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The Trump Administration's Solar Tariffs Could Stunt Industry Growth

The Trump administration announced new 30 percent tariffs on imports of solar panel equipment on Monday, which critics say could stunt growth in the renewable industry.

The solar industry has been booming in the United States in recent years, as cheap solar panels imported from China allowed the industry to become competitive with coal-fired power plants and natural gas.

Two foreign-owned companies that manufacture solar panels inside the U.S., SolarWorld and Suniva, filed a petition last year with the the U.S. International Trade Commission, arguing that cheap Chinese solar products were driving the companies out of business. In October, the commission recommended imposing tariffs on imports between 10 and 35 percent, but the Trump administration had been tight-lipped about how it would proceed.

A Suniva spokesman told Reuters last week that a "robust tariff" would allow the company to "restart its factories and rehire employees." But the vast majority of the solar industry's 260,000 jobs in the U.S. are related to installation, rather than manufacturing, and the tariffs could eliminate up to 88,000 jobs on the installation side, according to one estimate.

The Trump administration also imposed new tariffs on Monday of up to 50 percent on imports of washing machines, appeasing domestic producers like Whirlpool, which has argued since at least 2011 that washer imports were devastating its market share.