Ben Geman Nov 1
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Solar tariff recommendations are "moderate": analyst

Solar panels that are part of the Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association's community gardens. Photo: Jim Mone / AP

The U.S. International Trade Commission yesterday made varying recommendations for import restrictions or penalties in imported solar panel equipment. The big question today is whether the ITC's proposals will influence President Trump.

Be smart: Council on Foreign Relations energy expert Varun Sivaram, who has been warning that steep tariffs are the biggest domestic policy threat to solar's rapid U.S. growth, says the four-year recommendations are "not as bad as they could have been."

  • If he had to guess, Sivaram thinks the White House will go with what he calls the "moderate" and median recommendation offered jointly by two of the four ITC commissioners (David Johanson and Irving Williamson). Their recommendations include a 30% tariff on crystalline solar PV cells and modules that declines by 5% annually.

Why? Sivaram believes this proposal could be attractive to Trump because:

  • It would allow the administration to score a win by showing it's tough on trade
  • It's supported by two of the four sitting commissioners
  • "It also enables the administration to signal to the broad coalition of interests that have advocated against trade protection (including many conservative groups) that it chose a reasonable, middle-ground approach that wasn't as extreme as the Suniva/SolarWorld remedies."

Reminder: The ITC recommendations:

  • Are weaker than what Suniva, the bankrupt panel manufacturer, requested in the contentious tariff fight. Soon after yesterday's ITC action, the company urged Trump to take "courageous steps necessary to save American manufacturing" by going with stronger penalties.
  • Are a little bit of good news for the wider solar industry, at least according to their biggest trade group SEIA, though the organization still says that they would be "intensely harmful."
  • The ITC will deliver a proposal to the White House later this month, but here's the caveat running through every story on this: President Trump isn't bound by the ITC's views and can do whatever he wants. So...

Impact: Sivaram says the Johanson-Williamson proposal would not be "catastrophic" for the U.S. solar industry, but would nonetheless "set it back."

  • The effect on installed capacity levels after 2020 would be pretty small. However, "jobs will certainly be lost" and would not be offset by increased panel manufacturing jobs.

Go deeper: Utility Dive looks in-depth at the various trade restrictions floated by the ITC commissioners yesterday.

Where it all ends: "Longer term, I think this tees up a challenge at the World Trade Organization. The U.S. has never successfully litigated a safeguard case at the WTO," Clark Packard of the R Street Institute, a free-market group that opposes tariffs, told Axios.

Shane Savitsky 34 mins ago
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Cynthia Nixon announces run for New York governor

Cynthia Nixon, the actress who famously played Miranda on HBO's "Sex and the City," announced her candidacy for governor of New York in an afternoon tweet.

The state of play: She'll face incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary, representing the progressive wing of the party. But Nixon got some bad news today: the first Siena College poll of the primary season showed her at a 66-19 disadvantage with Cuomo.

Dave Lawler 39 mins ago
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Turkey claims control of Syria's Afrin as U.S. expresses "deep concern"

Turkish forces pose for a photo in Afrin after seizing control. Photo: OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images

Two months into an offensive in northwest Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey is in “total control” of the key city of Afrin, per the Washington Post. The State Department has issued a statement saying the U.S. is “deeply concerned” over reports from the city:

“It appears the majority of the population of the city, which is predominantly Kurdish, evacuated under threat of attack from Turkish military forces and Turkish backed opposition forces. This adds to the already concerning humanitarian situation in the area, with United Nations agencies reporting a displaced population in or from Afrin district in the hundreds of thousands, who now require immediate shelter and other assistance to meet basic needs. We are also concerned over reports of looting inside the city of Afrin.”
— From the State Dept. Statement