Electric Vehicle Parts ‘Come From China’

'We're finding that if we don't capture the market, we're going to fall behind'

Michael Regan / Getty Images
• February 4, 2021 5:40 pm

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President Joe Biden's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged that the administration's green energy agenda will enrich China in the near future.

During a Wednesday confirmation hearing, Michael Regan faced a question from Sen. Mike Braun (R., Ind.) regarding China's inaction on climate change. The nominee pointed to his time at the helm of North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality, noting that while the state is among the nation's leaders in "solar installation," most of the parts being installed are Chinese. According to Regan, this places the United States at a disadvantage in the clean energy market.

"North Carolina is now second in solar installation in the country. What we find is most of the parts we want to install come from China," Regan said. "We're finding that if we don't capture the market, we're going to fall behind. I believe that's the same for solar, it's for cars."

Regan's admission reflects the problem with Biden's push to create "good-paying" American jobs in the clean energy sector. Biden climate officials have argued that job gains in the industry will offset losses among fossil fuel workers, and Regan expressed confidence that the country could "remain globally competitive" by making up ground in manufacturing. Others, however, are less optimistic, contending that China's inferior labor and environmental standards give the communist nation a leg up.

"You look at solar panels, you look at wind turbines, how they're made. China, we know from everything that they do being state capitalists—they're going to do things to put their industries at a competitive edge and reap the benefits while they're polluting the air," Braun told the Washington Free Beacon. "There's a lot we need to be careful with."

American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Derek Scissors echoed Braun's concerns. China controls roughly 60 percent of the solar industry's supply chain and produces 75 percent of global polysilicon, a key raw material in solar cell manufacturing. As a result, merely controlling the "installation" phase of production could be insufficient when it comes to creating American jobs.

"If the administration wants to greatly increase the use of solar, it faces the problem that China spends heavily to dominate world solar production. Either we'd have to rely on Chinese suppliers when ramping up solar or the administration would have to use legal means to secure the supply chain," Scissors said. "In this sense, solar reflects the larger challenge facing ‘build back better': The final stage of production may not be that important."

The EPA told the Free Beacon that it is "committed to delivering on the Biden-Harris administration's commitment to build a clean energy future that creates good-paying jobs for Americans."

Braun and his Republican colleagues are not the only lawmakers pushing back on Biden's climate agenda. Four Texas Democrats recently sent the president a letter blasting his flurry of environmental executive orders, writing that Biden's attack on oil and gas leasing on federal lands "will certainly imperil hundreds of thousands of jobs, entire communities, and billions of dollars in royalty revenues to the Federal Treasury." 

The intraparty pushback will be welcomed by Republicans as their partisan counterparts plan additional action to address climate change. A group of progressive lawmakers—including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.)—unveiled legislation Thursday calling on Biden to declare a national climate emergency, writing that "an even larger mobilization is needed." Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has made the same push in recent weeks, stating that a national emergency declaration would allow Biden to institute "many, many things under the emergency powers of the president … that he could do without legislation."