By CASEY HARPER | THE CENTER SQUARE | and MUST READ ALASKA
Congressional Republicans want to know if the federal government is buying solar panels from China that were built using slave labor.
Lawmakers have sent a letter to the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security to sound the alarm on the issue, which is increasingly in the spotlight as the Biden administration pushes the United States towards the renewable energy sources, a market dominated by China. Republicans note that it is illegal for the United States to purchase or import goods made in China by forced labor.
China dominates global solar panel production, with 78% of solar cells produced in 2019 made by communist China. Solar module production and polysilicon production are also dominated by China — 72% and 66%.
According to a 2021 report in the New York Timesthese solar products for Americans are indeed the result of forced labor.
“In a flat and barren expanse of Far West region of Xinjiang in Chinaa solar technology company welcomed workers from a rural area 650 miles away, preparing to put them to work at GCL-Poly, the world’s second-largest polysilicon maker.
“The workers, members of the Uyghur minority in the region, took an etiquette course as they prepared for their new life in the solar industry, which prides itself on being a model of clean and responsible growth. GCL-Poly promoted the housing and training it provided to its new recruits in photographs and statements to local media,” according to the New York Times.
“But researchers and human rights experts say these positive images may hide a more troubling reality – the persecution of one of Chinathe most vulnerable ethnic groups. According to a report by the consultancy Horizon Advisory, the growing solar energy technology sector in Xinjiang is linked to a large program of affected labor in China, including methods that correspond to well-documented patterns. of forced labor. Time reported.
U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio and Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have raised questions about China’s notorious human rights abuses and why U.S. taxpayers would support unethical practices and enrich one of America’s biggest rivals.
“If we are not vigilant in our efforts to ensure that no solar panels or components made with slave labor are purchased with federal dollars from FEMA or other US agencies and used on similar solar projects , it is possible that the United States is directly funding the genocide and abuses occurring in the Chinese region of Xinjiang,” the letter said.
Addressed to IG Joseph Cuffari, the letter says nearly 85% of the world’s solar components are made in China. For example, 40% of polysilicon, a necessary component of solar panels, comes from the Xinjiang region, known for its enslavement of Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim group who were forced to live in internment camps in China.
“As members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, we write to you today to express our grave concern that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funds may be used to enrich China. , an adversary with a history of human rights abuses and forced labor,” the letter said. “According to the US State Department, genocide and slave labor in the Xinjiang region of China are actively perpetrated against the Uyghur minority.”
Lawmakers pointed to recently passed legislation to prevent such purchases.
“As you know, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) was enacted in December 2021 to prevent the purchase or import by the United States of goods made with forced labor in the Uyghur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang in China,” the letter read. “We strongly support the UFLPA, but remain troubled that the United States may yet use taxpayers’ money to purchase products made using slave labor in direct violation of the UFLPA. …”
The lawmaker’s letter directly asks the IG to investigate. They also point to federal funds spent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for power grids.
“In the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, the federal government committed nearly $8 billion to help with disaster relief in the [U.S. Virgin Islands], including nearly $5 billion from FEMA,” the letter reads. “Much of the disaster relief funds have been allocated to strengthen and rebuild USVI’s power grid, making it more reliable and resilient to future storms. Additionally, USVI announced in 2021 that a new 28-megawatt solar microgrid project in St. Croix had received $4.4 million from FEMA for the initial construction phase, while officials from USVI expects FEMA to fund the bulk of the remaining $129 million. project cost .”
The federal government is increasingly using taxpayer dollars to fund research and production of solar panels in the name of fighting climate change, but this investment has geopolitical implications.
“Major solar companies, including GCL-Poly, East Hope Group, Daqo New Energy, Xinte Energy and Jinko Solar, are cited in the report as bearing signs of the use of forced labor, according to Horizon Advisory, which specializes in language research. Chinese. While many details remain unclear, these signs include the acceptance of Chinese government-assisted transferred workers from parts of Xinjiang, and workers undergoing “military-style” training that may aim to inspire loyalty to China and the Communist Party,” reported The New York Times.
“This territory-wide transition to solar energy will potentially serve to massively enrich China,” the Republican representatives to Congress said in their letter.