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Scott's solar crusade

Mar 23, 2023
Illustration of a lit lightbulb being covered by a red sheet.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Rick Scott is reintroducing a bill to ban the federal government from buying solar panels made in China.

Why it matters: It’s another China pressure point for the GOP and part of a larger fight over solar’s future that crosses partisan lines.

  • The government is already subject to various buy-American requirements, but the bill would be more explicit.

Driving the news: Scott’s office gave Axios an exclusive advance look at the legislation.

  • It would prohibit the government from procuring “solar panels manufactured or assembled by any entity located in, or subject to the influence or control of, Communist China,” per a summary from his office.
  • It would also apply to federal grants.
  • Josh Hawley, Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton — some of the Senate's biggest China hawks — are cosponsors.
  • "We must work to fully decouple our supply chains and end our reliance on products from Communist China. That's the only way to truly build American independence and self-sufficiency," Scott said in a statement.

Context: Scott is also the lead Senate sponsor on a bipartisan resolution to repeal President Biden’s pause on solar tariffs for four Southeast Asian countries.

The other side: The solar industry says it needs a grace period to onshore more panel manufacturing using incentives from the IRA.

  • Currently, China controls the lion’s share of the solar supply chain, and installers in the U.S. rely heavily on cheaply made foreign panels.
  • Scott’s bill isn’t likely to become law, but it’s notable in the political back-and-forth over protectionism and domestic manufacturing.
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