Published on April 19th, 2012 | by Charis Michelsen2
Support the Solar Industry, Boost the Economy
April 19th, 2012 by Charis Michelsen
The Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) published a survey of itself this week, stating that four of its founding manufacturers purchased upwards of $400 million in goods and services last year in an effort to keep the American solar industry right where it is — in America.
The China Question All Over Again
CASM consists of some 190 US employers (16,000 workers total are employed by CASM members), and is pushing pretty hard to make sure the United States keeps its solar industry; specifically, CASM is campaigning against China. The reasoning goes that advanced manufacturing generates high-paying and stable jobs (and what American can argue that Americans having jobs is a bad thing?) as well as “beneficial ripple effects” (research, innovation, people actually spending the money they make).
In order to keep Americans working in the solar industry, CASM is backing an anti-subsidy and anti-dumping trade case against the Chinese industry. Basically, the U.S. government thinks a number of Chinese government programs are illegally subsidizing Chinese producers of solar cells and panels (this seems to be legit), and CASM has taken that to mean that the Chinese products are responsible for several American manufacturers shutting down over the past two years (more debatable, but commonly conjectured and believed to be true).
CASM Has Produced Its Own Numbers
CASM’s survey (conducted on itself, which does make its numbers ever so slightly suspect) claims that four of its manufacturers bought $1 million or more of goods and services in 21 states and $50 million or more in another four ($86 mil in Oregon, $74 mil in Pennsylvania, $61 mil in Michigan, and $50 mil in California) — more details of which can be seen on the CASM website.
The survey does not include interest and tax payments, employee payroll, downstream support employees paid (daycare, supermarkets, other things that people buy every day). It does point out, however, that CASM leader SolarWorld (for example) employs 1100 workers in Oregon and California and that these employees make more than the national average.
There Are Other Numbers, Too
To be fair, there are other reports detailing the positive effects manufacturing companies have on the U.S. economy. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis pointed out in March that manufactured goods create twice the activity in other sectors than services, while in January it was noted that manufacturing is awesome for science and innovation. Directly from the January report:
“Manufacturing companies in the United States are responsible for over two-thirds of the industrial R&D and employ the majority of domestic scientists and engineer. Furthermore, manufacturing R&D is the dominant source of innovative new service-sector technologies; hence, its benefits reach beyond the manufacturing arena.”
The Department of Commerce is currently deliberating on whether or not Chinese manufacturers have in fact illegally dumped product into the U.S. market and what (if anything) is to be done about it. CASM is pushing pretty hard for a “yes, they have” answer — but what do you think?